The gemara says that anyone who fulfills the mitzvah of eating three meals on Shabbos is spared from three sufferings, the sufferings of moshiach, the suffering of the judgement of Gehinom, and the milchemes Gog u’Mogog. How does eating on Shabbos come instead of the chevlei moshiach?
When moshiach comes, it’s going to be like chevlei leidah, like the pangs of giving birth. After the mother gives birth to her baby, so it’s sasson v’simchah, it’s mazel tov and happiness; but while the baby is in the process of being born, it’s oy vey. And so too, there will be a big oy vey just before the advent of moshiach. And the purpose of that oy vey is to teach people a lot of lessons. We don’t have time to describe the lessons but there will be many lessons we are going to learn during the chevlei moshiach.
But the gemara here gives us a substitute way of learning these lessons, an easier way. And that’s when you sit down Shabbos at the table and you eat a piece of fat kugel and you drink wine and you sing songs and you think about what all this — all this food and oneg — is supposed to teach you. It’s supposed to teach you that Hakodosh Boruch Hu made the world out of nothing. That’s what you’re supposed to think about while you’re eating the chicken and the cholent.
Now, it’s not easy. When people are sitting and stuffing themselves so they tend to become drowsy and the brain falls asleep. He enjoys it and he’s lulled into a happy, soporific state of non thinking – soporific means a sleepy state of non thinking. But if you can force yourself with every bite and every sip to say, “Look, all this is nothing but the word of Hashem; it’s all Hashem’s imagination,” that means you’re already learning the lessons that Hakodosh Boruch Hu wants you to learn.
You’re chewing on the challah and you’re thinking, “There’s nothing in this world except His word. Hakodosh Boruch Hu is the only real existence, and everything else is the result of His desire, His imagination.” That’s what you should be thinking while you’re eating the Shabbos seudah. It’s an interesting thing to think about – that the world came into being only because Hashem said, “Let it be.” Now, if you’ll study this at the meals – three times every Shabbos – then you won’t need the lesson of chevlei moshiach. And it’s easier than the chevlei moshiach. So you have your choice.