Shailah of the Week by Rabbi Zvi Nussbaum
Rabbinic Coordinator, Kosher Hotline Administrator for the Orthodox Union
In the shul where I daven on Rosh Hashanah, there is no break, and the tefillot continue until after chatzot (midday). Would it be preferable to drink tea or coffee in the morning before davening so that I won’t be fasting past chatzot?
At first glance, this would appear to be commendable since it is permissible to drink coffee or tea before davening. (Some poskim even permit adding a minimal amount of sugar, just enough to make it palatable.) By drinking in the morning, one will not be fasting even if the tefillah extends past chatzot.
However, Rav Hutner, zt”l (Sefer Pachad Yitzchak Rosh Hashanah 22, cited by Teshuvot V’hanhagot 2:274), writes that one should not do this. He explains that it is commendable to fast for part of the day on Rosh Hashanah to inspire one to do teshuva. However, once one drinks in the morning, subsequent abstention is no longer considered fasting. Furthermore, since not eating can no longer be considered a fast, extending the davening (with the result of not eating even after one is hungry) would not be justifiable.
Teshuvot V’hanhagot (2:274) concludes that if one will have difficulty getting through the long davening without having a morning tea or coffee, they should drink before davening. However, if it will not be a hardship, it is better not to do so.