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Eating before washing hands

Rabbi David SperlingAdar I 2, 5774
289
Question
I was just wondering about the halachos of waking up to eat in the middle of the night before a fast day. If one had intention, is it best to wake up, wash negal vasser, get dressed, go to bathroom say Al Netilas Yadaim, Asher Yatzar and Elokai Neshama and then eat? Or should one eat before reciting these, considering its before alos hasacher? What does one do if following eating they go back to sleep?
Answer
Shalom, Thank you for your question. You are correct that with intention one may eat before a lot ha-shacher of the minor fasts. Firstly let me point out that it is forbidden to start a meal within half an hour of a lot ha-shacher. One who began to eat a meal before the half-hour point may continue eating until a lot ha-shacher. If you want to start eating within this half hour, you may not have bread or mezonot (unless it is less than a betzah's worth). You certainly need to wash your hands upon arising. You will also have to say Asher Yatzar if you used the bathroom. In relation to Al Netilat Yadiim and Elokai Neshama the law is not so simple. If you are planning to stay awake until the time for shacharit, then you should say both these blessings after using the bathroom. If though you are planning to go back to sleep (for a good half hour or more) then you should wait to say them until you rise the second time, however you should then make sure you say them directly before starting the morning service . Blessings.
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