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Peninei Halakha > Women's Prayer > Chapter 08: The Shaĥarit Prayer and the Laws Prior to its Recitation

Chapter 08: The Shaĥarit Prayer and the Laws Prior to its Recitation

01. The Time of Shaĥarit

As we learned (above, 2:2-5), according to most poskim, women must pray the Amidot of Shaĥarit and Minĥa every day, and this is the proper practice le-khatĥila. Hence, it is important to know when the times of Shaĥarit and Minĥa are. Even the many women who recite only one daily Amida, be it Shaĥarit or Minĥa, must familiarize themselves with the prayer times so they can gauge the proper time for Shaĥarit or Minĥa.

The times of the prayers were fixed by the Men of the Great Assembly on the basis of the corresponding Tamid offerings: Shaĥarit with the morning Tamid and Minĥa with the afternoon Tamid. The time for Minĥa is explained below (18:1); we will now explain the time for Shaĥarit.

The morning Tamid could be brought starting from dawn (“amud ha-shaĥar,” when the first light appears in the east), and the time for praying Shaĥarit should begin at dawn le-khatĥila. Nonetheless, the Sages said that it is proper to recite the Amida after sunrise (“hanetz ha-ĥama”), as it is written: “They shall revere You along with the sun” (Tehilim 72:5; Berakhot 9b). Be-di’avad, if one recites the Amida after dawn but before sunrise, she fulfills her obligation because she prayed at the time when the morning Tamid offering was brought (SA 89:1; and see Peninei Halakha: Prayer, ch. 11 n. 4). The most praiseworthy time to pray is when the early saints, the “vatikin,” who would recite the Amida at the moment of sunrise to fulfill “They shall revere You along with the sun.” 1

The time to pray the Amida lasts four seasonal hours, for that is the last time that the morning Tamid offering may be brought. Be-di’avad, a woman who did not manage to pray during the first four hours of the day may pray Shaĥarit until ĥatzot. Although she does not receive reward for praying on time, nevertheless, she does receive reward for the prayer she recites (SA 89:1). However, a woman who wishes to recite Birkhot Keri’at Shema must not say them after four hours have passed, even be-di’avad.

A woman who customarily prays the Amida once a day, be it Shaĥarit or Minĥa: if four hours have passed and she has not yet prayed Shaĥarit, it is best that she pray Minĥa on that day. However, if she is concerned that she might forget to pray Minĥa, she may pray Shaĥarit until ĥatzot. 2

  1. There are various opinions about the precise time of amud ha-shaĥar, and they are detailed in Peninei Halakha: Prayer, 11:2 n. 1. As a rule, amud ha-shaĥar is never less than 72 minutes before hanetz ha-ĥama. Meaning, by the time it is 72 minutes before hanetz ha-ĥama, amud ha-shaĥar has definitely already occurred.

    It is important to know that the earliest time for all daytime mitzvot, such as shofar blowing and brit mila, is sunrise, because the day is defined by the presence of the sun. However, be-di’avad if such mitzvot are performed from the time of amud ha-shaĥar, one’s obligation is fulfilled, because from a certain standpoint, the day begins from first light (Megilla 20a).

  2. The Tanna’im disagree about the latest time to bring the Tamid offering and, consequently, about the latest time for Shaĥarit. According to R. Yehuda, it is until the end of the fourth hour, whereas the Sages maintain that it can be brought until ĥatzot. The halakha follows R. Yehuda because his opinion is cited in m. Eduyot, whose mishnayot were chosen as the prevailing halakhic position. Therefore, the final time to recite Shaĥarit is at the end of the first four hours of the day (Berakhot 27a). Even so, according to most poskim, the Sages’ opinion was not completely rejected, and be-di’avad it is permissible to pray Shaĥarit until ĥatzot. Although one who does so is not credited as fulfilling the mitzva on time, she neverthelessis credited for her prayer (SA 89:1). However, R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Halikhot Shlomo 8:42) says that since there are poskim who maintain that according to R. Yehuda it is forbidden even be-di’avad to pray Shaĥarit later than four hours (see Peninei Halakha: Prayer, ch. 11 n. 16), and because a woman may fulfill her obligation to pray by reciting only Birkhot Ha-shaĥar, it is preferable that she avoids controversy and refrains from reciting the Amida after four hours have already passed. Still, he concedes that women customarily women pray until ĥatzot, and that this is the opinion of SA. It seems that women are also permitted to recite Pesukei De-zimra and their berakhot before the Amida. Responsa Maĥazeh Eliyahu 19:14 is careful not to urge women to pray within the first four hours of the day, due to their preoccupations. Women are considered anusot (coerced by elements out of their control) and therefore cannot pray on time. This opinion is cited in Halikhot Beitah 6:20 and Halikhot Bat Yisrael 2:11. I have already written what I deem to be the proper practice.

    Concerning Birkhot Keri’at Shema, the poskim disagree about whether one may recite them be-di’avad until ĥatzot. Although MB maintains that, for men, one who does not recite them due to circumstances beyond his control may recite them until ĥatzot (see Peninei Halakha: Prayer, ch. 11 n. 7), regarding women, since they are not obligated to recite Birkhot Keri’at Shema and there is no option to recite them voluntarily, it seems evident that it is best for women to avoid uncertainty and refrain from reciting Birkhot Keri’at Shema after the first four hours of the day have passed.

02. Seasonal Hours and the Calculation of the Morning Times

The hours referred to by the Sages are seasonal hours (“sha’ot zemaniyot”). That is to say, the day is divided into twelve equal parts, and each part is called a “seasonal hour.” In the summer, when the days are long, so are the hours, and in the winter when the days are short, the hours are short too.

The question is: When do we begin to calculate the day? According to Magen Avraham, the hours of the day are calculated according to the hours of light. That is, the calculation begins from dawn and lasts until total darkness. According to Gra, the calculation is based on the hours that the sun is visible, meaning from sunrise until sunset. This explains the two different times that appear in calendars. The earlier time follows Magen Avraham’s approach, which begins the calculation of the day from dawn, whereas the later time is in keeping with Gra’s opinion, which begins the calculation from sunrise (Peninei Halakha: Prayer, ch. 11 nn. 13-14).

In practice, most poskim follow Gra. Additionally, since the time of prayer was established by the Sages, the halakha follows the lenient opinion, and therefore the latest time for Shaĥarit is calculated according to Gra. 1

  1. Similarly, we follow Gra regarding the latest permissible time to eat ĥametz on Erev Pesaĥ, because the Sages are the ones who established that it is forbidden to eat ĥametz after four hours, and when there is uncertainty concerning a rabbinic mitzva, halakhic practice follows the lenient opinion. However, regarding a mitzva whose time is specified by the Torah, such as the mitzva of reciting Shema (which is obligatory for men and must be done by the end of the third hour of the day), it is proper to follow the stringent approach and recite it before the end of the third hour according to MA’s calculation. When there is uncertainty concerning a biblical commandment, we are stringent.

03. Order of Preference in the Shaĥarit Service

A woman who is preoccupied with raising her children may fulfill her obligation to pray by reciting Birkhot Ha-shaĥar and Birkhot Ha-Torah. In extenuating circumstances even a woman without that burden may fulfill her obligation by reciting only those berakhot (above, 2:4-6). However, a woman who wishes to fulfill the mitzva of prayer in accordance with the main thrust of the halakha recites Birkhot Ha-shaĥar, Birkhot Ha-Torah, the first two verses of Shema, and Shemoneh Esrei (above, 2:5).

If she wants fulfill the mitzva more meticulously, she mentions the Exodus, in order to fulfill her obligation according to the poskim who maintain that a woman must commemorate the Exodus daily. If she wishes to perform the mitzva of remembering the Exodus in the best may, she recites the berakha of Emet Ve-yatziv and adjoins the Amida to the berakha on redemption (see below, 16:3).

One who has more time and wants to enhance the mitzva even further recites the main parts of Pesukei De-zimra: Barukh She-amar, Ashrei until the end of the Halleluyot (six psalms), and Yishtabaĥ (below, 15:4). One who wants to add more prayers recites Shema and its berakhot. Beyond that, she may add the passages of the Tamid and the incense before Pesukei De-zimra (below, 15:1-2). If she wishes to say more, she may completes all of Pesukei De-zimra.

Nonetheless, it must be reiterated that the mitzva of prayer for women in accordance with the halakha is fulfilled in its totality by reciting Birkhot Ha-shaĥar, Birkhot Ha-Torah, the first two verses of Shema, and the Amida. Beyond that, women are not obligated. The woman praying must take care not to allow her desire to enhance the mitzva by adding more passages and berakhot to ruin her kavana in the main passages of prayer. Therefore, if she is concerned that increasing the quantity of her prayer will diminish her kavana, she should recite the obligatory prayers without adding to them.

However, in educational institutions, girls should be taught to pray the whole prayer service: Birkhot Ha-shaĥar, Birkhot Ha-Torah, the passage of the Tamid offering, Pesukei De-zimra, the Shema and its berakhot, and the Amida. Since these girls are single and in an organized framework, it is good that their prayers, too, possess an enhanced structure and that they become familiar with the entire prayer service. Still, after the girls have learned the order of the prayers and are accustomed to it, care should be taken to ensure that the essence of their prayers is kavana and the request for mercy. If the teachers see that lengthy prayers detract from kavana, it is proper to let the girls who wish to shorten their prayer to say what they are obligated to say without additions. 1 a plea for mercy and supplication before God.” Similar words are written in m. Berakhot 4:4. Women especially must be meticulous about this, as explained above (3:8-9). For me, the structured framework of prayer has become more important than kavana and sadly overshadowed it, and consistency has prevailed over supplication; yet, this is the customary practice, as it establishes and institutionalizes sanctity within communities. However, there is no reason to impose this upon women as well. Therefore, if extra prayers will detract from her kavana, it is a case of subtraction by addition. Everything we have written about prioritizing extra prayers applies to one who will not lose kavana by taking on additional prayers.

The prioritization is established in accordance with two principles. The first principle is the extent of women’s obligation, and the second is the individual significance of each part of prayer. Thus, a biblical commandment is of greater priority than a rabbinic requirement. Thus, most important is the recitation of Birkhot Ha-shaĥar (including Birkhot Ha-Torah) and the Amida, for they are obligatory. Although it is uncertain whether or not there is a full obligation to recite Birkhot Ha-Torah, it is clear that women customarily recite them every day, as explained in SA 47:14. Additionally, according to most poskim, they have a biblical basis. Moreover, they are brief and there is no burden in saying them. Therefore, they must be recited with Birkhot Ha-shaĥar. Concerning the first verses of Shema, although there is no obligation to recite them, SA 70:1 rules that it is proper to recite them (see below, 16:1). Since they have a biblical basis, their significance is well known, and they do not take a long time to say, they take priority over other prayers. Next in importance is the commemoration of the Exodus, for according to MA, women are obligated to remember the Exodus. Although most poskim disagree with MA, there is a great mitzva in doing so, for it is a biblical commandment, and it can be fulfilled with the recitation of just one verse at the end of Va-yomer (the third paragraph of Shema). If she wishes to enhance the mitzva, she can mention the Exodus from Egypt in the recitation of Emet Ve-yatziv, thereby also gaining credit for adjoining the berakha of redemption to the Amida, as explained below, 16:13. Next in virtue is Pesukei De-zimra, for there are poskim who maintain that women must recite them. Although it is evident that, according to most poskim, women are exempt from Pesukei De-zimra, their recitation is a rabbinic command, and the halakha follows the lenient opinion (below, 15:4). Still, all agree that their recitation is preparation for prayer, and therefore they precede other passages. One should recite the essential parts of Pesukei De-zimra, that is, the berakhot and the six Halleluyot.

Next in priority are the rest of the Shema and its berakhot. Although some poskim maintain that women must recite the Tamid passage, in practice it is clear that they are not obligated to do so, as explained below (15:2). Moreover, this is a matter of uncertainty concerning a rabbinic command, in which case the halakha follows the lenient opinion. Therefore, it is preferable that whoever has extra time recites Shema and its berakhot. Although it is clear that women are exempt from them, there is great virtue in the recitation of both Shema and its berakhot. Next in priority is the Tamid passage, a prayer which some poskim maintain that women should preferably recite. Next in importance is the recitation of verses of the incense that are connected to the Tamid passage, as explained below (15:1-2, n. 1).

Next in priority are the remaining passages and verses of Pesukei De-zimra, which are not the main part of Pesukei De-zimra (see below in 15:5 and Peninei Halakha: Prayer, 14:2 n. 3). There are women who wish to enhance the mitzva even more and say the whole prayer service in order, from the passage of Akedat Yitzĥak in the beginning of Korbanot until Aleinu, as brought by Kaf Ha-ĥayim 70:1.

Perhaps we can suggest that instead of the verses of Birkat Kohanim and the beraita recited after Birkhot Ha-Torah, women can recite a verse mentioning the Exodus and perhaps the Tamid passage as well, thereby fulfilling the obligation according to those poskim who maintain that women are required to recite them. After all, it is necessary to study Torah right after Birkhot Ha-Torah, but it is not necessary to recite specifically that beraita and those verses. Perhaps a verse that mentions the Exodus and the Tamid passage should be printed in siddurim instead.

Berur Halakha (Zilber) 1:70 and Ishei Yisrael 7:18 present a different order regarding three things. First, they state next in priority after Emet Ve-yatziv is are Barukh She-amar, Ashrei, and Yishtabaĥ and only then should Birkhot Ha-shaĥar and Birkhot Ha-Torah be recited. This is very difficult to explain, for according to practically all of the poskim the recitation of Birkhot Ha-shaĥar is obligatory (see above, ch. 6 n. 1). Likewise, regarding Birkhot Ha-Torah, women are so accustomed to saying it that it is considered an obligation (SA 47:14; see above, 7:3 n. 3). In contrast, women are exempt from the recitation of Pesukei De-zimra according to virtually all poskim, as explained below, 15:4 n. 2. Additionally, it is always proper to say Birkhot Ha-shaĥar, for in extenuating circumstances, a woman may fulfill her obligation to pray by reciting them, as explained above, 2:5. If they are not recited first, in extenuating circumstances one will not recite anything. The second change mentioned by Berur Halakha and Ishei Yisrael pertains to Pesukei De-zimra and is explained below, 15:7 n. 5. The third change is that they maintain that Pesukei De-zimra takes priority over the first verse of Shema. From my words above, it is clear why I do not concur. ]

  1. Avot 2:13 states: “Do not make your prayer fixed, but [make it

04. Prohibitions Prior to Prayer

When dawn breaks and the time to pray Shaĥarit arrives, one must stand before his Creator in prayer. He should not place his own honor before God’s honor. Therefore the Sages teach that a man is prohibited from working, traveling, and eating before he prays. Additionally, one must not put his friend’s honor before God’s honor, and therefore he must not go to his friend’s house and speak to him before praying.

In principle, this pertains to women as well; however, any woman who is accustomed to acting leniently by fulfilling the mitzva of prayer with Birkhot Ha-shaĥar and Birkhot Ha-Torah alone must be careful not to perform these actions before reciting these berakhot. A woman who follows the opinion of most poskim and prays the Shaĥarit Amida every morning must refrain from performing these acts before praying the Shaĥarit Amida. However, in times of need, even a woman who is accustomed to praying the Amida of Shaĥarit every morning may rely on the lenient poskim and may work and travel after reciting Birkhot Ha-shaĥar and Birkhot Ha-Torah.

Even a woman who sometimes prays the Shaĥarit Amida and other times prays the Amida of Minĥa should try to make sure that on the days that she prays Shaĥarit she refrains from performing those actions before praying. In times of need, she may be lenient and perform them after she recites Birkhot Ha-shaĥar and Birkhot Ha-Torah. 1

  1. Simply stated, all prohibitions that apply to men also apply to women, since according to most poskim women must pray Shaĥarit and Minĥa, as explained above (2:2). Yet there are poskim who maintain that women fulfill their obligation of prayer by reciting only Birkhot Ha-shaĥar and Birkhot Ha-Torah, and consequently, after saying them, they may do other activities. Likewise, according to the poskim who maintain that women must pray one daily prayer, that prayer can be Minĥa, and therefore the prohibitions before Shaĥarit do not apply to them. Therefore, it seems, a woman who is accustomed to praying Shaĥarit every day must be strict concerning all these laws, just as men are. For other women, it is proper to be strict and to say Birkhot Ha-shaĥar and Birkhot Ha-Torah before performing any other actions. However, a woman who is accustomed to praying Minĥa as her one daily prayer is presumably permitted to perform any action mentioned here, because these prohibitions were only instituted for before Shaĥarit. Still, it is proper to take care to say Birkhot Ha-shaĥar and Birkhot Ha-Torah right after waking up; hence, I did not make a distinction in their laws. Additionally, if a woman handles her dealings before Birkhot Ha-shaĥar and Birkhot Ha-Torah, there is concern that she will forget to recite them. Therefore, it is proper to teach that women must recite Birkhot Ha-shaĥar and Birkhot Ha-Torah before engaging in activities, regardless of the case.

    Even women who regularly pray Shaĥarit every morning may act leniently regarding all these issues before prayer when they absolutely must, as long as they recite Birkhot Ha-shaĥar and Birkhot Ha-Torah first. This is because it is possible to consider the opinions of the poskim who maintain that after Birkhot Ha-shaĥar it is already permissible to deal with work matters and travel, as stated by Rema 89:3. Further, some say that with Birkhot Ha-shaĥar and Birkhot Ha-Torah women already fulfill their obligation to pray and therefore they need not be cautious regarding all these issues. It is based on these principles that I write the following halakhot. See also Igrot Moshe OĤ 4:101:2; Minĥat Yitzĥak 4:28:3; Halikhot Shlomo: Prayer 2:3-4; Halikhot Bat Yisrael 2:3-4; Halikhot Beitah 6:7; Ishei Yisrael 13:30.

05. Greetings Before Prayer

A woman who is about to pray Shaĥarit must take care not to address her parents or friends prior to doing so. If she does, she sins, as she ascribes more importance to their honor than to God’s honor, for rather than standing in prayer before God, she first goes to greet another person (Berakhot 14a).

If a woman’s parents require assistance and she has not time to pray beforehand, she may go to their aid before prayer, for in doing so she fulfills the mitzva of honoring her parents; however, she must first recite Birkhot Ha-shaĥar and Birkhot Ha-Torah. Likewise, when it is necessary to help people who are ill, and she will not be able to pray beforehand, she may assist them before prayer.

This prohibition is to visit a friend to to ask her how she is; however, if her friend comes to her house, she may greet her. If her friend does greet her, it is best that she responds “good morning” and not “Shalom” so as to remind herself that she has not yet prayed. Similarly, girls who pray at school and along their way meet their friends are permitted to address them and talk to them, although it is best to say “good morning” and not “Shalom.”

When it is necessary to call someone on the phone, be it to ask a question or relay a message, one may make a phone call before praying. However, it is forbidden to conduct an ordinary friendly phone conversation before prayer (see Peninei Halakha: Prayer, 12:1 n. 2).

It is proper that a woman who does not intend to pray Shaĥarit refrains from greeting her friend before she recites Birkhot Ha-shaĥar and Birkhot Ha-Torah.

06. One May Not Work or Travel Before Prayer

As we have learned, a woman who is about to pray Shaĥarit must le-khatĥila follow the same laws as a man, and from the break of dawn she may not become involved in her work or do any traveling until she prays. The Sages say (Berakhot 14a), “Anyone who prays and then goes on his way, God grants him what he desires.”

Nevertheless, one may perform small tasks or make short trips before prayer. There is an opinion that if the trip lasts less than 72 minutes, it is allowed before prayer. If the entire trip is for the sake of prayer, for example, traveling to pray at the Kotel, one may go, even if the travel time will be more than 72 minutes (Responsa Or Le-Tziyon 2:7:6; Peninei Halakha: Prayer 12:5).

Before dawn, one may begin a large project or embark on a long trip, for since the time of Shaĥarit has not yet arrived, she is not considered one who puts her needs before prayer. She must be strict in saying Birkhot Ha-shaĥar before that, because the time to recite them is immediately upon waking up. Since she started her work or departed on her journey before the time to pray began, she may continue even after dawn, on condition that she prays before the time to pray lapses (SA 89:7; Peninei Halakha: Prayer 12:2).

It is proper that a woman who does not normally pray Shaĥarit strictly refrain from occupying herself with work or departing on her way before reciting Birkhot Ha-shaĥar and Birkhot Ha-Torah.

07. Actions Permitted before Prayer

A woman may engage in mitzva acts before praying, for this is no affront to God’s honor since these acts are not done for one’s personal needs. Therefore, it is permissible and it is a mitzva to bathe and clothe children and to prepare food for them before they leave for preschool and elementary school. If the house lacks essential breakfast foods, it is permissible to purchase them before praying. Similarly, if a woman is concerned that after she finishes her prayer there will not be enough food left in the store for Shabbat, she may buy food before praying (MB 250:1; Kaf Ha-ĥayim 89:25). However, it is forbidden to buy even one item if it is not for the purpose of a mitzva.

Minor activities are permissible before prayer. For example, one may make her bed before praying and she may take the garbage from her house to the public garbage bin. Similarly, she may read the newspaper a bit and do a little exercise before prayer. She may 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 (Halikhot Shlomo 2:5).

It is forbidden to cook or bake before praying; however, one may light a fire under a pot that was prepared the day before or place a previously prepared food pan into the oven. Nevertheless, one should make an effort to recite Birkhot Ha-shaĥar and Birkhot Ha-Torah as soon as possible after waking up, and it is best to refrain from even minor activities and mitzvot before then.

This law forbids engaging in one’s own needs before prayer, including getting a haircut and entering a bathhouse (MT, Laws of Prayer 6:7). Likewise, it is forbidden to go swimming or take a pampering bath before prayer. However, oone is obligated to wash her hands before prayer. One should also preferably wash her face and brush her teeth before praying (SA 4:17; 46:1). Similarly, one may take a shower and cleanse oneself with soap as preparation for prayer (Peninei Halakha: Prayer 12: 3-4).

08. Eating and Drinking Before Prayer

From the break of dawn, it is forbidden to eat or drink before praying. The Sages support their words (Berakhot 10b) on the verse (Vayikra 19:26), “Do not eat upon the blood,” which they interpret as, “Do not eat before praying for your ‘blood.’” Further, they teach, “Anyone who eats and drinks first and [only] afterwards prays, Scripture says of him (1 Melakhim 14:9), ‘You have thrown Me behind your body (“gavekha,” the word used for “your body,” alludes to “ga’avatekha” – your pride).’ God said, ‘After this person acts arrogantly he accepts upon himself the yoke of heaven?!’”

However, one may drink water before praying because there is no element of pride in drinking it. Similarly, one may eat food and drink beverages that are medicinal, as there is no element of pride in taking medicine (SA 89:4). For example, someone who is suffering from constipation may eat prunes before prayer, since she is eating them as medicine (see MB 89:24).

A woman who is so hungry that she cannot concentrate on her prayer may eat before praying, because she is considered like a sick person who must eat; her eating does not contain any element of pride (SA 89:4; and see MB 26).

It is proper that women who generally fulfill the obligation of prayer with the recitation of Birkhot Ha-shaĥar and Birkhot Ha-Torah (as explained above, 2:4) be strict not to eat or drink before saying those berakhot, in addition to reciting them as soon as possible after they wake up.

09. Eating at Home if one will Pray at School

Girls who normally pray Shaĥarit in school and who will go hungry and will jeopardize their health or adversely affect their concentration on studies and prayers unless they eat and drink at home may do so. If a small meal without bread is sufficient, that is preferable; at their first recess they can wash their hands and eat bread. The argument should not be made that it is better that they pray Shaĥarit at home and not eat before Shaĥarit because the consistency of prayer in school edifies the students and validates the status of prayer. Still, it is best to recite Birkhot Ha-shaĥar and Birkhot Ha-Torah before eating and drinking. 1

Minors who have not yet reached the age of mitzvot – twelve for girls and thirteen for boys – may eat before prayer. Although we generally train minors not to eat forbidden food, this applies when the food itself is forbidden because it is not kosher. However, when the Sages prohibited eating before prayer or before kiddush, they did so as a safeguard. Since the food itself is not forbidden, minors need not abide by that safeguard. Nevertheless, le-khatĥila it is proper that they do not eat before prayer, though when it is necessary they are permitted (MB 106:5; Yabi’a Omer 4:12:15; Kaf Ha-ĥayim 106:11).

  1. It is hard to be lenient for boys who have become bar mitzva, because their obligation in prayer is explicit. However, concerning women, the obligation of the Shaĥarit prayer is indistinct, as some poskim say that women are only obligated to pray one prayer daily and that they can fulfill their obligation by praying Minĥa. Some even say that they can fulfill their obligation by reciting only Birkhot Ha-shaĥar and Birkhot Ha-Torah, as explained above, 2:3-5. Hence, the prohibitions before Shaĥarit are indeterminate as well, and as a result, in times of need, one may be lenient and eat before prayer. Igrot Moshe 4:101:2, and Halikhot Shlomo 2:4 state similarly. Halikhot Bat Yisrael 2 n. 10, quotes a letter from R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach allowing seminary girls to eat in their house before going to school. He adds that they must say a brief prayer prior to eating (I recommend reciting Birkhot Ha-shaĥar and Birkhot Ha-Torah which they must say anyway). Further, he adds that it is good that they accept upon themselves the yoke of Heaven by saying “Shema Yisrael.”

10. When may a Married Woman Eat before Prayer?

Often, a woman must care for her children and cannot pray immediately after waking. Much time will pass before she finishes tending to her young, and if she does not drink coffee or tea, her mind will remain unsettled. This woman may drink coffee or tea before she prays because her drinking does not display arrogance; rather she drinks out of the need to settle her mind and enable her to properly take care of her children. If she must eat a piece of fruit or some cake lest she feel weak and incapable of caring for her children properly, she may eat, because the purpose of her eating is to strengthen herself, and there is no display of arrogance. Nevertheless, she should try to recite Birkhot Ha-shaĥar and Birkhot Ha-Torah before drinking and eating.

If the husband of a woman who usually prays Shaĥarit arrives home from the synagogue before his wife had a chance to recite Shaĥarit, she should recite Birkhot Ha-Torah, which contain a short prayer, and then eat with with her husband. She later completes her prayer by reciting Birkhot Ha-shaĥar and praying the Amida. This is because a healthy and halakhic family context dictates that a woman eats with her husband. Therefore, so as not to keep him waiting, she eats with him and makes up Birkhot Ha-shaĥar and the Amida after the meal. If possible, she should try to say Birkhot Ha-shaĥar before the meal, since one must try to say those berakhot immediately upon waking up. This applies if the husband is hurried or pressured. However, when possible, it is better for the woman to first recite Birkhot Ha-Torah, Birkhot Ha-shaĥar, and the Amida, and then they can eat together. 1


  1. According to SA, EH 70:2, it is impossible to obligate a husband to eat with his wife more than on Shabbat night, on the condition that he provides his wife with her sustenance as he promised to do when he married her and as is written in the ketuba. However, according to Rema, based most Rishonim, if a woman wants her husband to eat with her, he must eat with her every day. It is clear from this that if a man, too, wants to eat together with his wife, she is required to fulfill that request. Likewise, Igrot Moshe, OĤ 4:101:2 states that a woman “is enslaved to her husband to eat specifically with him.” Avnei Yashfeh 16:3 states in the name of R. Elyashiv that, practically speaking, a woman who normally prays Shaĥarit but did not manage to pray before her husband returned from synagogue, must eat with him; therefore she should fulfill her obligation to pray by reciting a short prayer, so that he will not have to wait for her. R. Auerbach writes that the woman “must do what her husband asks of her, because she is subservient to him.” It seems that this all applies when time is tight or the husband is annoyed. However, where possible, it is better for the woman to first say Birkhot Ha-Torah and Birkhot Ha-shaĥar, then recite the Amida, and then eat together.

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