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One is not supposed to eat before davening Shacharit , though the halacha has various exceptions or special cases.

What is considered "before"? If I wake before dawn and start my day, does the prohibition of eating kick in at the first moment when I could daven, or is it about my being awake? I am comparing this to the halachot surrounding eating before a fast which begins at dawn, and whether one can eat before the fast begins if he makes a condition to do so.

By a fast, there seems to be an idea of someone's waking up as being the time after which he cannot eat without a t'nai so I'm trying to understand if someone who wakes up early on a regular day can eat before dawn, or whether he has to make a t'nai to do so or if he simply may not eat until he has davened.

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  • The misconception here is that there are fasts that start at dawn. No such thing. Full fasts start at nightfall and for minor fasts you're allowed to finish your dinner even after. Now, you could game the system and keep intending to eat more dinner all the way till dawn when it is no longer dinner but breakfast, but that has nothing to do with eating before davening. – Double AA Dec 4 '20 at 13:07
  • @DoubleAA it appears that the summary in the denverkollel.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/… website ("The Mechaber(Orach Chaim 564:1) rules that any fast that does not begin at night starts at dawn") is a misstatement of what the mechaber says here sefaria.org/Shulchan_Arukh%2C_Orach_Chayim.564?lang=bi – rosends Dec 4 '20 at 13:19
  • @JoelK I'm not sure though probably. I'm not sure if according to that, the Zoharic expansion/notion of not eating if one wakes after midnight conflicts with the allowance of making a tnai before a fast, or if the requirement to make a tnai comes into conflict with the statement that one may eat before dawn. – rosends Dec 4 '20 at 13:25
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The Mishnah Berurah (OC 89, s"q 27) says that for meals (derekh qeva, defined as a half-egg volume or more), the prohibition begins a half an hour before at alos hashachar - dawn. Casual eating (derekh aroi) is prohibited at alos itself. (The exact definition of how much before the sun comes over the horizon it is light enough to be considered "alos" is a matter of opinion.)

The Arukh haShulchan (OC 89:26) does not mention anything about a half-hour before alos. Just that one shouldn't start a meal if one cannot finish it before alos. (A real issue when making a wedding where he and the Mishnah Berurah were writing, in Lithuania, in the winter, as nights are quite short when you are that far north.)

And the Shulchan Arukh (se'if 5) says if you started when it was still night and alos came around, you should stop eating then. But does add that same say you don't have to. The MB (ibid) says that this is even when one started eating when it was fully permitted, i.e. the full half-hour in advance.

The Arukh haShulchan (ibid) quotes the Tur as explaining that it's the Rambam who permits continuing, and the Ro"sh (whom the Tur just identifies as his father) follows the Ri (a Tosafist) who prohibits.

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  • Note that MB only forbids eating a substantial amount (more than a kebeitzah) within a half-hour of dawn. Less than this is permitted up until dawn itself – Joel K Dec 6 '20 at 7:40
  • @JoelK. corrected, as per your comment. – Micha Berger Dec 7 '20 at 20:03

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