For donations Click Here

Davening on the Go

For most people, when one has a routine, things are easy. He knows what he has to do, when he should do it and how to go about it. When something comes up, whether through a voluntary change in routine or because of the unexpected, people tend to get lost and not know how to cope. Just as this applies to the secular aspects of life, so too with the fulfillment of mitzvos. When one follows his routine he knows when and how to daven. However, when the routine is interrupted, questions arise. One such change in routine is travel. Travel throws people off – and not just when it comes to jet lag. When traveling, people are placed in all types of unusual situations that they are not prepared for.

In this week’s parshaBaha’aloscha, we will read how the Bnei Yisrael traveled for the first time in the Divinely-ordained system of machanos and degalim. Therefore, let us discuss some of the halachos of davening while traveling in order that our journeys will also be “al pi Hashem.”


In order to fully understand the halachos of davening while traveling and how to deal with various situations in which travelers often find themselves, we must first discuss the different parts of the tefilah and some of the relevant halachos. For our discussion, we will divide davening into three parts: 1) birchos hashachar (from “al netilas yadayim” until “gomeil chasadim tovim l’amo Yisrael”), korbanos and pesukei d’zimra (until the conclusion of yishtabach); 2) birchos krias Shema and Shema; 3) shemoneh esrei. The rest of davening, from tachanun until the end are not relevant to our discussion, as we shall see.

Each one of the above segments has a different set of time constraints. In order to understand these limitations, we must first define a few relevant phrases.


The first halachic time of the morning is alos (or ammud) hashachar. The poskim differ as to when this occurs. Some maintain that it is when the eastern horizon first begins to light up, and takes place seventy-two minutes before sunrise. (There are opinions that this takes place ninety minutes before sunrise; however the generally accepted position is that it is at seventy-two minutes.) Others contend that alos is the point when the entire eastern sky is lit up, which is termed “hei’ir pnei hamizrach” (Biur Halacha 58:3, s.v. mishe’alah; Biur Halacha 89:1, s.v., v’im). The practical difference between these two opinions affects any mitzvah that must be performed during the daytime. Since alos is the halachic beginning of the day, these mitzvos may not be performed before alos, and if one does, he has not fulfilled his obligation. We will later discuss the influence that these two opinions have on the time of davening.

The next phrase that we need to understand is “keday sheyakir bein techeiles lelavan,” usually simplified to “keday sheyakir.” This refers to the time when there is sufficient light “by which one can distinguish between blue and white.” The Mishnah Berurah (18:9) explains that this is when one can first recognize an acquaintance from a distance of four ammos. There is much discussion as to when this takes place. Some maintain that it is approximately fifty minutes before sunrise (Sefer Ishei Yisrael 18:1), while others contend that it is only between thirty-five to forty minutes prior to sunrise (Shu’t Igros Moshe, Orach Chaim IV, #6).


Of course, if one has the option, the best way to daven is to begin the tefilah with sufficient time to reach shemoneh esrei at sunrise. This is based on the possuk (Tehillim 72:5), “They will fear You while the sun rises.” If one does not daven at sunrise, he may daven until the end of the fourth hour of the day (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 89:1). In this situation the only limitation is that he must take care not to recite a bracha on tzitzis, talis and tefilin before keday sheyakir. The reason for this is because the time for these mitzvos does not begin until then (Shulchan Aruch 18:3). (On weekdays this is not an issue even according to the stricter opinion, since from the beginning of davening until shemoneh esrei usually takes less than thirty-five minutes. However, this can present a problem if one wishes to daven k’vasikin on Shabbos when more time is required from the beginning of davening until shemoneh esrei.)

What does one do if he must begin traveling very early in the morning and does not have the option of davening in a lechatchilah manner? Let us examine the various sections of davening and see at what point of time they may be recited.

Birchos hashachar (with the exception of “hanosain lasechvi vinah”) and pessukei d’zimra, can all be recited anytime after chatzos halailah (halachic midnight) (Shulchan Aruch 47:13 and Mishnah Berurah 30; Biur Halacha 58:1, s.v., zeman). Since the bracha of “hanosain lasechvi vinah” praises Hashem for giving intelligence to the rooster to differentiate between night and day, it is proper to wait and not recite this bracha before alos when the sky begins to lighten (Shulchan Aruch 47:13, Mishnah Berurah 31, Biur Halacha s.v., mevareich).

According to the Torah, the time for the recital of Shema in the morning is from alos hashachar. This is based on the word “uvkumecha” – “when you arise,” indicating that Shema should be read when people wake up. Since there are some people who wake up at alos, it is considered the correct time for Shema. However, Chazal instituted that lechatchilah, one should only recite Shema after the time of keday sheyakir. However, if he read Shema after alos hashachar, he has fulfilled his obligation. But, the Mishnah Berurah stipulates that this is only if he does this once a month. If he does it more often, he does not fulfill his obligation. However, if he is in a pressing situation, he may read it after alos even lechatchilah (Mishnah Berurah 58:19).

Although the Mechaber maintains that one may recite the first bracha of birchos krias shema, yotzeir ohr, which praises Hashem for creating light, after alos hashachar, many Acharonim contend that one should wait until keday sheyakir (Mishnah Berurah 58:17).

With regards to the third section of davening that we mentioned earlier, shemoneh esrei, although lechatchilah one should not recite it before sunrise, if he did so after alos, he has fulfilled his obligation (Shulchan Aruch 89:1).


Now that we understand when the various parts of davening may or may not be recited, let us discuss practical solutions for the traveler who must set out early in the morning.

If one anticipates that while traveling he will not be able to daven properly during the optimum time, i.e., shemoneh esrei after sunrise and before sof zman tefilah, then he may daven before sunrise. In this situation, there are two options: 1) He should start davening brachos and pesukei d’zimra without talis or tefilin with sufficient time to reach yishtabach at the time of keday sheyakir. (If he recites brachos before alos, he should preferably postpone the bracha of “hanosein lasechvi vinah” until after davening.) After yishtabach, he should put on his talis and tefilin reciting the appropriate brachos and continue with birchos krias Shema and shemoneh esrei. This is the preferred method, as it satisfies the opinion that the bracha of yotzeir ohr should be recited after keday sheyakir.

2) If one needs to leave very early and therefore cannot wait until keday sheyakir to start birchos krias shema, then he should do the following: put on talis and tefilin without the appropriate brachos and start birchos hashachar and pesukei d’zimra, again preferably reciting “hanosein lasechvi vinah” after davening. He should schedule himself to reach yishtabach at alos. If time allows, he should follow the opinion that alos is when the entire eastern sky is lit up. If this is not possible, he may rely on the other opinion and start birchos krias Shema at seventy-two or ninety minutes before sunrise. However, when reciting birchos krias Shema he should skip the bracha of yotzeir ohr and start with the bracha of ahavah rabbah (in Nusach Ashkenaz, or ahavas olam in Nusach Sefard). He should then continue with Shema, emes veyatziv and shemoneh esrei. After shemoneh esrei, he should wait until the time of keday sheyakir, touch his tzitzis and recite the bracha on them, touch his tefilin and recite the appropriate brachos and recite the bracha of yotzeir ohr. He should also repeat Shema in order to satisfy the opinion that Shema may only be recited after keday sheyakir (Mishnah Berurah 89:39; Sefer Ishei Yisrael 18:10-11).


Although shemoneh esrei should be recited standing, in extenuating circumstances such as traveling, one may recite it sitting. If he has the possibility of stopping in order to daven while standing, he should do so. However, if stopping or getting out of the vehicle will cause a loss of concentration during the tefilah, or if this is dangerous, or if he is on public transportation and cannot stop, he is permitted to daven while seated (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 94:4-5, Mishnah Berurah 13; Shulchan Aruch HaRav 94:5.

Although the Gemara and poskim discuss whether one may daven while riding an animal (Brachos 30; Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 94:4), it is absolutely forbidden to daven while driving a vehicle. This is because it is considered a threat to human life (Shu’t Avnei Yashfe, chap. 14, footnote #26 in the name of Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt’l).

If one is traveling in a vehicle in which it is possible to stand, e.g., an airplane, lechatchilah, he should attempt to stand throughout shemoneh esrei or at least during the bracha of Avos, at the other points where one bows, and while taking three steps back at the end of shemoneh esrei. However, if one is traveling in a vehicle where it is not possible to stand, e.g., the roof is too low, or he is afraid that he will fall, or if by standing he will not be able to concentrate, he may recite the entire tefilah while sitting (Shulchan Aruch 94:4-5; Shu’t Igros Moshe Orach Chaim IV, #20).


If one has no choice but to sit while davening shemoneh esrei, he must: 1) put his feet together as he usually does while davening, 2) sit straight in his chair and not lean on anything, including the back of the chair and 3) bow his head. Additionally, if he cannot stand up in order to bow during the four required points, he should bow in his seat. The reason for these rules is that although he is seated, he is still speaking to Hashem and his demeanor during tefilah should be no different than when he davens standing (Mishnah Berurah 95:2; Aruch HaShulchan 94:18).

Another similarity between davening standing and in a sitting position is the direction one must face. Just as when one davens while standing he should turn towards Yerushalayim, the same applies to one who davens while sitting. If this is not possible, or if he does not know the correct direction, then he should focus his thoughts on Hashem (Shulchan Aruch 94:3-4 and Mishnah Berurah ad loc.).


Until now we have discussed two procedures of davening for the traveler: davening before the optimum time and davening while seated. As we have seen, both methods are bedi’eved, but permissible because of the circumstances. What should one do if he has a choice between the two options? For example, in a situation where one can either daven before the journey and before the optimum time, but standing, or daven at the choice time during the journey, but while seated. Which option should he choose?

The poskim maintain that since concentration during davening is extremely important and the average traveler will find it difficult to concentrate properly while davening on the road even in a sitting position, it is preferable to daven before the trip and before the optimum time while standing (Mishnah Berurah 89:39).


If one will arrive at his destination or somewhere along the way where he can daven while standing, and the time for davening will not yet have passed, it is preferable to wait and daven while standing than to daven while seated (Mishnah Berurah 89:42).

Lechatchilah, one should daven shacharis before sof zman tefilah, which is a third of the day. One who does so not only receives reward for davening, but also for davening during the correct time. If he missed this optimum time, he is permitted to daven until chatzos (halachic noon). However, in this case, he will only receive reward for davening. (Shulchan Aruch 89:1). Therefore, if one will only be able to daven while standing after sof zman tefilah has passed, it is better to daven during the journey while seated in order to receive the reward of davening during the proper time (Pri Megadim 89, Eishel Avraham 17).

Regarding mincha, the Mishnah Berurah maintains that lechatchilah one should daven before sunset, although if he has not yet davened he may rely on the lenient opinions and daven several minutes after sunset as well (Mishnah Berurah 233:14, Biur Halacha s.v., deheinu). It is not clear in the poskim whether one may delay davening mincha until after sunset in order to daven while standing or whether he should daven beforehand while seated (Ishei Yisrael chap. 23, footnote 51). According to the opinions that one may daven mincha after sunset (see Ishei Yisrael 27:6 and footnotes 11 and 14), it would seem that it is preferable to wait and daven mincha after sunset while standing rather than davening beforehand while sitting.

Although lechatchilah one should daven maariv before chatzos, if he did not do so, he may daven until alos hashachar. While traveling, one may delay maariv until after chatzos in order to recite shemoneh esrei while standing, provided that he will daven before alos (Mishnah Berurah 235:27, Biur Halacha, s.v., zemanah; Mishnah Berurah 89:42).


The Gemara states (Brachos 14b) that if one recites Shema without tefilin, it is considered as if he testifies falsely against himself. This is because during Shema he recites the words, “ukshartom l’os al yadecha” – “and you shall tie them on your hand as a sign,” and he does not do so (Tosafos ad loc.). Therefore, one should always see to it to don tefilin before reciting Shema. However, this is true only where he will not miss sof zman krias shema. If he does not have tefilin available, and by waiting for a pair, the time of Shema will pass, he should daven and recite Shema even without tefilin. At a later point when the tefilin become available, he should don them and recite the parshiyos of Shema again. Therefore, a traveler should make sure that his tefilin are available for davening (Mishnah Berurah 25:14.)


The tefilah of tachanun is recited after shemoneh esrei preferably in a sitting position, and according to minhag Ashkenaz, while resting the head on one’s arm so as to cover the face with the sleeve. Covering the face is referred to as “nefilas apayim” – “falling on the face.” Although tachanun is recited whether or not there is a sefer Torah in the room, nefilas apayim is only done in the presence of a sefer Torah (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 131:1-2). Therefore, a person who davens while traveling should recite tachanun, but without nefilas apayim (unless there is a sefer Torah). (Regarding whether one does nefilas apayim in the presence of sifrei kodesh, the Mishnah Berurah (131:10) cites two opinions.) It is interesting to note that in Yerushalayim the minhag is to do nefilas apayim even where there is no sefer Torah. Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt’l maintains that this minhag only applies in the Old City (Sefer Ishei Yisrael, chap. 25, footnote 39).


According to Rav Shmuel Wozner shlit’a, one is not allowed to daven lechatchilah in place where his concentration will be disturbed. Therefore, he should try whenever possible to daven before or after an airplane flight. If this is not possible, he should follow these guidelines: 1) It is preferable to make smaller minyanim in several places as one large minyan is potentially dangerous and disturbs other passengers. 2) Those that are davening in the minyan should remain in their seats. During shemoneh esrei they should not stand in the aisles, as this disturbs those who wish to pass. Rather, they should either stand in front of their seats or near them. If this is not possible, they should sit during shemoneh esrei. 3) Any instructions from the crew members must be followed (Sefer Vayehi Binso’ah, pg. 31, footnote 79; See also Halichos Shlomo 8:4 in the name of Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt’l, who was not happy with minyanim during flights, as it disturbs the other passengers).


A very important issue that is often misunderstood and needs to be discussed is that of halachic zemanim during an airplane flight. We all know that many halachos, and especially those of tefilah, are governed by zemanei hayom. For example: After alos hashachar it is forbidden to eat until after one davens; shemoneh esrei, as we mentioned earlier, should lechatchilah be recited after sunrise; Shema must be recited within the first quarter of the day; and one may not daven mincha before a half hour after chatzos nor after sunset. While one is on the ground, these zemanim are easy to ascertain; all one needs is a zemanim calendar or at the very least, if he knows when sunrise and sunset is, the rest of the times can be calculated.

However, when traveling by airplane, it is very difficult to calculate halachic zemanim because of the constant change in location. An additional complication is the fact that while traveling eastbound, the length of the day is drastically shortened. Hence, during a summer flight that departs New York for Eretz Yisrael at midnight, alos will occur approximately one and a half hours into the flight, sunrise three hours into the flight and sof zman krias shema five hours into the flight. So although normally, during the summer one has between three and a half to four hours between sunrise and sof zman krias shema, while traveling eastward on an airplane, there are only between one and a half to two hours between them. Thus, one must be careful in this situation to daven as soon as one can, for otherwise he will lose the mitzvah of reciting Shema in its proper time. However this is usually not a problem when flying west, as the length of the day increases.

Until recently, it was practically impossible to know with any certainty when the halachic zemanim take place on an airplane. However, it is worthwhile to point out that there is a website called Chai Air Travel Table ( which calculates the pertinent zemanim for any given flight. These computer-generated tables are calculated using flight information entered by the user, known flight paths and average airplane speeds. Of course even these charts are not perfect, as flight paths can change by hundreds of miles at the spur of the moment, based on air traffic and weather conditions. But, this is the most accurate method available for calculating these very important zemanim.


Another airplane travel issue that needs to be brought to the public’s awareness is that of flights over the Arctic Circle. During the spring and summer months, the area above the Arctic Circle sees little if any night, and during the winter there is little if any day. Because of this, a flight departing Los Angeles on Monday afternoon during the summer and arriving in Eretz Yisrael on Tuesday afternoon will not experience sunset. This creates several questions for the frum traveler: Since there is no nighttime, does he daven maariv? And if so, when? Additionally, since there is no sunrise or sunset, how does one calculate sof zman krias shema in the morning? With regards to flights over the Arctic Circle during the winter, although there will not be a question regarding Maariv, there will nevertheless be a shailah regarding the morning shema, as it possible that by the time the plane reaches a latitude where zemanim can be calculated, the time of shema will have passed.

It is beyond the scope of this article to answer such complex shaylos, rather, anyone who anticipates being in such a situation should discuss it with a competent halachic authority.


While we are on the topic of difficult airplane questions, there is an issue that, although not as common as the previous topic, is no less complex. This is the issue of the International Date Line. This is an imaginary line that runs north to south through the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Anyone crossing it from east to west will lose a day (Monday becomes Tuesday), while those who cross it from west to east will gain a day (Thursday becomes Wednesday). This line was placed where it is by international agreement out of convenience, since  there are very few land masses in that part of the world, it therefore causes less interference than had it been placed elsewhere.

One should be aware that the concept of a date line also exists in halacha. There are various opinions as to where this date line should be placed and according to most, if not all opinions, it is not where the International Date Line is. This causes many practical questions regarding Shabbos observance in the Pacific basin area. Perhaps these issues could be discussed in a future article.

However, the issue relevant to the frum airplane passenger is flying from the Far East to North America on Friday afternoon or from North America to the Far East on Motzai Shabbos. (Although one might be tempted to ask, how can someone frum get on a long-distance flight at noon on Friday, in this case, it is not a question. This is because during the flight, he will cross the date line and gain a day. For example, a flight departing Beijing, China on Friday afternoon will also arrive in New York on Friday afternoon.) One should be aware that in either of these two scenarios, it is very possible that the plane will fly over an area where it is Shabbos before the day changes when crossing the halachic date line. Mashgichim and frum businessmen who travel to the Far East have actually posed these questions.

Again, these questions are very complex and the conscientious traveler should definitely discuss them with a rav if he anticipates such a situation.


“While traveling, one should be extra careful in the performance of mitzvos such as tefilah, tzitzis and tefilin, and should be unconcerned about disparaging remarks of non-Jews [and thus] avoid performing the mitzvah. Chalilah to do such a thing. One must guard himself from all prohibitions and act with piety in all matters while traveling. This is because there is an element of danger in all journeys and how can he protect himself unless he has Torah and good deeds which are a shield against punishment” (Sefer Pele Yo’eitz, Derech).

This article originally appeared in the US edition of Yated Neeman.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *