Putting on Tallit and Tefillin in Early Morning

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by R. Daniel Mann

לעילוי נשמת
יואל אפרים בן אברהם עוזיאל זלצמן ז”ל

Question: During certain times of the year, I have to daven significantly before sunrise. What should I do about putting on tallit and tefillin (=t & t), as I start davening before the time for those mitzvot?

Answer: The starting time for Kri’at Shema (Orach Chayim 58), tzitizit/tallit (OC 18), and tefillin (OC 30), is called misheyakir (the time it is light enough to recognize certain things). There are many opinions as to how long before sunrise this is. The extreme opinions are as little as 30 and as much as 60+ minutes before sunrise; the most common opinions range from 40 to 50 minutes before. Because light depends on the angle of the sun under the horizon, many posit that latitude and season affect this time. Therefore, people need to rely on local calendars or some website, which will not represent unanimous truths (most of such resources are close to the general consensus).

Kri’at Shema starts at misheyakir apparently because this is when serious numbers of people start getting up (see Magen Avraham 58:6). Regarding tzitzit, the gemara (Menachot 43a) exempts “night clothing” from tzitzit because the Torah describes seeing the tzitzit. There are two pertinent machlokot on this matter. According to the Rambam (Tzitzit 3:7-8), the exemption refers to the time of the day, and it begins at misheyakir, which relates to the ability to see. Some (Rosh, Tzitzit 1) say that daytime clothing is obligated in tzitzit even at night, and others (Mordechai, Megilla 801) say that the starting time is alot hashachar (at least 72 minutes before sunrise). Because we view the first question as a safek, we wear tzitzit at night but without a beracha (Shulchan Aruch, OC 18:1), and while the Rama (OC 18:3) allows making a beracha from alot hashachar, this is not broadly accepted (see Mishna Berura 18:10).

Most Rishonim (see Beit Yosef, OC 30; the Rambam, Tefillin 4:10 is an exception) posit that the mitzva of tefillin applies at night, fundamentally. However, we must not put on tefillin at night (even without a beracha) out of a concern we may fall asleep and release gas with them on (Rashi, Menachot 36b). One who has already woken up and needs to put them on may do so early, in which case, when the time comes (misheyakir – Shulchan Aruch, OC 30:1), he handles the tefillin and then makes the beracha (Menachot 36a). We also find the idea of handling before the beracha regarding tzitzit that were put on early (Rama, OC 18:3).

There are two valid options: to wait to put on the t & t until their time comes or to put them both on at the regular juncture and make the beracha later (Mishna Berura 89:40), and the point to do it is between Yishtabach and Kaddish, not during P’sukei D’zimra (Rama, OC 54:3). If misheyakir comes before Baruch She’amar, which is more likely if one decides to use (this time of year) the order of Nusach Sephard, that is optimal. How many opinions one should satisfy and what to do about a safek whether misheyakir has come is debatable (see Piskei Teshuvot 30:(4)).

The halachic differences between waiting to put on and waiting for the beracha are small. Assuming misheyakir comes before Barchu (or there are other problems – see Shulchan Aruch, OC 58:3 and Mishna Berura ad loc. 17), the point to put them on and/or make the berachot is between Yishtabach and Kaddish. The main problem at that time, hefsek, relates to speaking, and either way the berachot are said then. There is only a slight advantage of having t & t on early in tefilla, and it is not much of a problem to have them on before their berachot for a good reason (see Shulchan Aruch, OC 8:10). 

Let us examine practicalities. For one davening at home, a deciding factor might be which system is more likely to cause a mistake – forgetting to make the beracha at all or forgetting to put on t & t at the right time (if he remembered later, see Shulchan Aruch, OC 66:2). In a shul, friends’ actions may remind others. The rabbi has to decide whether to seek uniformity or have everyone decide for himself. If the former, there are various considerations to weigh. 


About Daniel Mann

This column is produced on behalf of Eretz Hemdah by Rabbi Daniel Mann. Rabbi Mann is a Dayan for Eretz Hemdah and a staff member of Yeshiva University's Gruss Kollel in Israel. He is a senior member of the Eretz Hemdah responder staff, editor of Hemdat Yamim and the author of Living the Halachic Process, volumes 1 and 2 and A Glimpse of Greatness.

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