I always wondered if it is permitted for me to have a drink before I say the morning blessings. I’m not necessarily referring to having a coffee but rather to lets say have a drink of water or other beverage to quench my thirst and then say the blessing. I always thought that it is forbidden to eat or drink anything before the morning blessings but recently someone told me that it is allowed and I would like to know what the Halacha says about this.
Although one is initially to say the morning blessings as soon as possible after awakening, it is permitted for one to have a drink of plain water prior to saying the morning blessings if he is thirsty. This especially applies if doing so will help him concentrate on the morning blessings. Furthermore, from the letter of the law one may even drink coffee or tea and other beverages prior to saying the morning blessings, although practically it is best not to do so and rather one is to first say the morning blessings, and Shema, prior to doing so. Nonetheless those who have a coffee even prior to morning blessings are not considered to be doing any prohibition.
Explanation: Although there is a general prohibition against eating and drinking prior to reciting the morning prayers, water is an exception to the rule since it is not a substance that has any relevance to haughtiness [as it is not considered a pampering food] and it thus does not fall under the reason behind the general prohibition. Hence it is permitted to drink water prior to Davening. Accordingly, it is also permitted to drink the water prior to even saying the morning blessings as we do not find any special restrictions against eating or drinking prior to the morning blessings other than the general restrictions against eating and drinking prior to the morning prayers. Thus just as one may drink water before the morning prayers he may drink water before the morning blessings, and no Posek has ever stipulated the allowance to drink water before prayer to the person first saying the morning blessings. Nonetheless, due to a separate reason it is proper to say the morning blessings prior to doing anything else, including drinking water, as initially the morning blessings are to be said immediately upon awakening to thank God for all the pleasures one received, and hence it is not proper for one to first drink before doing so. However, if one is thirsty and not drinking will cause him to have difficulty in concentrating on the morning blessings, then certainly there is no need to be stringent.
All the above is only regarding the drinking of plain water prior to the morning blessings, however regarding drinking other beverages such as tea and coffee, and certainly regarding eating foods for those who are sick or weak and have an allowance to eat or drink before prayer for this purpose, the matter is a bit more complex. It is indeed correct that we do not find mentioned in the Poskim any stipulation which requires one to say the morning blessings prior to eating or drinking for purposes of health or concentration for prayer, nonetheless, the Mishneh Berurah novelizes that it is proper for one to at least say the first paragraph of the Shema prior to eating or drinking. The reason for this is because one of the reasons behind the general prohibition of eating and drinking prior to prayer is because it’s not proper for one to deal with his own matters prior to accepting the yoke of heaven, and hence writes the Mishneh Berurah that it is proper for one to first recite at the very least the first paragraph of the Shema prior to eating or drinking, in order to accept upon himself the yoke of heaven prior to dealing with his own matters. Now, since he will be saying the Shema beforehand it is proper for him to likewise recite Birchas Hatorah, as one should not recite a verse of Scripture prior to saying Birchas Hatorah. Now, since one will anyways be saying Birchas Hatorah, one therefore just recites the entire Birchas Hashachar beforehand as well. Now, while Admur makes no mention of this requirement in his Shulchan Aruch, and it is likewise omitted from all the other Poskim and we find some Poskim who explicitly argue on this, which seems to imply that it is a mere lone opinion of the Mishneh Berurah, in truth one can argue that even in their opinion it is proper to be stringent in this. The reason is as follows: There is a separate law which prohibits man from dealing with his mundane activities prior to prayer in order so he does not remove his mind from his need to pray. Now, the Poskim record that some are accustomed to be lenient to deal with their mundane matters prior to prayer once they have recited the morning blessings. Now, although the Poskim negate this opinion, nonetheless, from it we can learn that there is more room to be lenient to deal with one’s mundane activities after saying the morning blessings, than beforehand. Accordingly, there is room to be stringent to not eat or drink anything prior to saying the morning blessings in order so one does not deal with any mundane matters prior to prayer. Now, while it is difficult to say that this would be a requirement from the letter of the law being that it is clear from the Shulchan Aruch that the prohibition to eat or drink prior to prayer is not due to the prohibition of dealing with one’s needs before prayer, nonetheless, this can still remain the basis for a stringency in this matter.
Another possible reason to be stringent is the fact that upon saying the morning blessings one fulfills a Biblical prayer, and hence at the very least precedes his biblical prayer prior to his eating and drinking.
Thus, to summarize, while we do not find any proof that there is a requirement to recite the morning blessings prior to eating and drinking before prayer [for those allowed to do so] nonetheless, we have traced different reasons to be stringent to do so.
Sources: See regarding the prohibition to eat and drink before prayer and that drinking water is permitted: Admur 89:5-6 and 70:5; Michaber 89:3; Tur 89:3; Rebbe Eliezer Ben Yaakov in Brachos 10b; Ketzos Hashulchan 11:2; See regarding at the very least saying the paragraph of Shema before eating and drinking for health or concentration before prayer: M”B 89:22; Biur Halacha 89:3 “Velo Lechol”; Admur 70 Kuntrus Achron 2 that perhaps there is an independent prohibition against eating and drinking also prior to saying the Shema; Siddur Olas Reiyah 1:186 that so did Rav Kook; Piskeiy Teshuvos 89:17; Other opinions: See Peri Chadash and Peri Megadim, brought in Biur Halacha 89:3 “Vichein” that one may eat for medical purposes before prayer even if he can push it off until after. This implies that on the contrary there is no need to say the Shema beforehand in any case that one is permitted to eat or drink before prayer. Vetzaruch Iyun Gadol as to this contradiction in the Biur Halacha; See Asia 75 p. 84; See regarding those who would deal with their mundane activities after saying the morning blessings: Admur 89:4; Rama 89; Terumos Hadeshen 18; See regarding saying a small prayer prior to eating and drinking even when allowed: Halichos Shlomo 2:1; Nishmas Avraham 89:1; Siddur Olas Reiyah 1:186 that so did Rav Kook; Teshuvos Vehanhagos 1:77 in name of Ateres Tzvei; Keren Ledavid 21; Piskeiy Teshuvos 89:17 footnote 218; See regarding saying Birchas Hatorah beforehand: Admur 46:8; Michaber and Rama 46:9; Leket Hakemach Hachadash 89:39; See regarding saying the morning blessings immediately upon awakening: Admur 71:1 as explained in Ketzos Hashulchan 5 footnote 19; Rebbe in Igros Kodesh 18:277; Shaareiy Halacha Uminhag vol. 1 page 26