Harav AE told me something excellent. On this website, we've discussed the universal tendency to impute deep significance to cultural and religious behaviors, Sometimes, the alleged depth is entirely imaginary. But among Minhagei Yisrael, there are times that one is struck by an insight that reveals that what previously seemed merely utilitarian is actually a perfectly choreographed gavotte of kedusha. One example we've discussed is the layout of our synagogues. Today we want to demonstrate not merely an example, but perhaps even an archetype: our preparation and the order of the meal at the Shabbos table as re-enactment of Ma'aseh Bereishis.
The order of our preparation and of our meals seems to be inviolate, as if it were set in stone. Who would have a fleishige first course and a main course of fish? Yes, I'm sure it is sometimes done, but it's rare. And as you all know, we put the challah on the table before the candles, allegedly to prevent a muktzeh problem of Basis :L'Davar Ha'Asur, although considering the relative value of the silver candlesticks and the Challah, it's not clear why that would work. But here's what Harav AE told me.
Every step of the process represents the order of the creation of the world.
First Day: Tohu VaVohu, inchoate matter was created to later be properly formed- Preparation for Shabbos.
Second Day: Spreading out the Heavens- Spreading the tablecloth.
Third Day: Desheh Eisev- Placing the Challah on the table.
Fourth Day: The two Me'oros- Putting two candles on the table and later lighting them.
Fifth Day: Fish- the first course.
Sixth Day: Animals- the main course.