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May one eat or drink prior to Shacharis or hearing Shofar, on Rosh Hashanah?
It is forbidden to eat a meal prior to hearing Shofar. [Thus, since Shofar is blown after Shacharis, therefore even those who generally eat before prayer during the year so they have strength to pray, may not eat a meal prior to hearing Shofar on Rosh Hashanah. This applies equally to both days of Rosh Hashanah. Regarding if one may blow the Shofar early before Davening in order to be able to eat, see Q&A that this may be done in a time of need.]
Rosh Hashanah that falls on Shabbos: When Rosh Hashanah falls on Shabbos, in which case the Shofar is not blown, then it is permitted to eat and drink before Davening foods for health purposes, just as is the law regarding the rest of the year. Likewise, if one is hungry and thirsty, and will thus be unable to properly concentrate on the prayer if he does not eat, and he is thus eating for the sake of being able to have concentration. [Thus, according to the Chabad custom to be particular in eating and drinking before a late/long Shacharis for the sake of increasing concentration as is permitted from the letter of the law, when Rosh Hashanah falls on Shabbos one is likewise to be careful in this to eat for the sake of concentration prior to Davening.]
Snacking before hearing Shofar: Some Poskim rule it is only forbidden to eat a meal, however one may eat up to a Kebeitza [55 grams] of Mezonos and have an unlimited amount of fruit and drink. [Based on this, some communities are accustomed to eating after Kerias Hatorah, prior to Tekias Shofar.] Nevertheless many Poskim rule that one may not eat even a snack prior to hearing Shofar unless one is weak or sick. Practically, many are accustomed to fast and not eat or drink anything until one hears Shofar, as explained below, and at least regarding eating one should not be lenient unless it is a time of need, as explained in the Q&A below.
Drinking before Shacharis/Shofar: It is permitted to drink water [and even coffee or tea] prior to Shacharis on Rosh Hashanah even though one has yet to hear Shofar. [Nonetheless, many are accustomed to fast and not eat or drink anything until one hears Shofar, as stated below. There is no set Chabad custom in this matter, and while some are stringent not to even drink prior to Shofar, many vintage Chabad Rabbanim have ruled that one may drink prior to Davening. Certainly one is not to be stringent against drinking if it can lead to dehydration, or if he walked a long distance to Shul.]
Custom of fasting until one hears Shofar: Although from the letter of the law one may drink before hearing Shofar, and according to some even eat a small snack, practically, many are accustomed to fast and not eat or drink anything until one hears Shofar. There is no prohibition in doing so even if one will only end up eating after midday. [See above regarding Chabad custom! Certainly, however one is not to be stringent against drinking if it can lead to dehydration, or if he walked a long distance to Shul.]
One may not eat prior to hearing Shofar although one may drink. However, many are accustomed to fast until they hear Shofar. One may eat and drink for purposes of increasing concentration, prior to Shacharis of Rosh Hashanah that falls on Shabbos.
Is one who is old or weak or sick and thus needs to eat to hear Shofar early in the morning?
As explained above, one who is sick or weak may eat up to 55 grams of Mezonos, unlimited amount of fruit and vegetables, and unlimited amount of beverages prior to Shacharis. However, they may not eat a full meal or over 55 grams of Mezonos until they hear Shofar. Thus, if they feel a need to eat a meal, they should hear the Shofar early before Davening and then eat. Furthermore, some Poskim rule that in all cases that one feels he needs to eat, if possible, he should hear Shofar beforehand and only then eat.
May women eat prior to hearing Shofar?
It is customary for women not to eat at all until they hear Shofar. However from the letter of the law women are allowed to eat up to 55 grams of Mezonos, unlimited amount of fruit and vegetables, and unlimited amount of beverages. This certainly applies to a woman who is pregnant, nursing or feels weak. However she should not eat a full meal or over 55 grams of Mezonos until she hears Shofar. If however they feel that they require this amount of food to eat then it is completely allowed. Nevertheless, some Poskim rule that in all cases that a woman feels she needs to eat, if possible, she is to hear Shofar beforehand and only then eat.
May one blow Shofar prior to Davening so he be able to eat for the sake of concentration even if he is not old or sick?
Initially, it is proper to fulfil the Mitzvah of Shofar at its correct time in Davening, together with the Minyan, and hence one should not blow beforehand unless necessary. Another disadvantage of blowing before Shacharis is that initially one is not to blow Shofar within Zeman Kerias Shema, as explained next.
Blowing within the first three hours of the day:
If one is blowing Shofar on Rosh Hashanah without a Minyan in order to fulfill the Mitzvah, he is to beware to delay the blowing of the Shofar until three hours have passed from the beginning of the day, as explained chapter 10 Halacha 6. [This is commensurate to Sof Zeman Kerias Shema. Nonetheless, those who need to eat before Shacharis due to medical reasons, may blow the Shofar even within Zeman Kerias Shema for this purpose. However, if possible, one should try to delay the blowing until after Sof Zeman Kerias Shema.]
Drinking water during Davening, and after Shacharis during Covid-19 outdoor Rosh Hashanah Minyanim:
As stated above, it is permitted to drink before Shacharis. Those who will be Davening outside and need to drink due to the heat, may say a blessing on water or other liquid prior to Baruch Sheamar and periodically drink during Pesukei Dezimra based on that blessing. If one did not say a blessing beforehand, he may say a blessing even during Pesueki Dezimra, in such a case. This especially applies between Yishtabach and Yotzer Or. If after Shacharis one feels a need to drink due to the heat then one is to recite Kiddush and eat a Kezayis of Mezonos, and drink.
 See Piskeiy Teshuvos 585:2; Hearos Hatemimim Veanash 770 vol. 322 p. 64 for a general overview of this subject; See “Noam” 19 p. 181-188 for an article of Rav Yosef Simcha Ginzberg on this topic.
 Mateh Efraim 588:2; Alef Hamagen 581:81; Ashel Avraham Butchach 589:3; Takanos Rav Akiva Eiger that even during the epidemic he ruled to only eat after Tekios Meyushav; See Kaf Hachaim 585:26 for a discussion why this was not explicitly mentioned in Poskim by Shofar; See Piskeiy Teshuvos ibid footnote 10; This prohibition applies before all-time dependent Mitzvos: 1) Regarding Mincha and Maariv: See 232:2; 235:2; 2) Regarding Bedikas Chameitz see: 431:5; 3) Regarding Lulav see: 652:2; 4) Regarding Megillah see: Rama 692:4; M”B 692:15; Kaf Hachaim 692:37.
The reason: As is the case whenever one has a Mitzvah that must be fulfilled by a certain time, that one may not eat a meal until he fulfills the Mitzvah due to fear he may come to forget to perform the Mitzvah.
The law of a Shomer: The general rule regarding eating before Mitzvos is that a Shomer validates one to be able to eat. [see Rama 232:2]; However, this allowance seemingly only applies by Davening and not before Mitzvos. This explains why the allowance of a Shomer is not mentioned in Poskim by the Mitzvah of Megillah, Lulav, Shofar etc. [See Piskeiy Teshuvos ibid footnote 11; Admur 431:11 Kuntrus Achron 2]
 The reason: See previous footnote. This is similar to the custom that even those who eat before Davening do not eat prior to reciting Shema.
 See Admur 89:5; Michaber 89:3-4; Rambam Tefila 5:2
 Igros Kodesh Rayatz 10:2; Igros Kodesh of Rebbe 14:18; See letters and talks of Rebbe as well as many other sources compiled on this subject in the Kuntrus Tzadik Ochel Lesova Nafsho by Harav Chaim Rappaort
 See Alef Hamagen 581:81 [in footnote that all snacking is permitted before a Mitzvah]; Darkei Chaim Veshalom 716 [regarding tea and coffee]; Hisorerus Teshuvah 147; Olas Shmuel 82; Tzitz Eliezer 6:7; 7:32; 8:21; Az Nidbaru 1:10; Kaf Hachaim 585:26 [brings opinions in this matter]; See “Noam” ibid.
 Regarding eating between Kerias Hatorah and Tekias Shofar and whether Kiddush is required-see Halacha 13A!
 Mateh Efraim 588:2; Kaf Hachaim 585:26; 588:11; Chasam Sofer 7; Takanas Rav Akiva Eiger ibid; Maharsham 1:1; Heishiv Moshe 19; Shaareiy Teshuvah 584:3; Minchas Yitzchak 5:111; Betzeil Hachochmah 4:147; Sheivet Halevy 4:54; Lehoros Nasan 1:29; Piskeiy Teshuvos ibid footnote 15; Regarding the prohibition to snack prior to Megillah reading unless one is weak or sick see: M”A 692:7; Elya Raba 692:11; M”B 692:14; Kaf Hachaim 692:36
 See Admur 89:5; Michaber 89:3; Tur 89; See Kitzur SHU”A 141:8 regarding the allowance to drink coffee after the fast on Taanis Esther; We do not find in the Poskim an explicit prohibition against drinking and that one must fast until he hears Shofar; See Darkei Chaim Veshalom 716 that one may drink tea or coffee before Shofar and that so is the custom of some of Anash [Rav Zalmin Shimon Dworkin ruled one may drink before Shofar, and so ruled to me Rav Avraham Osdaba, as well as Rav Tuvia Bloy.]
 Darkei Chaim Veshalom 716; See Kaf Hachaim 89:31; Ketzos Hashulchan 11:1; Piskeiy Teshuvos 89 footnote 213 for a list of many Achronim who permit drinking tea and coffee before Davening and that so is the custom
 Rav Zalmin Shimon Dworkin, and so is the custom in Tomchei Temimim in 770. [brought in Hiskashrus], and so ruled to me Rav Avraham Osdaba, as well as Rav Tuvia Bloy
 Rokeach Hagadol 353, brought in Alef Hamagen 581:81 and 588:2; Beshamayim Rosh 74; Pischeiy Olam 74; see Sdei Chemed Daled Minim 3:22 and so writes Hiskashrus, and Otzer Minhagei Chabad 176, and so is custom of many of Anash.
 Ateres Zekeinim 597; M”B 597:2; Kaf Hachaim 597:6; Implication of Rokeach and Alef Hamagen, and so is the practical custom of many of Anash
Background: See 288:1 that it is forbidden to fast until midday on Shabbos, even if one does not intend to do so as a fast. The same applies towards Yom Tov and Chol Hamoed. [M”A 652:4; M”B 652:7 regarding Chol Hamoed Sukkos] Nevertheless the above Poskim ibid rule that on R”H one may fast even past midday.
 Mateh Efraim 585:9; Sdei Chemed R”H 2:40; Piskeiy Teshuvos ibid footnote 14; See Ashel Avraham Butchach 689 and Mahadurah Tinyana 592; Ateres Zikeinim 689
 Ateres Zikeinim 589; Ashel Avraham Tinyana 592; See Kaf Hachaim 585:25; Olas Shmuel 82, 83, 87
 Ashel Avraham Butchach 589 and Mahadurah Tinyana 592; so is implied also from Kitzur SHU”A 129:19; Ateres Zikeinim 589
The reason: Although women are not obligated to hear Shofar, nevertheless since they accepted it upon themselves as an obligation [see Admur 17:3], they are therefore also to follow the ruling of not eating prior to doing the Mitzvah. [Ashel Avraham ibid]
 As according to some Poskim even a man is allowed from the letter of the law to eat these foods, and if he is weak according to all it is allowed. Thus, certainly women who are not even obligated in the Mitzvah are allowed. [see Piskeiy Teshuvos 585:2 footnote 26 who uses this logic regarding even slightly weak women]
 Piskeiy Teshuvos 585:2 footnote 26
 This complies with the ruling of the previously mentioned Poskim that women do not eat prior to Shofar. Thus, if one is able to satiate themselves with other foods which are allowed from the letter of the law, it is better to do so. Furthermore, some Poskim [Ashel Avraham; Ateres Zikeinim ibid] rule that they should hear Shofar early in all cases rather than eat beforehand. Thus, it is certainly best to avoid eating a meal or over 55 grams of Mezonos when avoidable.
 Chayeh Adam 141:7; Kitzur SH”A ibid; Ashel Avraham ibid [They do not limit the amount of food that they may eat]; Piskeiy Teshuvos 585:2.
 Ateres Zekeinim ibid; Ashel Avraham Tinyana ibid
 Admur 591:14; M”A 591:9; M”B 591:15; Kaf Hachaim 591:36
 The reason: The reason for this is because within the first three hours of the day G-D does not judge beyond the letter of the law, as during this time He learns His Torah which is called Truth [and thus judges people in accordance to Truth]. There is thus to worry that perhaps the supernal courts will investigate his actions and his prayers [Tekios] will be denied. However, after three hours into the day He judges the entire world and once He sees that the world cannot up stand to His judgment He therefore judges them in a manner of above the letter of the law, and the individuals prayer will not be differed. [ibid]
 See our Sefer “Topics in Practical Halacha” Vol. 2 Halacha 9
 See our Sefer “The Laws & Customs of Rosh Hashanah” Chapter 5 Halacha 13A!