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CHAZAQ Articles

Davening Shacharis Early (Part 2)

With Permission to reprint From The Halacha Hotline - Beis Hora'ah, under HaRav Binyomin Forst


In last week's article, we began discussing some of the halachic challenges that are presented by the winter months - during which daytime begins relatively late - for people who must leave for work early in the morning. The reason is that such people must begin davening (praying) Shacharis (the Morning Prayer)while it is still somewhat dark outside, before the optimal time for davening arrives, and at a time at which talis and tefilin may not be donned (see note).[1]


Summary of last week's article

Mid'oraysa (Biblically), most mitzvos that must be performed during daytime may be performed beginning from shortly after alos hashachar (daybreak).[2] L'chatchilah (initially/preferably), however, one may not perform most such mitzvos until haneitz hachamah (sunrise). Nevertheless, b'dieved (post facto) one fulfills one's obligation if one performs most daytime mitzvos beginning from shortly after alos hashachar. Moreover, one may perform such mitzvos beginning from shortly after alos hashachareven l'chatchilah in cases of hardship.


Since Sh'moneh Esrei of Shacharis is a daytime mitzvahl'chatchilah one should not begin reciting Sh'moneh Esrei until haneitz hachamahB'dieved, if one began reciting it shortly after alos hashachar but before haneitz hachamah, one fulfills one's obligation. Moreover, in cases of need (e.g., one needs to leave early for work), one may begin reciting it even l'chatchilah shortly after alos hashachar, even on a regular basis.


Although, one could technically daven at a minyan that recites Sh'moneh Esrei shortly after alos hashachar, doing so is not practical or recommended[3] since the times fortalis and tefilin (and for Shema and Birchos K'rias Shema - to some extent; see note 8) do not begin until misheyakir (see below), which is somewhat later than alos hashachar.


Talis and Tefilin

The zman[4] for the mitzvos of talis and tefilin begins from the time of misheyakir.[5] Misheyakir (literally: when he can recognize) is the time at which it is light enough to recognize one's casual acquaintance from a distance of four amos (cubits; four amos

are 6-8 feet).[6],[7] (See note regarding the mitzvos of Shema and Birchos K'rias 



Since misheyakir is defined as the time when it is light enough to differentiate, its precise time varies depending on the season and the geographical location.[9] There is a dispute amongst the Poskim (halachic authorities)when exactly the time of misheyakiris. According to Rav Moshe Feinstein,[10]misheyakir in most of America is 35-40 minutes before haneitz hachamah. However, according the majority of Poskim,misheyakir in America is considerably earlier. Three of the commonly used zmanim are: 1) 11.5 degrees; i.e,. when the sun is positioned 11.5 degrees below the horizon, which in the New York area corresponds to approximately 62 minutes before haneitz hachamah during the winter months; 2) 11.0 degrees; i.e,. when the sun is positioned 11.0 degrees below the horizon, which in the New York area corresponds to approximately 60 minutes before haneitz hachamah during the winter months;[11] and 3) 10.2 degrees - i.e., when the sun is positioned 10.2 degrees below the horizon, which in the New York area corresponds to approximately 53 minutes before haneitz hachamah during the winter months.[12] The times for misheyakir (earliest time to dontalis and tefilin) on any given day may be found on special zmanim calendars, often displayed in shul.[13]


On December 29, for example, misheyakir in the New York area (10.2 degrees) is approximately 6:24. (or 6:19 using 11 degrees). Accordingly, one whose Shacharis minyan begins at 6:00 AM would not be able to don and recite the b'rachos on talis and tefilin before the start of davening. For some people, a simple solution would be to daven at a later minyan. For many people, however, doing so is not an option due to their work schedule.


Next week, iy"H (G-d willing), we will discuss the options available to one who mustdaven Shacharis early so as to still be able to recite b'rachos and fulfill the mitzvos of talis and tefilin.





[1] Having just changed the clocks from Daylight Savings Time to Standard Time, there is a temporary reprieve, as daytime now begins one hour earlier. However, the reprieve is only temporary, as daytime gets later rapidly over the course of the ensuing few weeks. In fact, after several weeks, the times are almost as late as they were before the clocks are changed.

[2] The Bi'ur Halacha (89:1 s.v. v'im hispaleil) points out that daybreak is not the time at which the "Morning Star" is visible; that star is visible considerably before daybreak.

[3] Bi'ur Halacha 89:1 s.v. yatza.

[4] Time for performing mitzvos.

[5] The mitzvah of talis is a daytime mitzvah (see Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 30:1) and, therefore, cannot be performed at night (S.A. O.C. 18:1). The mitzvah of tefilin, however, is technically a 24/6 mitzvah (Shabbos excluded), and Biblically may be worn at night. However, the Rabbis were concerned that if one were to wear tefilin at night, one might fall asleep while wearing them and flatulate, which is forbidden while wearing tefilin. Therefore, they forbade donning tefilin at night. However, since the only reason for not wearing them is the concern of falling sleep, one who woke up from his nighttime sleep may don them even before alos hashachar (S.A. O.C. 30:3; Mishnah Berurah 30:11). He may not, however, recite a b'rachah until misheyakir (ibid.; cf. Igros Moshe O.C. 1:10).

[6] S.A. O.C. 30:1. The zman for donning talis actually begins at the time at which it is light enough to recognize (i.e., distinguish) between the white strings and t'cheiles strings of one's talis (S.A O.C. 18:3). However, this time coincides precisely with the time at which it is light enough to recognize one's casual acquaintance from a distance of four amos (M.B. 18:9). (It should be noted that according to the Rema (O.C. 18:3), b'dieved, the zman for talis (but not tefilin) begins at alos hashachar. Thus, on Shabbos, when one dons only talis but not tefilin, according to the Rema one could begin davening with one's talis and recite the b'rachah on the talis after alos hashachar; see M.B. 58:10; Bi'ur Halacha58:1 s.v. zman K'rias ShemaL'chatchilah, it is most proper to not rely on this leniency of the RemaM.B. 18:10.)

[7] A question arises: Since the zman is dependent on one's ability to discern and differentiate, perhaps on a cloudy day the zman should be later, and if there is moonlight or snow on the ground, which would reflect and magnify the light, the zman should be earlier. Indeed there are some Poskim - halachic authorities (see Eishel Avraham - Butchatch 58:1) who do take these factors into account, but most Poskim (Minchas ElazarNimukei Orach ChaimRav Chaim Kanievsky, cited in Da'as Noteh, page 347, #754; see also Sh"Ut Sho'eil Umeishiv 4:162) rule that the atmospheric and street conditions play no role in the zman; the zman is determined based on the degree of light had the day been clear.

[8] The mitzvos of Shema and Birchos K'rias Shema (the b'rachos of Shema) in the morning begin l'chatchilah at misheyakir (S.A. O.C. 58:1; M.B. 58:1). (It is preferable, however, not to recite them until shortly before haneitz hachamah). B'dieved, if one began reciting them shortly after alos hashachar but before misheyakir, one fulfills one's obligation (S.A. O.C. 58:3; Bi'ur Halacha 89:1 s.v. v'im hispaleil), but only if one does so infrequently (M.B. 58:19; 69:4), which is defined as only once a month. In cases of need (e.g., one needs to leave early for work), one may begin reciting them even l'chatchilah shortly after alos hashachar, even on a regular basis (ibid.).

[9] For example, in Eretz Yisrael, where it gets light quickly in the morning (just as it gets dark quickly in the evening), the time of misheyakir is closer to sunrise, while in New York, it is earlier.

[10] Igros Moshe O.C. 4:6.

[11] Eidus L'Yisrael (Rav Y. E. Henkin), Halacha section #4.

[12] The custom in Yerushalayim is to consider misheyakir as being either approximately at 52 minutes before haneitz hachamah, which corresponds to 11.5 degrees (Oros Chaim 1:5) or to 11.8 degrees (Otzros Yerushalayim vol. 81, p. 1289, side b). In Bnei Brak, many follow a zman of 40-45 minutes before haneitz hachamah, which corresponds to 10.2 degrees.

[13] These zmanim change according to the seasons. One can find these zmanim in two popular calendars, which are produced by: 1) Vaad L'chizuk - Rabbi Premock (718-851-1314); 2) MyZmanim (



DISCLAIMER: Not all details and aspects of the halachic issues discussed can be expressed fully in this limited format, and a small change in circumstances can change the halachic outcome. Accordingly, for one's personal situation, one is advised to ask a Rabbinic authority, and to not rely on the information presented herein. 


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