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Eating Before Hearing the Megillah

Ta’anit Esther doesn’t end that late, but another hour goes by until the synagogue finishes the Megillah, especially with all the carrying on. This makes the fast much longer and more difficult. Is it possible to eat and drink after nightfall right before going to hear the Megillah?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

You are right about that painful final hour of fasting. Even so, we should preferably not eat or drink at all until the Megillah reading is over. Although it's usually okay to eat a snack before performing a mitzvah, here we are concerned that since the person fasted the entire day, he will come to eat more than a snack and forget the mitzvah entirely. (Some explain alternatively that we should not eat or drink before any especially significant mitzvah.)

If, however, a person is feeling sick – or feeling weak to the extent that he feels he will become sick by the end of the Megillah, he can drink (non-alcoholic drinks) or eat fruit, or he could eat cake and the like up to the size of an egg. (Even of fruit and the like he may eat more than an egg, but not a lot.) If all of that is not enough for him to feel better, he can eat more, but he should designate someone to remind him to hear the Megillah afterwards.

Note that this applies to hearing the Megillah both at night and in the morning. Also note that this applies even to people who did not fast during the day. Even apart from the obligation to fast, we may not start a meal (or take a nap) within 30 minutes of nightfall – since we will imminently have an important mitzvah to fulfill.

(Sources: Shulchan Aruch O.C. 692:4, Mishna Berurah 15-16, Sha’ar HaTziyun 29, Shoneh Halachos 692:2, Elyah Rabbah 692:11, Halichos Shlomo Tefillah 17[32], Mishna Berurah 431:6 with Biur Halacha.)

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