EATING A BIG MEAL BEFORE MINCHAH [Tefilas ha'Minchah: eating beforehand]
(Mishnah): The following are forbidden from shortly before the time of Minchah, until praying:
To begin a haircut from a barber, to enter the bathhouse or a tannery, to eat, or to judge;
If one began, he need not stop.
Opinion #1: They are forbidden before Minchah Gedolah.
Objection: Why are these forbidden? There is plenty of time (to pray afterwards)!
Opinion #2: They are forbidden before Minchah Ketanah.
(Mishnah): If one began, he need not stop.
Suggestion: This refutes R. Yehoshua ben Levi!
(R. Yehoshua ben Levi): One may not eat anything once the time of Minchah arrives.
Rejection: Really, they are forbidden before Minchah Gedolah;
Answer #1 (to Objection): The Mishnah discusses the haircut of Ben El'asa, a big tannery, the full works in the bathhouse, eating a big meal, and the beginning of judgment.
Answer #2 (Rav Acha bar Yakov): The Mishnah discusses a normal haircut, bath, tannery, meal, or end of judgment. Even a small meal (and these other matters) can get drawn out [or lead to Ones], and he will miss praying.
(Abaye): In Bavel, according to the opinion that Tefilas Ma'ariv is optional, if one untied his belt, since it would be a toil to tie it again, he may eat before praying.
Inference: The opinion that Ma'ariv is obligatory requires him to retie it and pray Ma'ariv before eating.
Question: All agree that Minchah is obligatory, and the Mishnah permits one to finish eating if he began, and R. Chanina taught that this is once he untied the belt!
Answer #1: We are more stringent about Ma'ariv, for people often get drunk at night. There is more danger that if one eats first, he will miss praying. There is less concern for this regarding Minchah.
Answer #2: We are more lenient about Minchah because the time to pray is limited. People fear missing it, so they are not prone to delay praying. One may pray Ma'ariv the entire night, so people do not fear missing it, and they are prone to delay it.
10a - Question: What is considered the beginning of judgment?
Answer #1 (R. Yirmeyah or R. Yonah): It is from when the judges cloak themselves.
Answer #2 (the other of R. Yirmeyah and R. Yonah): It is from when the litigants begin to state their claims.
Berachos 28b: The Halachah does not follow R. Yehoshua ben Levi.
Rif (4a): We conclude that the Mishnah discusses before Minchah Gedolah. One may not begin even a small meal, lest it get drawn out.
Rambam (Hilchos Shabbos 6:5): From the time of Minchah Gedolah, one may not eat, even Arai (haphazardly), lest he eat extensively.
Rosh (1:18): R. Tam rules like the first version, which forbids a big meal or the beginning of judgment before Minchah Gedolah. The Gemara connotes like this below, for it asks what is the beginning of judgment. This shows that we discuss [large matters, e.g.] the beginning of judgment. This is not a proof. Perhaps the Gemara discusses the beginning of judgment for the law of 'one who began need not interrupt.' It seems that the Halachah follows the first version because the Stam Gemara said so. Therefore, one may begin a small meal close to Minchah Gedolah. If one began a big meal, he need not interrupt, even when the time of Minchah Ketanah comes. The Halachah does not follow R. Yehoshua ben Levi, who forbids tasting anything from the time of Minchah Ketanah. In Berachos, we rule unlike him.
Question: Since the Halachah does not follow R. Yehoshua ben Levi, why don't we establish the Mishnah to discuss Minchah Ketanah, but one may begin even a big meal before Minchah Gedolah? We established the Mishnah to discuss a big meal before Minchah Gedolah only due to R. Yehoshua ben Levi!
Answer (Rosh): The Gemara says that people do not often get drunk at Minchah. We understand this is if our Mishnah discusses a common meal. People very often get drunk at big meals! There is more danger that if one eats first, he will miss praying. There is less concern for this regarding Minchah than regarding Ma'ariv.
Shulchan Aruch (OC 232:2): One may not begin to eat even a small meal, close to Minchah Gedolah.
Beis Yosef (DH v'Chasuv): Hagahos Maimoniyos says that the morning meal of Shabbos and Yom Tov is not called a big meal. A big meal is only when many eat together, e.g. at a wedding or Bris Milah. If a Ba'al ha'Bayis has a big family, this requires investigation.
Shulchan Aruch (ibid.): If he began, he does not interrupt, even though he began b'Isur. This is if time will remain to pray after finishing his meal. If not, he must interrupt immediately.
Beis Yosef (DH Kasuv b'Ohel): Ohel Mo'ed says that if one began anything forbidden to do before praying Minchah, if time will remain to pray, he need not interrupt. However, Chachamim were more stringent about [eating before] Ma'ariv, for drunkenness is common then. The Rashba disagrees.
Beis Yosef (DH d'Tanan): Tosfos rules like the first version, which is the Stam Gemara of Rav Ashi, who is Basra. The Rosh says that based on this, one may begin a small meal close to Minchah Gedolah. If one began a big meal, he need not interrupt even after Minchah Ketanah comes.
Taz (2): If one began even the haircut of Ben El'asa, he need not interrupt, for nowadays we do not have the stringency of this haircut more than other haircuts. Our Mishnah discusses all haircuts, and it says that if one began, he need not interrupt. The same applies to all of them - a big meal, beginning of judgment... However, one must interrupt a big meal for another reason, i.e. lest he get drunk. The Mishnah did not discuss this. The Rosh brought a proof for the Rif, and challenged R. Tam, because people often get drunk at big meals. This shows that the Rif forbids a big meal due to drunkenness. Even if one began to eat, he must interrupt. The Mishnah discusses meals (and other matters) that are small. One must interrupt a big meal when the time for Minchah Ketanah comes, even if time will remain to pray afterwards.
Taz (2): R. Tam said that since the Gemara asked 'what is the beginning of judgment', this shows that we discuss this. The Rosh rejected this. Perhaps it teaches about the beginning, to teach about interrupting! Do not derive that the same applies to the Rif's opinion about a big meal, and it is just like the beginning of judgment. Indeed, according to the first answer, a big meal is permitted b'Di'eved. The Rif rules like the second answer. The Mishnah discusses small matters, and permits b'Di'eved. The Gemara itself teaches that there is concern for drunkenness at a big meal, so we must decree even b'Di'eved, just like we decree about Ma'ariv according to the opinion that it is obligatory. Other big matters are permitted b'Di'eved.
Question: Why does the first version permit a big meal, without concern for drunkenness? Why is this different than Ma'ariv?
Answer (Taz 2): The Gemara makes another distinction between Minchah and Ma'ariv. Minchah has a more limited time than Ma'ariv, so people will not be negligent. We can say that the first version holds that this is the difference, but the second version holds that the difference is drunkenness. Surely, according to the Rif and Rambam, we forbid a big meal even b'Di'eved once Minchah Ketanah comes. Version #1 is lenient about a big meal b'Di'eved, and Version #2 is stringent about it.
Mishbetzos Zahav: The Drishah holds that even the Rif and Rambam permit a large meal b'Di'eved even after Minchah Ketanah, if he started before Minchah Ketanah.
Shulchan Aruch (ibid.): The beginning of eating is when he washes his hands.
Mishnah Berurah (20): If one normally unties his belt at meal time, this is considered beginning, even before he washed.
Rema: Some disagree, and permit a small meal. Only a meal of a wedding or Bris Milah is forbidden.
Gra (DH v'Yesh Cholkim): This opinion is primary.
Kaf ha'Chayim (26): Also a Seudas Eirusin is forbidden. Whenever many eat together, it a big meal.
Rema: Some permit even a big meal close to Minchah Gedolah. Some permit a small meal close to Minchah Ketanah.
Mishnah Berurah (23): The latter opinion forbids a big meal close to Minchah Gedolah.
Rema: The custom is to be lenient like both opinions, i.e. a big meal close to Minchah Gedolah and a small meal close to Minchah Ketanah. Perhaps this is because nowadays people call when it is time to pray in the Beis ha'Keneses, so we are not concerned lest one be negligent and not pray. However, one should be stringent about a big meal close to Minchah Gedolah, and even if he began beforehand, when Minchah Ketanah comes and time is running out, he must get up to pray.
Be'er Sheva (Be'er Mayim Chayim 12, cited in R. Akiva Eiger): Why are people lenient to start a big meal close to Minchah Gedolah? The Agudah says that perhaps we rely on those who call to come to pray. We are not concerned lest people be negligent. This was not so in their days (of the Gemara). This is wrong. The Yerushalmi mentions the custom to call people to pray, yet it forbids eating before praying. The Tur (231) forbids eating Seudah Shelishis before praying!
Note: Be'er Sheva did not even fathom that in the days of the Gemara there was concern for negligence, and nowadays there is not.
Mishnah Berurah (28): This discusses one who prays b'Tzibur. It does not help for one who prays alone.
Kaf ha'Chayim (30): The custom in Yerushalayim is to forbid a big meal even close to Minchah Gedolah.
Kaf ha'Chayim (31): If the people at the meal already prayed, and the Tzibur will not pray until later, one should not pray alone in order to join a Seudas Mitzvah.