Chapter 6: Matters prohibited prior to prayer

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Chapter 6: Matters prohibited prior to prayer[1]

Eating and drinking before Davening:[2]
  1. Before Alos:[3]

Letter of law-within 30 minutes before Alos: It is forbidden to begin a meal starting 30 minutes prior to Alos. However, snacking is allowed, which includes eating an unlimited amount of fruits, and up to 55 g of bread and alcoholic beverages.

Letter of law-prior to 30 minutes before Alos: It is permitted to eat a meal prior to 30 minutes before Alos.

Kabbalistic ruling and final custom: Some Poskim rule it is a grave prohibition according to Kabbalah to eat, prior to dawn, after awakening, throughout the entire year. This prohibition applies starting from midnight and onwards, after awakening from a standard sleep of 60 breaths.  Practically, the custom of Sephardic Jewry is to be stringent. However, Ashkenazi Jewry is lenient and so is the Chabad custom. 

Cases of exception according to Kabbalah: If one did not sleep that night for at least 60 breaths, then according to all, he may eat up until dawn.  Likewise, some Poskim rule that if one plans to return to sleep for a second time before Alos, then this prohibition does not apply. Likewise, if one is weak or sick he may eat prior to Alos even according to the Zohar.

  1. After Alos:[4]

Prohibition of any eating: It is forbidden to begin a meal starting 30 minutes prior to Alos, although snacking is still allowed, as stated above. However, beginning from Alos, it becomes Rabbinically forbidden for one to eat any food, even a mere snack, prior to Davening Shemoneh Esrei.

Water: It is permitted to drink water prior to Davening. This allowance applies even on Shabbos and Yom Tov, prior to making Kiddush.

Coffee and tea:[5] It is permitted to drink prior to Davening plain coffee and tea without sugar or milk. Furthermore, the custom is to allow drinking it even with sugar and milk, and those who do so have upon whom to rely if they do so with intent to increase their concentration during the prayer. Nonetheless, one who can suffice without sugar and milk is to be stringent.

One who began eating prior to Alos: One who began eating a meal prior to Alos must stop his meal when Alos arrives.

  1. Cases of exception:[6]

Eating for medical purposes: It is permitted to eat foods and have drinks prior to Davening, for medical purposes. This allowance applies to all forms of foods and beverages, even if they are foods that are sometimes eaten for mere pleasure [i.e. are relevant to haughtiness].

Eating and drinking to satiate hunger and thirst and for concentration in prayer-Chabad custom: Despite the above allowance, it is forbidden to eat or drink prior to Davening for the purpose of satiating one’s thirst or hunger, unless one is not able to have proper concentration in his prayer until he eats or drinks. This allowance applies even in today’s times when in general people do not have much proper intent during prayer, nevertheless, if he chooses to eat and drink for this purpose of strengthening his concentration, then he may do so. [Practically, the Chabad custom is to encourage eating and drinking prior to prayer for purposes of increasing concentration. It is however forbidden for one to eat simply because he is hungry or thirsty, without having intent to do so to strengthen his concentration in prayer, as stated above.]

Shema before eating:[7] One is to read the morning Shema prior to eating prior to prayer, even when eating for Kavana purposes. In such a case one should say it with intent that it is under condition that if he does not manage to say it on time later on, then he intends to be Yotzei with this reading, and if he does manage to say it on time later on after immersion, then he intends to not be Yotzei with this Kerias Shema.

Tefillin before Shema and eating:[8] If one is eating before Davening, then he is not to say the morning Shema until he puts on Tefillin. Nevertheless, the custom amongst most Chassidim is not to wear Tefillin when saying Shema prior to Davening, even after sunrise. However, some Chassidim are accustomed to wearing Tefillin upon reciting Shema prior to Davening, and so was the directive of the Rebbe Rashab and Rebbe Rayatz. This is not the widespread Chabad custom.

One who is weak and cannot wait until the Minyan finishes to begin eating:[9] One who is weak, and it is thus difficult for him to delay eating until the congregation finishes prayer, may pray privately in his home without a Minyan. [This delay of eating however is only if he has enough strength to properly pray privately, otherwise it is better for him to eat before davening and then go Daven with a Minyan.] It is forbidden however for him to Daven in Shul prior to the Minyan. Furthermore, once he has arrived in Shul it is forbidden for him to leave even to return back home to pray in private.

  1. May a child below Bar Mitzvah eat before Davening Shacharis [i.e. Hamotzi breakfast]:[10]

Prior to the age of Bar/Bas Mitzvah, a child may eat prior to Davening without restriction, and may therefore eat a meal with bread and eat treats and the like and it is forbidden for a parent to oppress his child with these restrictions. Nonetheless, from age 12 and onwards for a boy, it is proper for parents to begin encouraging their child to resolve on his own not to eat unnecessary foods before Shacharis. Foods that are needed to be eaten for health purposes, and extra concentration of prayer, may be eaten even after bar Mitzvah.

Davening when under the influence of alcohol:[11]

Shasuiy-Drank to the point that cannot speak without a slur before a King: If one drank to the point that he is unable to speak in front of a king without slurring his words, then it is forbidden for him to Daven Shemoneh Esrei until he becomes sober. If by that time Zman Tefila has already passed, then he is to Daven Tashlumin by the next prayer. However, he may still recite Shema if he is able to speak fluently before a king, even if he can only do so with a slight slur.

Shikur-Is drunk to the point that cannot speak fluently before a King: If however he is drunk to the point that he cannot talk fluently before a king, and he thus trips and stumbles on his words, then it is forbidden for him to recite even Shema. If by that time Zman Tefila has already passed, then he is to Daven Tashlumin by the next prayer.

If one transgressed and Davened while drunk to the above point: One who went ahead and Davened in a state of total drunkenness does not fulfill his obligation. Furthermore, his prayer is considered an abomination, and it is as if he has served idols. In such a case, one is to Daven a second time upon becoming sober, and if necessary, make up the prayer as Tashlumin by the next prayer.

Revius-Drank exactly a Revius or more but is not drunk: If one drank a Revius or more of wine, but has not reached the above state of drunkenness, then although he may Daven Shemoneh Esrei, he is to be careful to Daven inside a Siddur. If a Siddur is not available, then he is to delay Davening Shemoneh Esrei until he gets a Siddur. If the time of Davening will pass by the time a Siddur is available, then he is to Daven by heart.

  1. Greeting a person before Davening:[12]

Going to another’s house for the purpose of greeting him: From when the time of Alos arrives until one Davens Shemoneh Esrei, it is forbidden for one to go to another person’s house specifically for the purpose of greeting him, such as to tell him “Shalom Aleiychem” or “good morning.” This applies even if one has already said the morning blessings, Pesukei Dezimra, and Kerias Shema.

If one is going to the person’s house for other purposes: If one is in any event passing by another person’s home prior to Davening, such as for a business purpose, then it is permitted to stop by his home and wish him good morning. One may not however greet him with the words “Shalom Aleiychem”, as Shalom is one of the names of G-d.

Exchanging greetings with a person one meets: If one was on his way to Shul or the marketplace and the like, and he happened to meet up with an acquaintance, whether on the way or at the destination, then he may greet him with “good morning,” and from the letter of the law may tell him “Shalom Aleiychem.” Nevertheless, the custom is even in such a case to avoid saying the word “Shalom,” and rather to say good morning or a statement of the like.

May one call someone prior to Davening? If one is calling him for the purpose of greeting him, then it is forbidden to do so prior to prayer. If, however, one needs to call him for another purpose, then one may do so, and is allowed to begin the conversation with “good morning” greetings, although not with saying the words “Shalom Aleiychem.”

Wishing Shabbat Shalom on Shabbos before Shacharis: Being that we do not say the word Shalom prior to Davening Shacharis as explained above, therefore instead of saying “Shabbat Shalom” in the morning prior to prayers, one should say “Good Shabbos” and the like. Unfortunately, many people are unaware of this.

4. Learning Torah prior to Davening:[13]

When Davening in private: One who plans to Daven without a Minyan is prohibited from learning Torah from the time of Alos until he Davens. Despite the above, it is permitted to learn before Davening clear Halachic rulings which do not contain deep analysis, and on the contrary, it should even initially be done as it brings one to a state of joy which is required for Davening. If one transgressed and began learning prior to Davening, he is nevertheless not required to stop to Daven, unless the legal time of Shema and prayer is ending.

When Davening with a Minyan: One who plans to Daven with a Minyan may learn Torah until the Minyan begins their prayers [if the Minyan will reach Shema and Shemoneh Esrei within their legal times].

What topics may one learn when allowed? One may not learn the analytical parts of Torah prior to Davening, such as the analysis of a certain Halacha, as this may cause one to be distracted from concentration of his prayers and rather think about the topic during Davening. Rather one may only learn clear Halachic rulings which contain no analysis and will thus not distract him during Davening. Furthermore, learning Halacha before Davening is encouraged as it brings one to a state of joy which is required for Davening.

If one began learning Pilpul before Davening: If one began to learn Pilpul prior to Davening then he is to make an interval and only then begin his prayers. If, however, the Minyan has already begun, then he is to Daven with them and not make an interval between his learning of Pilpul and the Davening.

Giving a Shiur: It is permitted to give a public Shiur before Davening even if he will be Davening in private, as learning with the public is a very great Mitzvah. This however only applies if one will not be able to give this public Shiur at a different time.

Learning Chitas, Rambam, Daf Yomi before Davening: It is permitted for one to learn Chitas, Rambam, and even Daf Yomi before Davening, if one has a set Minyan that he Davens with. Furthermore, even if he doesn’t have a set Minyan that he Davens with, and is accustomed to Daven at home, he may learn it superficially, not in great depth.

  1. Engaging in activities prior to Davening:[14]

It is forbidden for one to engage in activities prior to Davening Shemoneh Esrei, in order so one’s mind is free from distractions until after he Davens.

  1. Traveling prior to Davening:[15]

Due to the above restriction against engaging in activities prior to Davening, it is forbidden to travel prior to Davening, unless ones ride is leaving and will not be waiting for him. If one needs to travel before sunrise and will be unable to stand for Shemoneh Esrei during the trip past sunrise, then he may say Shemoneh Esrei before sunrise from after the time of Shema.

  1. Shopping prior to Davening:[16]

One may not go shopping prior to Davening. However, if he needs food for Shabbos then he may go shopping prior to Davening Shacharis if all the following apply:

  1. He will be unable to go shopping afterwards, or the food item will be unavailable afterwards.
  2. He says Shema prior to the shopping.
  3. It is not definite that he will miss Zman Tefila due to the shopping.
  4. He will not questionably miss Zman Tefila and also definitely miss Davening with a Minyan due to the shopping. If he will certainly not miss Zman Tefila but will definitely miss Davening with a Minyan he is first to make his purchases, unless he is needed for the Minyan.
  1. Matters forbidden before Mincha:[17]

All matters which are forbidden prior to Mincha are likewise forbidden thirty minutes prior to Alos Hashachar until one Davens.

  1. Haircut prior to Davening:[18]

It is forbidden to get a haircut prior to Davening. This prohibition begins from Alos Hashachar. However prior to Alos it is permitted to get a haircut. 

  1. Bathing prior to Davening:[19]

It is forbidden to bathe prior to Davening. This prohibition begins from Alos Hashachar. However prior to Alos it is permitted to bathe. 

  1. Exercise before Davening:[20]

Ideally, due to the prohibition against doing Melacha before Shacharis, one is not to schedule his exercise for the morning prior to Davening. However, if this is the only timespan available within one’s day, or it helps one be alert and awake for Davening, then one may do so, after reciting Birchas Hashachar.

  1. If one started a forbidden activity before Davening:[21]

If one started doing a forbidden activity prior to Shacharis [such as a haircut], then he must immediately stop this activity in order to say Shema within its time. However, one does not need to stop in order to Daven Shacharis, as only by a Biblical Mitzvah must one stop in middle. If, however, there will not be enough time to Daven within the Zman if he continues the activity, then he must immediately stop the activity and Daven.

Began activity before time of prohibition: If one started the activity at a time when it was permitted to do so, such as he began his haircut 30 minutes before Alos Hashachar, then he does need to stop the activity even to say Shema if he will have time to say it afterwards. This is with the exception to eating, which must always be stopped as soon as Alos arrives until after one finishes to pray. Whenever one is not required to stop performing the activity, he does not need to stop even if he will miss Davening with a Minyan.


[1] See Admur 89; Ketzos Hashulchan 11; Tefila Kehilchasa 6; Isheiy Yisrael 13

[2] See Ketzos Hashulchan 11:2-3; Shulchan Menachem 1:44-45

[3] See Admur 89:5; 70:5; Kuntrus Achron 70:2; Rama 581:2; M”A 89:14; Zohar 2:215; Beir Heiytiv 581:12; Shaareiy Teshuvah 581:12; M”B 581:21; Kaf Hachaim 581:69; 89:28-31; Ketzos Hashulchan 11:3; Igeres Hateshuvah chapter 3; Igros Hakodesh 3:75; 18:557

[4] See Admur 89:5-6 and 70:5; Michaber 89:3; Tur 89:3; Rebbe Eliezer Ben Yaakov in Brachos 10b; Ketzos Hashulchan 11:2

[5] Ketzos Hashulchan 11:2

[6] See Admur 89:5-6 and 70:5; Michaber 89:3; Igros Kodesh 6:90; 10:326; 19:40;

[7] See Admur Kuntrus Achron 70:2; Admur 46:9 in parentheses

[8] See Admur 58:4-5; 66:11; Siddur Admur [Letter 22]; M”A 66:12; Degul Merivava and Rav Akiva Eiger, brought in M”B 46:33; Kaf Hachaim 25:27; Os Chaim Veshalom 25:6; Kuntrus Eitz Chaim 25; Igros Kodesh of Rebbe Rayatz letter 3302; Sichas Shelach 1952; Rebbe in Toras Menachem 28th Sivan 1952, vol. 6 p. 5, printed in Shulchan Menachem 1:125-130

[9] See Admur 90:11

[10] See Admur 106:3; M”A 106:3 and 269:3; M”B 106:5; Piskeiy Teshuvos 89:19; See also Admur 269:3; 343:7;471:10; 472:23; Tzemach Tzedek O.C. Safek Limi 4 

[11] Admur 99:1-4 and 185:5; Makor Chayim 99:1; Ketzos Hashulchan 20:13; Piskeiy Teshuvos 99 footnote 17

[12] See Admur 89:3; Michaber 89:2; Rebbe Aba Brachos 14a; Rashba Brachos 14a; M”B 89:16; Kaf Hachaim 89:18 and 21; Ketzos Hashulchan 11:1; Piskeiy Teshuvos 89:11; Elya Raba 307:3 in name of Shelah p. 135; Beir Heiytiv 89:3

[13] Admur 89:4; 7; 93:3; 106:4; Michaber 89:6; 93:3; Aruch Hashulchan 89:27; Nimueki Orach Chaim 89; Avnei Tzedek 19; Ketzos Hashulchan 11:4; Piskeiy Teshuvos 89:23; 93:4; Igros Kodesh 17:146

[14] Admur 89:4; Ketzos Hashulchan 11:5

[15] Admur 89:4 and 9; Ketzos Hashulchan 20:2

[16] Admur 250:3; Ketzos Hashulchan 11:5

[17] Ketzos Hashulchan 11:5

[18] Admur 70:5; 89:8

[19] Admur 70:5; 89:8

[20] See Michaber 89:3; Admur 89:4; Rivivos Efraim 5:39; Tefila Kehalacha 6:23; Asei lecha Rav 4:26; Piskeiy Teshuvos 89:15; Divrei Chachamim 1:2 in name of Rav Elyashiv; Hatefila Vehilchoseha p. 42

[21] See Admur 70:5; 232; Derech Chaim 23:5

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