The following is a discussion of Halachic topics related to the Parsha of the week.For final rulings, consult your Rav.
EATING BEFORE TEKIAS SHOFAR
There are conflicting customs in regard to eating before Tekias shofar. Some
communities not only permit but encourage the congregants to eat by serving
a kiddush, while others forbid eating altogether and object to it
strongly(1). These customs are based on divergent views among the poskim.
Basically, the poskim fall into three groups:(2) Some are very strict and
prohibit eating altogether(3). Others are lenient and allow anyone to eat
before Tekias shofar4. A third group allows eating only for the weak,
elderly or ill(5). They do stipulate, however, that the infirm individual
should eat in private so that the prohibition will not be taken lightly by
Since both customs have valid sources in the poskim, each community should
follow its own custom as directed by their Rav(6). However, all poskim agree
that it is forbidden to be kov'ea seudah (partake of a meal) before Tekias
shofar. [It is similarly forbidden to be kov'ea seudah before shaking a
lulav or reading the megillah(7)]. It is also the general consensus that
eating more than a k'beitzah of bread(8) or cake(9) is considered kevius
seudah. A k'beitzah is usually defined as approximately 2 oz., although
according to the measurements of the Chazon Ish, a k'beitzah is 3.5 oz(10).
It is important, therefore, to remember not to eat more than a k'beitzah of
cake when eating before Tekias shofar(11).
Eating fruit, cheese, kugel, rice cereals, etc., whether raw or cooked, is
not considered kevius seudah even when a large amount is consumed(12).
[Consequently, when estimating the amount of cake that may be eaten before
Tekias shofar, only the amount of flour in the cake is included. Fruit,
cheese, or any other ingredient baked along with the dough is not counted
towards the amount for kevius seudah(13).]
Almost all the poskim agree that drinking tea, coffee, juice or soft drinks
is permitted before Tekias shofar, but they disagree as to whether one
should recite Kiddush first. Since Kiddush must be followed by a seudah,
many poskim advise that the beverage should be drunk without Kiddush(14),
and this is an accepted custom in some communities. Since not all poskim
agree, however(15), the preferred option is to hear Kiddush from a weak,
elderly or ill person who is permitted to eat(16), as stated above. Another
option would be to drink an additional revi'is (about 3.3 fl. oz.) of grape
juice, in addition to the amount being drunk for kiddus(17).
The restriction on eating before Tekias shofar is more lenient in regard to
women, because they are generally exempt from "time-bound" mitzvos like
listening to the shofar which is restricted to a certain time of the year
and day(18). There are, however, poskim who hold that although women are
technically exempt from listening to shofar, they have, nevertheless,
accepted this mitzvah upon themselves as an obligation(19). Based on this
view, it has become customary all over the world for women to go to shul to
listen to the shofar, or else to hear the shofar blown in their homes by a
qualified ba'al tokei'a.
Not all poskim, however, agree that women have accepted upon themselves an
obligation from which they are clearly exempt(20). Some poskim rule,
therefore, that women are not obligated to listen to Tekias shofar(21). As
stated earlier, though, the custom has followed the first view and most
women observe this mitzvah stringently. Still, a woman who must eat before
Tekias shofar may do so(22), even if the amount of food she requires is
considered a kevius seudah.
When the first day of Rosh Hashanah falls on Shabbos and Tekias shofar is
canceled, all poskim agree that it is permitted to recite Kiddush and eat
before Mussaf, provided that the amount eaten is less than a kevius
seudah(23). One who is weak and needs to eat more than that amount may eat
as much as he needs(24).
One who did not drink before davening and realizes that Mussaf will end
after chatzos is required to drink or eat something before Mussaf, since on
Shabbos it is prohibited to fast past chatzos(25).
DURING THE BREAK
During the break before Tekias shofar, care should be taken that at least a
minyan remains in shul, since Shulchan Aruch(26) rules decisively that it is
prohibited for the congregation to leave the shul before the Sifrei Torah
are returned to the Aron. If this cannot be arranged, several poskim suggest
that the Sifrei Torah be returned to the Aron before the break(27). In other
shuls, the Sifrei Torah are covered with a tallis and somebody is appointed
to watch over them(28).
In most shuls, the break before Tekias shofar, whether Kiddush is served or
not, is a short one. Consequently, even if one removes his tallis, no
blessing is recited when it is put back on. [This is so even if one used the
bathroom while his tallis was off.] If, however, there is a long break [a
break of over two hours is considered a long break(29)] then a blessing is
recited over the tallis when it is put back on(30).
1 See remarks by Harav Y.Y. Henkin, ha-Pardes, Tishrei 5730.
2 Interestingly enough, Shulchan Aruch does not discuss this prohibition
concerning Tekias shofar, although he does mention it concerning netilas
lulav (O.C. 652:2) and the reading of Megillas Esther (O.C. 692:4). The
source of this halachah, however, which is a Tosefta in the first chapter of
Shabbos, lists Tekias shofar among those other mitzvos.
3 Beis Yitzchak Y.D. 2:18; M'harsham 1:1 quoting Besamim Rosh. See also
Sedei Chemed (Daled Minim 3:22).
4 Mikroei Kodesh 29; Tzitz Eliezer 6:7; 7:32; 8:21; Moadim u'Zemanim 1:4;
Az Nidberu 1:10 This has become the accepted custom in many Yeshivos.
5 Chasam Sofer Y.D. 7; Mateh Efrayim 588:2; Sha'arei Teshuvah 584:3; Minchas
Yitzchak 5:11; Shevet ha-Levi 4:54. This seems to be the view of the Mishnah
Berurah (see 652:7 and Sha'ar ha-Tziyun concerning lulav) as well. Harav
S.Z. Auerbach (quoted in Nishmas Avraham 585:1) maintains that the Mishnah
Berurah's opinion is more stringent concerning shofar because the eating on
Rosh Hashanah necessitates Kiddush.
6 If at all possible, those who eat before Tekias shofar should do so on the
shul premises where they will be summoned in time for the tekios.
7 The Rabbis forbade partaking of a meal before performing a mitzvah since
one could easily become distracted and forget to perform the mitzvah in
question. It follows, therefore, that if one appoints a shomer - another
individual who is not eating who will remind him to perform the mitzvah - he
may eat before performing the mitzvah (Mishnah Berurah 235:18 concerning
8 Mishnah Berurah 692:14. [See, however, Chayei Adam 119:7 and Aruch
ha-Shulchan 431:26 who allow only a k'zayis of bread.]
9 Pri Megadim O.C. 431:4. See Sha'ar ha-Tziyun 286:7 and Mishnah Berurah
10 One who generally follows the Chazon Ish's ruling regarding shiurim can
surely rely on him concerning this halachah as well. It is questionable,
however, if it is proper to rely on the Chazon Ish's measurement in regard
to this halachah only.
11 Pure mezonos cereals [whose raw batter rises like bread dough], e.g.,
Cheerios, Grape Nuts, Wheat Chex, are also considered like cake.
12 O.C. 286:3 and 639:2.
13 Based on Igros Moshe O.C. 1:71 and Divrei Yoel 13.
14 See Elef ha-Magen 585:2 and Ktzei ha-Mateh, ibid.
15 See Divrei Yoel 1:29.
16 See Sedei Chemed (Rosh Hashanah 2:31) and Mikroei Kodesh 28. It is
important that Kiddush be repeated before the meal, since some maintain that
such a Kiddush is not valid.
17 Mishnah Berurah 273:27.
18 O.C. 589:6.
19 Maharil (Hilchos Shofar). See also Magen Avraham (O.C. 489:1, concerning
sefiras ha-omer) who says that women have accepted [certain] time-restricted
mitzvos as obligations. He does not, however, single out shofar more than
any other time-restricted mitzvah. Chayei Adam (141:7) and R' Akiva Eiger
(Teshuvos 1, addendum) also state that women have accepted shofar as an
20 See Minchas Chinuch 306, who questions the Magen Avraham quoted above. In
his opinion, women can only accept a mitzvah whose obligation is
questionable, such as davening Ma'ariv. A mitzvah from which they are
clearly exempt, like listening to shofar blowing, cannot be "accepted." See
also Nezirus Shimshon (quoted in Sdei Chemed, Ma'areches Mem, 136) and
Teshuvos Sha'arei De'ah 2:237.
21 Harav Y. C. Sonnenfeld in Salmas Chayim 1:88. Note also that neither the
Mateh Efrayim, Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, Mishnah Berurah or Aruch ha-Shulchan
quote the opinion that women have accepted Tekias shofar as an obligation.
22 Chayei Adam 141:7; Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 129:19.
23 O.C. 286:3.
24 Mishnah Berurah 286:9.
25 Mishnah Berurah 584:5; Elef ha-Magen 597:2.
26 O.C. 149:1.
27 Ktzei ha-Mateh 590; Orchos Rabbeinu 2:181, relating the custom by the
Chazon Ish and the Steipler Gaon; Nitei Gavriel, pg. 84; Kitzur Hilchos
Moadim, pg. 45.