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Imagine that there's an mitzvah which I can do. It might be obligatory, or it might not be. For example, tefillin, prayer, kiddush, havdalah, shofar, feeding my pet, visiting the sick, Torah study, or something else.

May I do other activities beforehand? For example, shaving, showering, working, reading the newspaper, checking my email, drinking some water, or something else.

Also, what if it's too early for me to do the mitzvah, but the time when I can start the mitzvah is coming soon?

Is it affected by whether I have the right intentions in mind before I start the other activity?

Note: I am defining the term "mitzvah" broadly, to include other actions like paid computer consulting. That might also be a mitzvah (chesed / kindness). See Reward Miles to Heaven by Rabbi Shlomo Schwartz. Or see page 27 of An Offer You Can't Refuse by Rabbi Yissocher Frand, which includes material based on a parable from the mashgiach of the Grodno yeshiva.

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  • Perhaps consider editing the question to make it more general and less personal. E.g. framing it as a general question about activities before prayer without mentioning freelance computer consulting in particular.
    – mevaqesh
    Jun 18, 2015 at 4:57
  • Your question is very general and is answered in reasonable detail here: halachipedia.com/… I can't give that link as an answer as links can't be full answers.
    – CashCow
    Jun 18, 2015 at 11:14
  • @CashCow doesnt answer before tefilin in particular Jul 13, 2022 at 16:59
  • @mevaqesh u say it should be more general, cashcow says it should be less general. Based on that I think its just right Jul 13, 2022 at 17:25
  • @B"H "For example, tefillin, prayer, kiddush, havdalah, shofar, feeding my pet, visiting the sick, Torah study, or something else." The scope of this question is way too large. Each of the aforementioned have specific halakhoth governing what takes precedent. I would vote to close this as needing more focus, but with an open bounty that's not possible. Jul 14, 2022 at 0:08

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In regards to the mitzvah of Krias Shema, (without Maariv) the MB in 235:17 says it has the same rules as before Mincha which are mentioned in SA 232:2

וה"ה דאסור אז לעשות כל המלאכות המבוארות לעיל בסימן רל"ב ס"ב שהם דברים המביאים לידי פשיעה וכ"ש כשהגיע זמן ק"ש בודאי אסור להתחיל בהן [לבוש ופמ"ג ברל"ב ודה"ח] וא"ר מצדד להתיר בהם קודם שהגיע זמן ק"ש

The Shaare Tzion in 235:18 brings a machlokes Rishonim if only things that might cause a person to get distracted and forget to do the mitzvah are a problem but everything else is permitted, or if all types of work are forbidden. This machlokes is brought in the Biur Halacha in 232:2 as well -

וכן כל כיוצא בו אבל תפירה וכתיבה ושאר דברים שאדם רגיל להסתלק מהן לחצי שיעור מתחיל וכשיגיע זמן תפלה מפסיק עכ"ל וכונת המאירי במש"כ קצת מפרשים הוא להרשב"א המובא ברל"ה בב"י ואפשר שכן הוא ג"כ דעת המגן אברהם ולהכי כתב כיוצא בזה וכ"כ הפמ"ג אמנם מסתימת לשון מהרי"ו שהביא המגן אברהם בסק"ח משמע דס"ל שבכל מלאכה אסור ובמקום הצורך יש לסמוך להקל

Each of your scenarios would have to be evaluated if it liable to cause a person to get distracted and forget until the time has passed or not.

It is clear that the MB holds that the laws for mincha apply to other mitzvohs as well, definitely Krias Shema.

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