It’s important to eat three meals on Shabbat and the Talmud promises all kinds of spiritual rewards to those who do so (Shabbat 117b-118a). Seudah Shlishit, the third meal, eaten on Shabbat in the late afternoon, tends to get short-changed, or even forgotten, particularly in the winter when Shabbat ends early. It can be hard to fit in another meal at four in the afternoon if you only finished lunch at three.
Indeed, the Shulchan Aruch teaches that if you’re still stuffed from lunch, you don’t need to eat Seudah Shlishit (Orach Chaim, 291:7). Eating three meals is part of Oneg Shabbat, “the delight of Shabbat”, and if it is torture to force down challah and gefilte fish on top of undigested cholent, then you are exempt.
Seudah Shlishit comes into its own on the long Shabbatot. There are few spiritual experiences to beat the passionate stirring singing, savouring the last moments of Shabbat as the light fades on a summer evening.
Rabbi Julian Sinclair