Sunday, October 12, 2008

Mezonos & Coffee Before Davening?

(Picture by Chundru)

A Simple Jew commenting on Artificial Kavana?:

I recently asked the Sudilkover Rebbe whether I may eat mezonos and drink a cup of coffee with milk and sugar on Shabbos morning before Shachris. I also asked him whether he knew what people did in Sudilkov.

The Rebbe responded that all of the Talmidei HaBaal Shem Tov and their children would absolutely not drink or eat before davening.

Given the fact that our generation is much weaker, the Rebbe advised that if truly found it to be extremely difficult to daven without eating mezonos or drinking coffee that I may do so. That said, the Rebbe advised that is definitely preferable for me to only drink coffee with milk and sugar. However, he mentioned as a final note that if it was absolutely clear to me that my strength and concentration would not be lacking during davening, that I should not drink anything beforehand.

Given the Rebbe's response, today I only drink a cup of coffee with milk and sugar on Shabbos morning before going to shul and do not eat anything at all along with it.


At October 12, 2008 at 5:18:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is it your practice to say a brachah on it?

At October 12, 2008 at 7:39:00 PM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Why wouldn't I make a brocha on it?

At October 12, 2008 at 8:19:00 PM EDT, Blogger Menashe said...

This seems like the right hanhaga for most..

At October 12, 2008 at 9:03:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This practice is actually very much to our advantage, so much so that the Breslovers would say that this was meant to be a leniency of Rebbe Nachman not a stringency.
Although Rebbe Nachman discusses the greatness of fasting he also tells us not to fast more than the obligatory fasts.(Some fast Bahab although there is evidence that many Breslovers didn't actually fast then.) When we refrain from eating or drinking even water before davening we merit the great tikunim of fasting without weakening our health.(Siach Sarfei Kodesh Breslov.)
You drinking coffee on Shabos may not disrupt this process of daily mini-fasting since it emerges from the words of the Arizal that if one fasts on Shabbos (even at great self sacrifice) he didn't make a tikun [unless it is a ta'anis chalom.]
By the way, those who eat mezonos need to make kiddush first according to the Mishna Berurah and most poskim, (although the Divrei Chaim of Tzanz holds you are not obligated to make kiddush until after Musaf.)

At October 12, 2008 at 9:34:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think it is right to say a brachah on it. I was just wondering if you considered it medicinal, though. From your description it almost sounds as though it is.

Caffeine does have pharmacological effects and is used a medicine.

This is another issue perhaps but the lines between nutrients and medicine are being blurred increasingly these days, with nutriceuticals, healing foods, etc. The question of where to draw a line and not say a brachah on them is at issue.

At October 12, 2008 at 9:43:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I solve the problem a different way. I daven at the hashkama minyan every shabbat. And we always have kiddush afterwards. So, sometimes the first thing to pass my lips on Shabbat morning is a small cup of scotch! Followed by some tuna and egg salad.

I never drink coffee on shabbat or Sunday, only Monday through Friday at the office. And even then I sometimes skip the coffee.


At October 12, 2008 at 10:21:00 PM EDT, Blogger Mottel said...

I've mentioned several mekoros in the past, but to go over them again:
Shulchan Aruch Admor Hazakan -written at the behest of the Mezritcher Maggid (and before the war was the Posek Achron for virtually all Chassidim in general!)- writes very clearly that today we are considered to weak, and therefor may eat before davening. This besides the Torah of the Tzemach Tzedek to his daughter in law about the need to eat before davening (Besser es tzulib davenen . . .), and the stress the Rebbe put on making sure to eat before davening, even going so far as to tell someone who was 'machmir' on himself to not eat, that his tikkun was to not only eat himself, but get others to do it!

In regards to making kiddush, R' Moshe writes b'fairush that were it not for the psak of the MB, he would pasken that one may eat with out makinf kiddush -we then, who go by the divrei ha'zahav of Admor (who does not mention making kiddush) have more then enough to relay on (there are many more m'koros)

In general I find it rather frightening that we chassidim have lost our pride in our ways and history! Today it is very in vogue in Bnei Brak and other such places to look for new chumros, for the sake of chumros . . . We need not be embarrassed of our derech -our chumros and 'kulos' . . .

At October 12, 2008 at 11:54:00 PM EDT, Blogger Menashe said...


With all due respect, I could not disagree with you more. This is not a chumra. This is halacha! Yes the heiliger Alter Rebbe gives a heter. Do you go out of your way to use kulos and heterim? The heter is given for those that cannot do without it.

Show me one letter, one sicha, one anything where the Rebbe says that lechatchila you should have mezonos before davening. The famous ha yom yom you are quoting is speaking about someone who for health reasons needed to take medicine in the morning with food and so she rushed through her davening. Yes it's true we can learn out that if you will be obsessed by food the whole davening than you should have whatever it takes to get your mind off of it. But 1) most are not that weak today that anything less than mezonos will bother them much and 2)certainly on week days when, even if you keep a proper morning seder, you will eat by a bit after 11.

If your davening will be severely affected, than drink some water before. If this is not enough than have coffee. If this is still not enough than it's permitted to add sugar and milk. If all of this is still not enough than there is room to be meikel and have some mezonos. But don't try to tell me you should, ch'v, lechatchila have mezonos before davening!

At October 13, 2008 at 12:38:00 AM EDT, Blogger Mottel said...

Menashe, the Alter Rebbe writes very explicitly in Shulchan Aruch, Hilchos Shabbos, that B'zman Hazeh, we are all considered to be weak -every single one of them . The Hayom Yom is not a collection of cute stories, or past events, but a booklet of of lessons for our daily lives - the inclusion of the story is for everyone to learn from and take to practice. I clearly wrote yechidus where the Rebbe told a bochur to eat mezonos and to have others do so as well as a tikkun.

"26 Tammuz Tof Shin Yud Gimmel, and Yud Alef Shevat Tof SHin Tes Vov.

..."It's known that the Acharonim and also Pisko Nesiainu Hakedoshim, that for Brias Haguf it's Muter to eat before Davening, and furthermore, it's a Mitzvah and an obligation to do this. And as we know the dictum of the Tzemach Tzedek, "it's better to eat in order to Daven, than to Daven on order to eat" ("men darf essen tzulib davenen, nit davenen tzulib essen"). It's better to eat (Minei Mezonos), in order that one should not be hungery during Davening, but rather, one should eat in order to La'avod Avodoso Beyoser Tov uveOfen Na'aloh..."

(This is not translated verbatim)

Sefer Yagdil Torah, pages 21 and 22

The very fact that we see that gedolie hachassidim v'hamashpiem, eat mezonos should be more then enough.

At October 13, 2008 at 4:55:00 AM EDT, Blogger Akiva said...

There are clearly different paths regarding this, and perhaps it is best expressed by the story of the Baal HaTanya and the Kedushas Levi (the Lubavitcher Alter Rebbe and Rebbe Levi Yitzchok of Berdichev) when they both attended the wedding of their grandchildren...

The chassidim rushed to both to compare their holy paths to davening. The Kedushas Levi awoke at daybreak and rushed to prepare himself for and begin the morning tefilos. He davened at the earliest possible moment with complete kavana.

The Baal HaTanya also awoke at daybreak and began preparing himself for morning tefilos. He learned extensively and spent time in meditation on the greatness of Hashem. After some hours of preparation, he began his tefilos. with complete kavana.

They approached the Kedushas Levi and asked him, "how is it that you daven immediately and your mechutan waits till later"? He answered, "my holy mechutan is so holy that the gates of heaven open to his tefilos whenever they come, however I am just a simple Jew and must pray with the minyan at the earliest moment to receive the maximum opening of the gates of tefilah to let my prayers in."

They then went to ask the Alter Rebbe, "how is it that your mechutan davens so early and you don't daven until later?" He answered, "my holy mechutan is so holy that the gates of prayer open to his prayers without any special preparation. However, for my simple prayers to be heard I must prepare for hours to my prayers to have any merit to enter the gates."

To this day, the path of Chabad is to pray later (on Shabbos), with preparations and study of chassidus for hours before. The path of others is to daven earlier, and some to daven much earlier. (My Breslev friend goes to a 7:00 AM minyan on Shabbos, while my local Chabad minyan is 9:30).

Why this whole story in relation to this question? A practical point - he's having a seudat Shabbat at 10:30 - no great delay in holding off a morning nibble till then. My minyan ends at 12:30 - and since fasting is forbidden on Shabbat my seudah starting at 12:45 after mid-day could constitute a fast if I don't eat before. Regardless, waiting from daybreak till after noontime would indeed lead me to be more concerned with my rumbling stomach than davening.

Which is the right path? Both are!

At October 13, 2008 at 6:31:00 AM EDT, Blogger Yosef said...

Yes, the traditional derech of Chabad in this issue was specifically to spend a very long time doing serious learning before davening. They would therefore get up very early, and daven late, thus increasing the chance of hunger interfering with the davening. I don't know if or to what extent this may have been a factor in the Baal HaTanya's heter with eating before davening, but it certainly is much easier to understand in that context.
For someone who just rolled out of bed and goes straight to shul though, there doesn't seem to be as compelling a reason for heter.
The simple logic is probably best here, that we do what is necessary to have a good tefilla, and if we can manage davening without eating or drinking first, that's best, and then we can be lenient incrementally from there in accordance with our need.
Micha Golshevsky's comment was very interesting as well btw about how Shabbos might be more lenient than other days.

At October 15, 2008 at 9:29:00 PM EDT, Blogger Menashe said...

I had a chance to ask my Rav, a brilliant and the son of one of the Rosh Yeshiva in Miami. He told me like this:

This evolved from a history of chassidim that would prepare longer and daven longer - so the need came up to eat and drink a bit more than was traditionally done before davening.

I asked him "so is there some kind of chiyuv to eat? Where do you draw the line?"

He said "if you're hungry in the morning or going to get hungry enough during davening that it will distract you, then you can have whatever is necessary. If you don't need it then obviously you don't have to. It's not that we davka eat. What we're against is saying we davka don't eat. What and how much is needed is up to each individual chossid. But no, there's definitely no inyan to go out of your way to eat if you don't need to."

At October 15, 2008 at 9:31:00 PM EDT, Blogger Menashe said...

Sorry what I meant is he is a (Lubavitcher) talmid chochom and son of the Rosh Yeshiva in Miami.

At October 16, 2008 at 12:32:00 AM EDT, Blogger Yirmiahu said...

The work on the psak and minhagim of the Sanz-Klausenberger Rebbe z'ya, Halichos Chaim, Seder haYom, "The permitted and prohibited prior to T'fillah" 1 says,"Nowadays when the entire world drinks coffe with sugar and milk, and some are not able to drink it without it, there is no concern of geivah when drinking before t'fillah and it is permitted" In the footnote it says, "and so to the [Sanzer] Rebbe z'ya was accustomed"

The footnotes also cite Moreinu HaGaon R. Shlomo Zalman Aurbach zt'l who rules likewise.

Halichos Chaim continues that it is not appropriate to drink coffe in the Beis Midrash when people are davening and that it is appropriate to have a room designated for this outside the Beis Midrash.

At October 16, 2008 at 12:56:00 PM EDT, Blogger Mottel said...

Menashe, then it would be a matter left up to every individual, and therefore saying
"ut 1) most are not that weak today that anything less than mezonos will bother them much and 2)certainly on week days when, even if you keep a proper morning seder, you will eat by a bit after 11." would be overstated -most people I know are affected by not eating.

At October 19, 2008 at 12:30:00 AM EDT, Blogger Mottel said...

Just an interesting note: I saw over Shabbos that the Rebbe mentioned that when it comes to bentching Lulav and Esrog in the Sukkah before davening, there is a place to say that one should eat mezonos right away afterward, in order that the brocho l'shev b'sukkah said on the mezonos will cover the time spent betnching in the sukkah as well (as understood, we do not eat before bentching though)

At October 19, 2008 at 5:01:00 PM EDT, Blogger Menashe said...

What's the exact lashon? Yesh lomar..?

At October 20, 2008 at 6:32:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Where in the Shulchan Aruch HaRav does it say that we are weak and we may eat before davening? I am not doubting you on this, but I would like to know the source.

I think much of it has to do with training, just like anything else. It may be hard for some in the beginning to daven before eating or even drinking, but after a few times it gets easier and becomes habit, just like anything else.

Yes, we are a weak generation when compared to the generations of the past. But that does not mean we have to turn ourselves into weaklings.

At October 25, 2008 at 8:15:00 PM EDT, Blogger Menashe said...


I also considered this. But just because you have a habit, that does not mean you are not hungry! It's very possible to get used to being hungry..

At October 27, 2008 at 2:57:00 PM EDT, Blogger A Talmid said...

If a tzadik does allow eating and drinking before davening, it is in order for one to have a better davening. If one does eat before davening, and then barely concentrates anyway, or worse, talks during davening, then that eating is obviously not for the sake of the davening. So, if you’re going to eat or drink, your davening better be a good one, because you don’t want to have to answer the question after 120: “After all that eating, that’s what you call davening?”

The Gemara says that only after davening does one get “blessings” from the food and drink that one consumes. Therefore, if one does eat or drink before davening (even water) for any reason, Reb Tzadok HaKohen of Lublin (Divrei Sofrim 11) says to say the first posuk of “Shema” and several pesukim of mercy. Then, you will get the blessings that come from the food.

At October 27, 2008 at 6:11:00 PM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Thanks for your comment, A Talmid!

At November 10, 2008 at 4:19:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Coffee gives me a urine infection. It is from the Az Yashir Song that me say''Kofu b'tehomot b lev yam ''[The wheels of the Egyptian chariots stuck[CONGEALED as in our arteries] in the depths of the sea''
From my limited understanding of Tsaddik and Rabbi Nachman's Wisdom, he held like the Ari Zal that we shouldn't even drink water befotre davening, let alone coffee, which is damaging my health. Because I am disabled physically and over-emotional and have trust issues, I often miss
Sharachit and Mincha/Maariv and even putting on Tefillin because of lack of external support and/or self care

At February 22, 2009 at 8:02:00 AM EST, Blogger rav Michael Elmaleh said...

I think we are missing the point: You could definitely Daven better if you eat first!
This applies to everyone that takes Davening seriously.
Try eating for a week and you will see the difference: No more thoughts of food during Davening!
Of course eating wont benefit much someone that anyway zooms through Davening.
Daven Hard!

At April 17, 2009 at 4:38:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What is the inyon regarding mezonos ... instead on hamotzoi?
Is bread more of a problem?

At April 19, 2009 at 10:10:00 AM EDT, Blogger rav Michael Elmaleh said...

in theory bread is more problematic, but allowed if improves our kavana, i.e. you eat it in order to daven better.
daven hard!

At May 14, 2009 at 8:02:00 AM EDT, Blogger Unknown said...

Wow, there's a lot of discussion on this. I'm hypoglycemic so I need to keep my blood-sugar regulated and thus need to eat before davening every morning. However, I always make it a practice to at least say birchot hashachar before even taking a small bite.

At May 14, 2009 at 9:31:00 AM EDT, Blogger rav Michael Elmaleh said...

beside birchos hashachar you should also say shema before eating anything!

At October 14, 2010 at 12:46:00 AM EDT, Blogger Unknown said...

I think that it mutar to eat, even a meal, if one needs to, before alot hashachar.

The Strentner Rebbe Shlita in Jerusalem has coffee with milk before davening shacharis each day.

At June 17, 2011 at 4:37:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm writing to make it known that for more than 24 years I held by the common Lubavitch practice to eat and drink before prayer any day of the week. This practice is based on the Yiddish saying, Besser essen tzulib davenen vi davenen tzulib essen -- "It is better to eat for the sake of prayer than to pray for the sake of eating."

However, since going through Torah sources and as a very grateful new follower of Rebbe Nachman, I no longer eat or drink before morning prayer ever.

G-d is good and helps us go in the direction we wish to go.

At October 7, 2014 at 6:04:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I asked Rabbi Groner about the Rebbe's opinion on eating before Davening and the response I received was that the Lubavitcher Rebbe told someone in Yechidus that i"If someone is makpid to not eat before Davening he is not a chossid of mine"


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