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By Rabbi Doniel Neustadt | Series: | Level:

A discussion of Halachic topics related to the Parsha of the week. For final rulings, consult your Rav.

In keeping with the Rabbinical prohibition against eating before one is about to fulfill a mitzvah, it is prohibited to eat before kiddush, both on Friday night and on Shabbos morning. The Rabbis forbade eating prior to fulfilling a mitzvah for fear that one would become distracted during mealtime and forget to perform the mitzvah. But unlike other mitzvos where it is forbidden to have a meal before performing the mitzvah, it is prohibited to have even a morsel of food or a drink of water before reciting kiddush. One of the explanations offered(1) for this stringency is that the Rabbis wanted kiddush to be recited as close as possible to the time when it ought to be recited ideally – right when Shabbos starts on Friday night and immediately after davening on Shabbos morning. To keep the ideal time-frame intact insofar as possible, they prohibited consuming any food or drink(2) before kiddush is recited.

Since women, too, are obligated to recite or hear kiddush, they, too, cannot eat before kiddush. But children under the age of bar/bas mitzvah are permitted to eat before kiddush(3).

The prohibition against eating begins as soon as one “accepts” Shabbos, or inevitably at sunset. Women generally “accept” Shabbos when they light candles and they should not eat or drink after that. If, however, one is extremely thirsty after lighting candles, she may take a drink until she verbally “accepts” Shabbos upon herself(4).

One who knows that he will not have wine or any other beverage or challah over which to make kiddush, may eat without reciting kiddush(5).

On Shabbos morning before davening it is permitted to drink coffee, tea or soda etc., without first making kiddush. This is allowed because kiddush need not be recited until it is zeman seudah, the time when it is permitted to eat a meal. Since one is not allowed to eat a meal before davening, it is not time for kiddush and one may take a drink. Even if one wants to be stringent and recite kiddush before drinking, he may not do so for two reasons: 1) A requirement of Kiddush is that it be followed by a meal, otherwise the kiddush is invalid. Since one is not allowed to eat before davening, he cannot make kiddush. 2) Drinking wine before davening is considered “haughty behavior” and is not permitted.

What about a person who is ill or elderly and is allowed to eat before davening? Mishnah Berurah(6) rules that such a person should recite kiddush before he eats, for as soon as it is zeman seudah for him, he is obligated to make kiddush. The fact that he is drinking wine before davening is not a problem since he must drink wine in order to eat. He may not even drink water before kiddush, since for him it is already zeman seudah(7).

The ruling by the Mishnah Berurah regarding an ill or elderly person making kiddush when eating before davening was challenged by some later poskim(8). While many poskim agree with his basic ruling(9), they suggest that the practical halachah will depend on what exactly the person in question is going to eat. If he is just going to eat fruit or even cereal and milk or other cooked mezonos items, he should eat without reciting kiddush first. If, however, his health demands that he wash over bread or eat at least a k’zayis of cake or any other baked mezonos items, he should make kiddush before he eats(10).


Whether or not women need to make kiddush on Shabbos morning is subject to much debate. In a previous column we wrote that although it is prohibited to eat before davening on weekdays, many women eat breakfast after reciting a brief supplication and finish davening later on in the morning. We noted that the poskim allow them to do so, since they may rely on the view of the Rambam who maintains that women fulfill their davening obligation with a brief supplication. Thus, they are eating after “davening”. On Shabbos morning, though, they are obligated to make kiddush in addition to the daily obligation to daven. As soon as they meet their basic davening obligation by reciting a brief supplication, it is for them zeman seudah and they cannot eat until they make kiddush(11).

Many married women, however, do not make kiddush for themselves. They rely upon the poskim who hold that it is not zeman seudah for them until their husbands are ready to eat, which is not until davening is over in shul(12). Other poskim do not agree with this argument(13). In either case, unmarried women, including girls who eat at their father’s table, do not have this leniency to rely upon.

Children who are allowed to eat before davening do not need to make kiddush before eating(14).


For the same reason that it is prohibited to eat before kiddush, it is also prohibited to eat before havdalah is recited. Accordingly, it is prohibited to eat or drink once the sun has set and bein hashemashos begins. But, b’dieved, if one did not start eating seudah shelishis – a meal in which both men and women(15) are obligated to partake – before bein hashemashos, he may start huis meal until one half hour before nightfall(16).

While it is permitted according to the halachah to drink water before havdalah(17), many people refrain from doing so based on the Kabbalistic teachings of the Arizal that it is “dangerous” to drink water during this time – unless it is part of his Seudah Shelishis(18).

One who began his meal before sunset may continue eating and drinking until after nightfall. But this applies only to a meal that includes bread, not a meal which consists of eating mezonos or drinking wine(19).

Women, who are obligated to hear havdalah just as men are, may not eat before hearing [or reciting] havdalah either. While it is customary that women do not make havdalah for themselves, a woman who cannot hear havdalah recited by a man should recite her own havdalah(20).

As with kiddush, children under the age of bar/bas mitzvah can eat and drink before havdalah.

Even if one recited atah chonantonu during Shemoneh Esrei, he still may not eat until he recites or hears havdalah over wine or grape juice, etc.(21).

One who presently has no wine or other halachically acceptable beverage over which to recite havdalah but expects to obtain some later on, should – if he can – put off eating until he obtains wine etc., up to midday Sunday(22). If he is a weak person who cannot wait so long, or if he does not expect to find wine etc., beverage by that time, he does not need to wait and may eat after davening Maariv and reciting atah chonantonu(23).


1 Mishnah Berurah 271:11 based on Shulchan Aruch Harav 271:9. See an additional reason in Beiur ha-Gra, ibid.

2 Medication, with or without water, may be taken before kiddush.

3 Chayei Adam 66:10; Mishnah Berurah 269:1.

4 See Da’as Torah 271:4. A nursing mother who knows that she will need to drink after lighting candles, should stipulate that she is not “accepting” Shabbos until she is finished drinking; Ketzos ha-Shulchan 74:17.

5 Mishnah Berurah 289:10. If he knows that he will find wine etc., later in the night, he should wait up until midnight to eat, if he can wait that long; ibid.

6 Beiur Halachah 289:1 (s.v. chovas).

7 Da’as Torah 289:1; Harav S.Z. Auerbach (Nishmas Avraham, vol. 1. pg. 54).

8 Some suggest that the obligation of kiddush begins only after davening – even for a person who is allowed to eat before davening – since only then is it zeman seudah for all; see Keren L’David 84, Igros Moshe O.C. 2:28 and Chelkas Yaakov 4:32.

9 See Emes le-Yaakov O.C. 652:2 who quotes a Taz as a source for this ruling.

10 Igros Moshe O.C. 2:26. Harav S.Z. Auerbach (Shemiras Shabbos K’hilchasah 52, note 37) holds that it is better to make kiddush and eat cake than to eat cereal etc. without kiddush.

11 Pri Megadim O.C. 289:4; Minchas Yitzchak 3:28; Shemiras Shabbos K’hilchasah 52:13.

12 Igros Moshe O.C. 4:101-2.

13 Harav S.Z. Auerbach (Shemiras Shabbos K’hilchasah 52, note 46).

14 Mishnah Berurah 269:1.

15 Shulchan Aruch rules definitively that women are obligated to eat Seudah Shelishis; O.C. 291:6, and it is important that woman should be reminded of this; Aruch ha-Shulchan 291:4. The fact that some women are not careful to perform this mitzvah is very difficult to justify; see Avodas Yisrael (Sukkos, s.v. beparashas, quoting the Arizal.

16 Mishnah Berurah 299:1. One should try to avoid delaying this long, since some poskim disagree and allow Seudah Shelishis to start only a few minutes after sunset (see Igros Moshe O.C. 4:69-6 and Az Nidberu 13:22) and some do not allow starting after sunset at all (see Shemiras Shabbos K’hilchasah 56 note 17).

17 O.C. 299:1.

18 Minchas Shabbos 96:11; Kaf ha-Chayim 299:6 See also Aruch ha-Shulchan 299:1. Mishnah Berurah does not quote this warning.

19 Aruch ha-Shulchan 299:5.

20 Mishnah Berurah 296:35.

21 Sha’ar ha-Tziyun 299:5.

22 Mishnah Berurah 296:21. One does not, however, need to put off eating in order to obtain besamim and/or a havdalah candle.

23 Ibid. 17

Weekly-Halacha, Copyright © 2000 by Rabbi Neustadt, Dr. Jeffrey Gross and Project Genesis, Inc.

Rabbi Neustadt is the principal of Yavne Teachers’ College in Cleveland, Ohio. He is also the Magid Shiur of a daily Mishna Berurah class at Congregation Shomre Shabbos.

The Weekly-Halacha Series is distributed L’zchus Hayeled Doniel Meir ben Hinda. Weekly sponsorships are available–please send email to the moderator, Dr. Jeffrey Gross [email protected].

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