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Shabbat Parashat R'ei 5776

Ask the Rabbi: Eating before Kiddush

Rav Daniel Mann

Question: As a nursing mother, I sometimes get very hungry or thirsty between when I light candles and when my husband comes home from shul. When this happens, is it permitted for me to eat or drink?

: We start with a look at the halachic indications when there are not extenuating circumstances. Then we can look for the best solutions based on need.

 The gemara (Pesachim 106b) cites a machloket on whether one who ate before making Kiddush is able to make Kiddush afterward. We accept the opinion that he may (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 271:4). However, all agree with the implication that it is wrong to eat, even small quantities, before Kiddush (ibid.). 

Often, prohibitions on eating do not apply to drinking water, including before Havdala (ibid. 299:1). The Rosh (Shut 25:2) explains that due to the concept that any eating done on Shabbat has importance, it is forbidden to drink water before Kiddush. However, there is a machloket whether this concept applies during twilight, and thus it is not clear whether one may drink water at that time (Da’at Torah, OC 271:4).

When does the basic (Rabbinic) prohibition begin? The poskim assume that once it is possibly Shabbat (from sunset) or one accepted Shabbat, it is forbidden to eat (Bach, OC 271; Mishna Berura 271:11). When women light Shabbat candles, they accept Shabbat (Rama, OC 263:10). Therefore, most assume that it is forbidden for a woman to eat or drink after lighting candles before making Kiddush (Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata 43:45).  

The Dagul Meirevava (to Shulchan Aruch, OC 261:4) says that while davening Ma’ariv makes it Shabbat in regards to all Shabbat prohibitions, it is questionable whether other forms of accepting Shabbat early obligate one to adhere to all Rabbinical laws (Shulchan Aruch, OC 393:2). The Minchat Yitzchak (VIII:18) entertains the possibility that it would be permitted to eat after candle lighting before Ma’ariv. However, he is unwilling to be practically lenient without the presence of other reasons for leniency (e.g., the case he discusses, where one is drinking water to swallow medicine). The Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata (43:46) is willing to be lenient for a woman who is thirsty to drink water and, in a case of need, tea.

As mentioned, candle lighting likely makes it forbidden for a woman who lit to eat because, with it, she accepts Shabbat. It is generally accepted conceptually that a woman can have explicitly in mind to not accept Shabbat with her lighting (Shulchan Aruch and Rama, OC 263:10). In practice, because this is not a unanimously accepted possibility, poskim rely on such a condition only in cases of significant need (Mishna Berura 263:43). Along these lines, Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata (43:47) allows a woman who is feeling weak or who is nursing to eat as she likes after candle lighting if she made that condition.

However, these leniencies of the Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata’s are only if she finishes eating before sunset. What if a woman gets particularly hungry after that, especially if she is nursing? While there are significant leniencies for nursing mothers so that their milk supply should not be affected, waiting an hour is unlikely to affect that. However, she is still the type of person who, in many cases, may have unusual tza’ar if she cannot eat when the feeling hits her. Nevertheless, in almost all cases, it is hard to be lenient, and that is because she almost always has a great alternative – to make Kiddush before her husband comes home (see Minchat Yitzchak ibid.). There is no halachic reason not to do so. Even if it is not accepted in the family, hopefully a simple discussion with her husband, with the pertinent information, should convince all that her making Kiddush is better than her eating or drinking after sunset before Kiddush. On the other hand, every rule has exceptions, and when there is an acute need, one can be lenient soon after sunset as well, especially to drink any amount of water.

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