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Eating Shabbat Morning Before Prayers

In our community Shabbat morning services only begin at 9:00 and the lunchtime meal does not begin till well after 12:00. Can I eat before morning prayers if I make kiddush first?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

Really, morning prayers should come before eating since we should place our spiritual devotion to God before our caring for our physical selves (Talmud Brachot 10b). However, drinking water or taking medicines are fine, as well as tea or coffee for people who need them to start their day. None of these are considered placing our bodies’ “honor” (in the language of the Talmud) before God’s honor.

Since we may not eat before Shabbat morning prayers, we may not make kiddush either since kiddush may only be said at the start of a meal. (The “meal” which accompanies kiddush does not have to include bread, but must have cake or crackers in it.)

If a person is too weak to pray, he may eat before morning prayers (shacharit) – both Shabbat morning and during the week. This too is not “honoring” himself over God since he is merely doing it to give him the strength to function – in fact the strength to pray to God. It’s better, however, to say the blessings on the Torah and the first paragraph of Shema first.

If on Shabbat a weak person has bread or cake before prayers, which as above is considered a “meal” for kiddush, he must also make kiddush beforehand. If he has something lighter, such as fruit, he would not make kiddush.

Note that once Shabbat prayers end, one is obligated to make kiddush and eat, and before kiddush he may not even drink water.

(Sources: Shulchan Aruch O.C. 89:3-4 with Mishna Berurah 22 and Biur Halacha s.v. “v’chain”; Shulchan Aruch O.C. 289:1 with Mishna Berurah 7 and Biur Halacha s.v. “chovat,” Igrot Moshe O.C. II:26 , Shemirat Shabbat K’Hilchata 40:45, 52:12, The Radiance of Shabbos 17 II 1-4 with footnote 12.)

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