By: Rabbi Ari Enkin
As a general rule, it is forbidden to eat or drink once Shabbat has begun, until one recites (or hears) Kiddush. It is also forbidden to eat or drink before Kiddush is recited once one has accepted Shabbat, either by lighting the Shabbat candles or by reciting ma’ariv. This is true even if one had accepted Shabbat quite some time before sunset. It is, however, permitted for one to brush one’s teeth or otherwise wash one’s mouth before Kiddush. So too, even if one was in the middle of a meal as Shabbat begun, one would be required to stop eating and recite Kiddush before continuing with one’s meal. This often happens on a Purim which falls out on a Friday, if one’s Purim feast extends into Shabbat.
One who accepted Shabbat early, and then became exceedingly hungry or thirsty some time later, is permitted to go ahead and recite Kiddush in order to be able to eat or drink. This is true even though one had not yet recited ma’ariv and will not be doing so for quite some time. If one is unable to recite Kiddush at this time, some authorities permit one to eat or drink in cases of extreme discomfort, without reciting Kiddush, if it still before dark. A woman who is about to light candles but wishes to eat after doing so should make a declaration that she is lighting candles on condition that she be permitted to eat after her candle lighting. Children are allowed to eat before Kiddush.
There seems to be greater room for leniency for women with regards to eating or drinking before Kiddush. This is because women are generally dependent upon their husbands to return home from the synagogue in order to recite Kiddush for them. As such, a woman who feels the need to take a drink of water or other beverage before her husband is ready to recite Kiddush would be permitted to do so as long as it is before dark. It is interesting to note that there were Rebbes who would fulfill the mitzva of tasting the Shabbat food, or otherwise eat or drink, before reciting Kiddush even if it was past sunset on Friday night.
It is also permissible for one to swallow a pill with water before Kiddush. This is because one’s intention for the accompanying water is merely in order to assist in swallowing the pill. If one foresees that one will be unable to recite Kiddush due to the unavailability of wine or bread, one would be permitted to eat without first reciting Kiddush. The nighttime Kiddush of Yom Tov is a rabbinical mitzva, and as such, there is additional room for leniency in a case of need. In fact, there were Rebbes who were known for having a glass of tea at the start of Yom Tov and would continue drinking up until dark.
The Kiddush of Shabbat day is generally treated more leniently than the Kiddush of Friday night. This is because according to most authorities, the Shabbat day Kiddush is rabbinical in nature, and as such, maintains a lesser standing. Although eating a meal before Kiddush on Shabbat day is also forbidden, there is greater room for leniency for those who feel the need to eat or drink before Kiddush.
It is also interesting to note that the obligation to recite Kiddush on Shabbat day only comes into effect after one has recited shacharit. Therefore, one who feels the need to eat or drink before praying Shabbat morning are not truly required to recite Kiddush. Women who have recited shacharit, or at least the prayers that they are accustomed to recite each day, should make Kiddush before they eat. Some authorities rule that eating before Kiddush is only truly prohibited once one has recited mussaf. According to this approach, those who are feeling weak or thirsty before mussaf would be permitted to partake of something light without having to recite Kiddush.
There is also a minority view that women are actually exempt from the Shabbat day Kiddush altogether. As such, in a case of great need, a woman may eat before actually reciting (or hearing) Kiddush on Shabbat day.Some authorities hold that a woman whose husband has not yet prayed, and therefore has no obligation to recite Kiddush himself, is permitted to eat before making Kiddush
even if she herself already prayed.
1 O.C. 271:4
2 Rambam Shabbat 29:10, O.C. 271:4,5, Aruch Hashulchan O.C. 271:12
3 Kaf Hachaim O.C. 271:21
4 Be’er Heitev 271:4, Kaf Hachaim O.C. 271:19, Mishna Berura 271:13
5 O.C. 271:5, Kaf Hachaim 271:26
6 Be’er Heitev O.C. 271:4, Kaf Hachaim O.C. 271:22
7 Minchat Elazar 1:33
8 Rema O.C. 263:10
9 Magen Avraham 269:1; Mishna Berura 269:1.
10 Piskei Teshuvot 271:3
11 Minchat Elazar 1:33, 2:11
12 Shraga Hameir 6:124
13 Mishna Berura 289:10
14 Nitei Gavriel;Yom Tov 2:29
15 Kaf Hachaim 289:7
16 O.C. 289:1, Rambam Shabbat 29:10
17 Mishna Berura 287:7
18 O.C. 289:1, Igrot Moshe 2:26
19 Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata 52:13
20 O.C. 286:3, Mishna Berura 286:9, Minhagei Eretz Yisrael (Gallis) 20:49
21 Minchat Yitzchak 3:28
22 Igrot Moshe O.C. 4:101