New York – The halachic laws regarding a woman’s obligation to pray have perhaps been somewhat enigmatic. We have all heard that women are exempt from time-bound mitzvos. And yet, although the mitzvah of davening is a daily obligation, with different times of the day associated with different tefillos and the recitation of the Shema in the morning and evening, numerous poskim, including the Mishnah Berurah, require that women daven.
What are their obligations exactly? What if they generally attend a class, for example, and are running late? Should they skip parts of their regular davening routine? And why are women exempt from time-bound mitzvos anyway?
There are at least two explanations for the idea, which is mentioned in Kiddushin 29a, that women are exempt from time-bound mitzvos. The first explanation is that women are generally entrusted with the important task of overseeing the spiritual development of the children of the family as well as taking care of the physical needs of the family. (See Avudraham in his commentary on the siddur.)
The Maharal (Derashos al HaTorah, end of Sefer Be’er HaGolah, page 28, cited in Pinas HaHalachah) explains that women are on a higher spiritual plane and can more easily achieve d’veikus to Hashem. A woman can therefore achieve her Olam Haba even without the time-bound mitzvos and without the toil that is involved in immersion in Torah studies.
Specific Laws And Customs
Modeh Ani. The Mishnah Berurah rules (1:8) that women are obligated in the tefillah of “Modeh Ani” upon wakening. When it comes to hoda’ah, giving thanks, women are just as obligated as men. (We see that a woman who has given birth is obligated in thanks.) It seems that unless they have a minhag otherwise, they should recite the standard nusach of “Modeh” and not “Modah,” the female conjugation of the verb (based upon Eishel Avraham, O.C. 46).
Netilas Yadayim. Women must also ritually wash their hands, netilas yadayim, in the morning upon waking up. Like men, they can do so after Modeh Ani. If a woman will not be able to daven the other berachos in the morning, she should recite the berachah of Al Netilas Yadayim immediately after washing or, if she needs to use the facilities, she should recite it with Asher Yatzar afterward (see M.B. 1:4 and B.H. “Afilu”). If she will be reciting the other berachos in the morning, she should wait to recite the berachah of Al Netilas Yadayim with davening. The berachah of Elokai Neshamah should also be recited by women. It should ideally be said along with Asher Yatzar (M.B. 6:12).
Birchos HaShachar. Women are obligated in the recitation of the Morning Blessings (M.B. 70:2). Even though they may be considered time-bound mitzvos, women are included in these blessings because they were established based upon the order of the world and its conduct—how mankind benefits daily.
Birchos HaTorah. Women should say the Blessings of the Torah, including Birkas Kohanim and Eilu Devarim (selected passages of the Mishnah) that come right afterward in the Siddur (S.A. 47:14). If, however, one did not say it and subsequently recited Ahavah Rabbah and the Shema in her regular davening routine, she should not later recite the Birchos HaTorah (see Yeshuos Yaakov 47:8; the reason is that her recitation of Kerias Shema is probably considered to be “learning,” since she recites it on account of minhag and not obligation.)
Korbanos. The Mishnah Berurah rules, like the Magen Avraham (47:14), that women should recite the korbanos section of davening—Parashas Olah, Parashas Tamid, and the Ketores. Those who follow the Shulchan Aruch HaRav (Lubavitch women) only have to recite the Korban Tamid (SAR 47:10).
Pesukei D’Zimrah. The Mishnah Berurah rules that women should recite Pesukei D’Zimrah (MB 70:2). This is the minhag of most women who daven regularly. Lubavitch women are not obligated in reciting it, but may do so if they wish (SAR 70:1).
Shema. Although technically women are exempt from reciting Shema, the Shulchan Aruch rules that it is proper to instruct them to accept the yoke of heaven with the recitation of at least the first pasuk. The minhag has spread, however, to recite all three paragraphs of the Shema and its blessings. The section after the Shema known as Emes V’Yatziv should also be recited. Since women are obligated in the tefillah of Shemoneh Esreih, they should also place Geulah (the section after Shema) next to tefillah (i.e., Shemoneh Esreih) in their davening. They must therefore recite the sections right after the Shema and before the Shemoneh Esreih.
Shemoneh Esreih. The Mishnah Berurah rules that women should recite the Shemoneh Esreih for Shacharis and Minchah (M.B. 106:4) since tefillah is a request for mercy. (It may be true for Ma’ariv, as well, but the minhag has not been like this.)
Tachanun. Women are exempt from the recitation of Tachanun (Responsa Machazeh Eliyahu No. 20, as cited in Pinas HaHalachah, p. 40). Women have never accepted the tefillah of Tachanun upon themselves, and the minhag is that they do not recite it.
Ashrei and U’va L’Tzion. Women are exempt from reciting these latter tefillos as well (See Machazeh Eliyahu). The reason is that the prayer of U’va L’Tzion was instituted so that K’lal Yisrael would be involved in a minimum of Torah study each day. The latter Ashrei was instituted to make a separation between the tefillah and the latter Kedushah in U’va L’Tzion. Therefore, women are exempt from both of these tefillos.
Shir shel Yom. Since the recitation of this tefillah was established based upon saying the prayers on the korbanos when they are brought in their proper time (see Maseches Sofrim 18:1) and women are obligated in the recitation of korbanos, it is likely that they are likewise obligated in the Shir shel Yom. Women should therefore recite this tefillah if possible.
Aleinu. The Levush (O.C. 133:1) explains that the prayer of Aleinu was established to recite praise and thanks for Hashem after Shemoneh Esreih just as the Pesukei D’Zimrah was established prior to Shemoneh Esreih. Since this is the case and the Mishnah Berurah does rule that Pesukei D’Zimrah should be recited by women, it seems that they should recite the Aleinu as well.
With this brief overview, we can now return to our original questions about whether a woman who is running late for class should skip portions of davening. While it may not be found in the Shulchan Aruch, there is a general obligation mentioned by almost all of the gedolei ha’mussar and roshei yeshiva of our generation that each and every student should feel an obligation to keep the sedarim of our schools and our yeshivos.
Classes, shiurim, and sedarim should start on time, and it is each student’s obligation to help maintain an atmosphere of punctuality and timeliness. That being the case, young ladies in high school or seminary should make every effort to come on time so they can daven properly and not be late for class.
In the event that she is on time and she cannot keep up with the davening, she should recite the berachos and the korbanos at home and skip the sections after Shemoneh Esreih. Later, after class, she should recite Aleinu and the Shir shel Yom.
Schools should also be careful to ensure that the students have sufficient davening time. It is important to remember that the purpose of tefillah is to further the unique d’veikus Bashem that K’lal Yisrael has enjoyed since the dawn of Jewish history.
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