10. When may a Married Woman Eat before Prayer?

Often, a woman must care for her children and cannot pray immediately after waking. Much time will pass before she finishes tending to her young, and if she does not drink coffee or tea, her mind will remain unsettled. This woman may drink coffee or tea before she prays because her drinking does not display arrogance; rather she drinks out of the need to settle her mind and enable her to properly take care of her children. If she must eat a piece of fruit or some cake lest she feel weak and incapable of caring for her children properly, she may eat, because the purpose of her eating is to strengthen herself, and there is no display of arrogance. Nevertheless, she should try to recite Birkhot Ha-shaĥar and Birkhot Ha-Torah before drinking and eating.

If the husband of a woman who usually prays Shaĥarit arrives home from the synagogue before his wife had a chance to recite Shaĥarit, she should recite Birkhot Ha-Torah, which contain a short prayer, and then eat with with her husband. She later completes her prayer by reciting Birkhot Ha-shaĥar and praying the Amida. This is because a healthy and halakhic family context dictates that a woman eats with her husband. Therefore, so as not to keep him waiting, she eats with him and makes up Birkhot Ha-shaĥar and the Amida after the meal. If possible, she should try to say Birkhot Ha-shaĥar before the meal, since one must try to say those berakhot immediately upon waking up. This applies if the husband is hurried or pressured. However, when possible, it is better for the woman to first recite Birkhot Ha-Torah, Birkhot Ha-shaĥar, and the Amida, and then they can eat together. 1

 

  1. According to SA, EH 70:2, it is impossible to obligate a husband to eat with his wife more than on Shabbat night, on the condition that he provides his wife with her sustenance as he promised to do when he married her and as is written in the ketuba. However, according to Rema, based most Rishonim, if a woman wants her husband to eat with her, he must eat with her every day. It is clear from this that if a man, too, wants to eat together with his wife, she is required to fulfill that request. Likewise, Igrot Moshe, OĤ 4:101:2 states that a woman “is enslaved to her husband to eat specifically with him.” Avnei Yashfeh 16:3 states in the name of R. Elyashiv that, practically speaking, a woman who normally prays Shaĥarit but did not manage to pray before her husband returned from synagogue, must eat with him; therefore she should fulfill her obligation to pray by reciting a short prayer, so that he will not have to wait for her. R. Auerbach writes that the woman “must do what her husband asks of her, because she is subservient to him.” It seems that this all applies when time is tight or the husband is annoyed. However, where possible, it is better for the woman to first say Birkhot Ha-Torah and Birkhot Ha-shaĥar, then recite the Amida, and then eat together.

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Translated By:
Series Editor: Rabbi Elli Fischer

The Laws of Shabbat (1+2) - Yocheved Cohen
The Laws of Prayer - Atira Ote
The Laws of Women’s Prayer - Atira Ote
The Laws of Pesach - Joshua Wertheimer
The Laws of Zemanim - Moshe Lichtman

Editor: Nechama Unterman