09 Aug DRINKING DURING DAVENING
I. Drinking Before Davening
I have seen myself and heard from others that over the past few years, there has been significant growth in the number of people who drink coffee or tea during the morning prayers. They recite a blessing on the drink before the prayers and continue sipping occasionally during the initial sections (including Pesukei De-Zimra) and after their silent Amidah. This strikes me as irreverent but is it forbidden?
The Gemara (Berachos 10b) says that it is forbidden to eat or drink before praying. However, you are allowed to drink water (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 89:1). One sage learns it from the verse, “Do not eat from (literally: on) the blood” (Lev. 19:26) — do not eat until you pray for your blood. Another learns it from the verse, “And you have cast Me behind your back (or: your pride)” (1 Kings 14:9) — do not act arrogantly by satisfying your pleasures before praying.
Over time, coffee and tea became permitted, because they are necessary in order to able to pray. At first, they were permitted without sugar but eventually with sugar (Aruch Ha-Shulchan ad loc., 22). Someone who is sick or weak can eat or drink as necessary to be able to pray. Apparently, people today are very weak because many people take great liberties in this area, probably too many. Be that as it may, it is permissible to drink coffee or tea before prayers. What about during the prayers?
After saying the Baruch She-Amar blessing, you are not allowed to interrupt your prayers. From Baruch She-Amar through Yishtabach is Pesukei De-Zimra, afterwards comes Shema and its blessing which you may not interrupt, and then immediately comes the silent Amidah. Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 51:4) writes that you should not interrupt between Baruch She-Amar and the end of the Amidah. Rema adds that you may not interrupt, even for a mitzvah. If you are not feeling weak or sick, are you allowed to drink during Pesukei De-Zimra or in between the blessings on Shema?
II. Interrupting Davening
Rav Simcha Rabinowitz (cont., Israel; Piskei Teshuvos, 51:9) quotes Rav a Ephraim Greenblatt (Rivevos Ephraim 6:29) who permits someone who feels weak or sick to say a blessing and drink during Pesukei De-Zimra. But if you don’t absolutely need to drink, then you may not. He adds (n. 86) that even without the issue of the blessing, eating or drinking constitutes and interruption to Pesukei De-Zimra which is otherwise forbidden. However, he does not offer proof that drinking constitutes and interruption.
In a recent article, Rav Matzli’ach Chai Mazuz (cont., Israel; “Whether it is Permissible to Drink Tea During Pesukei De-Zimra” in Ha-Mashbir, no. 9) argues that drinking tea constitutes a forbidden interruption. Rav Mazuz cites as proof the rule regarding Havdalah on Pesach night. If the first night of Pesach falls on Saturday, we must recite Havdalah ending Shabbos during Kiddush at the Pesach Seder. If you started the Seder in the regular way and forgot to say Havdalah, and you already started the Maggid section of discussing the Exodus story, then you wait until you are finished with Maggid and then say Havdalah (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 473:1).
Ramban (Milchamos Hashem, Pesachim 24a) disagrees with Rav Zerachiah Ha-Levi, who understands the Gemara as permitting drinking extra cups of wine during Maggid. Ramban disagrees because that constitutes an interruption. Once you begin Maggid, you may not interrupt the mitzvah by drinking.
Significantly, the Vilna Gaon (Orach Chaim 474:1) follows Ramban. Mishnah Berurah (473:4) quotes Ramban and says that you cannot drink a cup for Havdalah during Maggid because the drinking constitutes an interruption. Based on this, Rav Mazuz argues that drinking constitutes an interruption and therefore you may not drink during Pesukei De-Zimra, and even more so during the blessings of Shema.
III. Drinking Before the King
Rav Mazuz quotes Rav Yosef Bar Shalom (21st cen., Israel; Responsa Va-Yitzbor Yosef 2:17) who forbids drinking during Pesukei De-Zimra because it is distracting and also because it displays arrogance, which is why eating and drinking are forbidden before prayer. However, everyone agrees that if you feel weak or sick, then you may drink during Pesukei De-Zimra.
When you pray, you have to act and think as if you are standing before a king (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 98:1). You must dress as you would stand before important people (ibid., 91:5). It seems hard to imagine someone who receives the privilege of a meeting with a king bringing in a coffee in a disposable cup which he sips while speaking to this important official. We are expected to act in a formal, dignified way during prayer as an expression of the seriousness with which we take this awesome privilege of speaking directly with G-d.