Prayer Essentials

For the week ending 21 January 2017 / 23 Tevet 5777

Eating Before Prayers - Part 2

by Rabbi Yitzchak Botton
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The prohibition of eating and drinking before one prays begins at dawn, unless one is eating a ‘set meal’ (defined as more than a kabeitza, which is about fifty grams of bread or baked food), in which case the prohibition against beginning this meal begins a half-hour before dawn. (Shulchan Aruch 89:5 as explained by Mishneh Berurah and Halacha Berurah by Rabbi David Yosef)

There is a dispute among the Rishonim as to whether one who has begun eating must stop at dawn, or is allowed to continue eating after dawn. The later halachic authorities write that the first opinion should be followed, to stop at dawn (Shulchan Aruch, Mishneh Berurah, Kaf Hachaim, and others). Even though the halacha is that one who started eating before Minchah does not need to stop eating, Shacharit is different because the Rabbis based their ruling on the verse: “You may not eat upon the blood,” meaning “do not eat before praying upon your blood”, i.e. your well-being. One must therefore stop eating. (Magen Avraham, Taz, Mishneh Berurah)

According to Kabbalah (based on the Zohar, Vayakhel 215b), after a person sleeps it is forbidden to eat until he prays. This is so even if he wakes up in the middle of the night. Although according to the letter of the law someone who sleeps is permitted to eat and drink until dawn, ideally one should be stringent and comply with the Zohar, unless it is necessary for him to eat (Mishneh Berurah). However, even according to Kabbalah one who does not sleep during the night is allowed to eat until dawn. (Kaf HaChaim)

Someone who is extremely hungry or thirsty, and is therefore not able to pray with proper concentration, is allowed to eat or drink before praying. However, he is not obligated to do so. (Shulchan Aruch 89:4)

One is allowed to give children who have reached the age of chinuch (‘age of education’, which is around six to eight years old) food before prayers (Magen Avraham). Rabbi Ovadia Yosef writes that it is appropriate to train children from the age of twelve not to eat before prayers.

Someone who mistakenly made a blessing on food before praying should taste some of the food or drink so that his blessing will not be in vain.

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