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Peninei Halakha > Prayer > 12 - Before the Shacharit Prayer > 03 – Permitted Activities Before Praying

03 – Permitted Activities Before Praying

It is permitted to engage in acts of a mitzvah before praying, for those are not one’s personal wishes, but rather the desires of Heaven. For example, on Friday, if after the prayer service there may not be enough food left in the store for Shabbat, it is permissible to buy food before praying (Mishnah Berurah 250:1; Kaf HaChaim 89:25). However, it is forbidden to buy even one item if it is not for the purpose of a mitzvah. If there is no food in one’s house to give to his children who are leaving for school, he is permitted to buy the necessary foods before prayer, since that too, is considered an act performed for the sake of a mitzvah.

Minor activities are not considered to be work, nor a fulfillment of one’s own desires, and they are therefore permissible before prayer. For example, a person is permitted to make his bed before praying, and he is permitted to take the garbage from his house to the public garbage bin. Similarly, he is permitted to read the newspaper a bit and do a little exercise before prayer.

Before praying, it is permissible to put laundry that is already sorted into the machine and turn it on, since this is considered a minor act. However, it is prohibited to sort the laundry and then put it into the machine (Halichot Shlomo 2:5).

It is forbidden to cook and bake before the prayer service; however, a person is allowed to ignite the fire under a pot that was prepared the day before, or to put into the oven a pan that contains food that was previously prepared.

It is permissible in a time of need to dress children or to make them a sandwich before they leave for school, since this is a minor act and it also possesses an aspect of a mitzvah.

It is permissible to compose innovative Torah insights, either by hand or on the computer, before the prayer service. However, it is forbidden to write secular ideas.[4]

[4]. Eshel Avraham 89:3 presents a logical rationale that any ordinary or temporary work permitted on chol hamo’ed is also permitted before prayer. Halichot Shlomo 2, notes 8 and 16, writes that this prohibition is a law based on precedence; one is forbidden to put his needs before praying. However, if the time of his regular minyan has not yet begun, he may be permitted to perform these activities despite the fact that amud hashachar has already arrived. It seems that in practice, one may be lenient regarding this when another doubt is added to the equation. For instance, when there is doubt as to whether his activity is an ordinary activity or a mitzvah-related activity and the time of the minyan in which he regularly prays has not yet arrived, it may be possible to be lenient.

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Translated By:
Series Editor: Rabbi Elli Fischer

The Laws of Shabbat (1+2) - Yocheved Cohen
The Laws of Prayer - Atira Ote
The Laws of Women’s Prayer - Atira Ote
The Laws of Pesach - Joshua Wertheimer
The Laws of Zemanim - Moshe Lichtman

Editor: Nechama Unterman