L’chatchilah, a person should not recite the Amidah before vatikin because, according to a number of poskim, the time to pray l’chatchilah begins at netz hachamah and lasts four hours. The ideal time to pray the Amidah is immediately at the start of “vatikin”, just as the devoted ones prayed. Therefore, it seems that for a person whose prayer lasts approximately 25 minutes from the beginning until the Amidah, the earliest time he may begin to pray is 25 minutes before netz.
One who must be on his way, or must start work earlier, is permitted to begin praying from the time of misheyakir, since by then a little light has spread over the earth, and that moment is the valid time for the recital of Shema and for the mitzvot of tzitzit and tefillin. We have already learned that the time of misheyakir is approximately 50 minutes before netz (see note 2).
One who needs to pray even earlier should begin his prayer without tallit and tefillin and proceed until the conclusion of Pesukei d’Zimrah. When he finishes Yishtabach he must wait for the time of misheyakir, and only then put on his tallit and tefillin and continue praying.
.L’chatchilah, one may not recite the Amidah before vatikin because, according to most poskim, among them the Rambam and Shulchan Aruch, the time from amud hashachar until netz hachamah is valid for prayer only b’dieved, as explained in note 4 of this chapter. Also, in terms of Keriat Shema, according to a few poskim (Rambam and Rabbeinu Tam) the time of misheyakir until netz is b’dieved. Most poskim maintain that it is l’chatchilah regarding Keriat Shema. However, since Keriat Shema is adjoined to the Amidah, one may not pray the Amidah l’chatchilah before vatikin.
In times of need, one may recite the Amidah at misheyakir, for that is when the time of Keriat Shema begins according to most poskim, as the Shulchan Aruch 58:1 rules, and as is clarified earlier in note 3 of this chapter. That is also when the time to put on tzitzit and tefillin begins, as explained in Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 18:3; 30:1. One may finish Pesukei d’Zimrah and Yishtabach before that, and when the time of misheyakir arrives, wrap himself in a tallit and put on tefillin, as brought by Bei’ur Halachah 58:1, s.v. “Zeman.” However, one may not do so earlier than that, since only in extenuating circumstances may one recite Keriat Shema and its berachot before misheyakir. The time of misheyakir is clarified in note 2 of this chapter.