Taking care of one’s needs before tefillah puts his personal needs before those of Hashem. A mitzvah is done for Hashem’s honor and does not fall under this prohibition. Therefore, the halachah is that chafatzecha (your needs) are forbidden, but cheftzei Shamayim (heavenly needs) are permitted before one prays (Mishnah Berurah 250,1).
One example of cheftzei Shamayim is collecting tzedakah. In the morning, most people are gathered together in shul, and it is a good time to approach people. One may collect before praying especially when the case is pressing (Mishnah Berurah 89,36).
The halachah states that a person should give tzedakah before praying (Shulchan Aruch 92,10). This halachah is not limited to contributing one’s money to a good cause. Giving of one’s time and energy is also tzedakah, and therefore one can perform acts of kindness to others in the morning before tefillah (Rav Shlomo Zalman Aeurbach as cited in Halichos Shlomo 2,8).
Chazal tell us that the tefillos of Yom Tov should start later than usual. While on a simple level this allows one to get more rest, halachic authorities add that the extra time allows one to take care of Yom Tov needs before prayer. Since these are cheftzei Shamayim they are permitted before tefillah (Mishnah Berurah 529,14).
Text Copyright © 2013 by Rabbi Daniel Travis and Torah.org