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There is a minhag with many chasidim to prepare before davening with psalms, mussar, chasiduth, or any learning to awaken the heart to prayer. Was this a practice of the Besht or was it taken on by later rebbes? We have seen in S.A. 93 that any learning after Oloth Hashachar prior to davening is assur (with 4 exceptions)

It is permissible to learn until Olot HaShachar. However, once Olot Hashachar comes, it is forbidden to begin learning until one has prayed. Some are lenient to permit learning after Olot HaShachar until close to HaNetz HaChama. Nonetheless, it is permissible to learn even after Olot Hashachar in any of the following three circumstances:

  1. if one is learning in the place where a tzibbur will come to daven,

  2. if one asked a friend who was not learning to remind one to daven before the latest time of Shema and Tefilla,

  3. or if one was teaching Torah to a group or is learning in a group and if there is no concern that one will miss the latest time for Shema.

  4. Some add that it is permissible if one is not learning in-depth.

(halachipedia.com)

so is there a heter for this behaviour?

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    All Jews do that. Traditionally it's called Pesukei DiZimra. – Double AA Mar 21 '17 at 11:40
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    True but I mean specifically with learning a text outside of the siddur – yonatanhakatan Mar 21 '17 at 11:59
  • Why does it matter where the text is printed? Some Siddurim include more stuff, some include less. – Double AA Mar 21 '17 at 12:00
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    Is that what this custom is? To learn something new before Davening? That is likely prohibited according to Halakha (OC 93). Either way you should clarify in the question what the practice you are asking about is exactly. – Double AA Mar 21 '17 at 12:06
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    חסידים הראשונים היו שוהין שעח אחת: מנא הני מילי א״ר יהושע ב״ל אמר קרא. hebrewbooks.org/shas.aspx?mesechta=1&daf=32b&format=pdf – user6591 Mar 21 '17 at 14:09
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It has been around since david hamelekh altho in a different form. When david said 'shamreini kel ki Chasid ani' he was referring to his practice to rise at midnight vchule (berachos 3b). First siman in S.A. O.C states that g-d fearing people should arise at midnight and say tikkun chatzoth then learn til the dawn when they would daven netz/vasikin. Therefore hachanas have been around a long time but not in the 'getting around to davening around 11a.m.' way.

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    Why do you assume that the learning references in the shulhan arukh is meant as a preparation for prayer? – mevaqesh Mar 21 '17 at 15:03

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