The following is a discussion of Halachic topics related to the Parsha of the week.
For final rulings, consult your Rav.
And I shall take out My legions--My people the Children of Israel--from the land of Egypt. (7:4)
In the merit of the righteous women in that generation they were redeemed from Egypt. (Sotah 11b)
WOMEN AND PRAYER: OBLIGATIONS AND EXEMPTION
The Halachah obligates men to pray (daven) to Hashem three times
every single day--Shacharis, Minchah and Ma'ariv. The degree to
which women are obligated to daven, however, is a subject
debated by the early poskim. There are halachic authorities who
exempt women from formal davening altogether as long as they
recite a simple supplication in the morning (1). Other poskim
maintain that women are rabbinically obligated to daven twice a
day--Shacharis and Minchah (2)--just like men (3). Although most
poskim agree with the second view that women are obligated to
daven (4), it was a rare woman who davened in the olden days.
Running a household was an all-consuming task (5), and many women
were illiterate to boot (6).
Nowadays, we are witnessing a remarkable turnaround in regard
to women and tefillah. Many women, especially single girls and
older women, have assumed the obligation of davening regularly,
as the halachah dictates. Even busy mothers attempt to daven as
often as they possibly can.
Nevertheless, women are still not as free to daven as men and
the demands on their time may legitimately conflict with the
halachic times for davening. We will therefore list, in order of
importance, the parts of davening which take priority for a
woman whose time is limited (7). Depending on how much time she has
she should recite as many as she can, and recite them in the
order in which they appear in the siddur:
Any simple supplication (8), such as the Yehi ratzon that is usually said at the end of Birchos ha-Shachar (9). Reciting a supplication is the very least a woman must do according to all the poskim.
A supplication that opens with praise of G-d (shevach) and ends with thanksgiving for His benevolence (hoda'ah), such as Birkas ha-Torah (10).
Shemoneh Esrei of Shacharis and Minchah. This is the minimum requirement according to most poskim (11).
The first verse of Shema (12) and Baruch Shem (13). Although women are technically exempt from Shema since it is a time-based mitzvah, the poskim recommend that at the very least they recite the first verse, which is the declaration of accepting Hashem's sovereignty upon oneself (14)
Birchos ha-Shachar (15), including Birchos ha-Torah (16). [If a woman has already davened Shemoneh Esrei, she should not say the blessing of Al netilas yadayim, since that blessing can be said only before davening (17).]
The blessing of Emes v'yatziv until Ga'al Yisrael (18), followed
immediately, without any break, by Shemoneh Esrei, so that they
fulfill the mitzvah of semichas geulah l'tefillah--the halachic
requirement that no break take place between Shemoneh Esrei and
the blessing that precedes it.
Pesukei d'Zimrah (19).
The entire Shema (20) prefaced by Kel melech ne'eman (21).
The blessings of Yotzer ohr and Ahavah rabbah (22)
As mentioned earlier, a woman who has the time to do so, should
daven all of the parts of the davening that we have listed, in
the right order and at the right time.
SOME ADDITIONAL NOTES:
Birchos Kerias Shema and Shemoneh Esrei should be recited
l'chatchilah before the fourth hour of the day has elapsed. If a
woman is unable to daven before then, she may recite Shemoneh
Esrei until midday (chatzos) (23), but she should not recite
Birchos Kerias Shema (24).
Since it is prohibited to eat before davening Shacharis (25),
women also should not eat before davening. Women who exempt
their obligation to daven by reciting a supplication, as
explained earlier, may eat after doing so (26).
Women are exempt from Tachanun, Ashrei, U'va l'tziyon and the
Shir shel yom (27). It has become customary for them to recite
Aleinu after Shemoneh Esrei (28).
Women are exempt from Hallel on Rosh Chodesh, Pesach (29), Sukkos
and Shavous, because it is a time-based mitzvah (30). Some poskim
require women to recite Hallel on Chanukah (31), while others
exempt them (32).
The poskim debate whether women are obligated to daven Musaf or
not (33). It is customary that they do (34).
Note that in all cases in which women may be exempt, such as the
daily Ma'ariv, Hallel, Musaf, Ashrei and U'va l'tziyon, they are
still permitted to daven those tefillos.
1 Magen Avraham 106:1 based on the view of the Rambam.
2 All the authorities agree that women are not obligated in
Ma'ariv, since Ma'ariv was initially established as a voluntary
prayer even for men. Although eventually men accepted Ma'ariv as
an obligation, women did not
3 View of the Ramban (Sefer ha-Mitzvos 5).
4 Mishnah Berurah 106:4.
5 The Chafetz Chayim's son reported (Sichos Chafetz Chayim, pg.
13) that his mother rarely davened when her children were young.
She said that the Chafetz Chayim exempted her from davening
during that period in her life.
6 Harav M. Feinstein (quoted in Ko Somar l'Beis Yaakov, pg. 29)
once remarked that the fact the many women were illiterate and
were not required by the rabbanim to learn how to read is proof
that they relied on the poskim who did not require women to
daven Shacharis and Minchah, although women certainly recited
supplications. See below.
7 The list is formulated for Ashkenazic women only, since some
Sephardic poksim (see Yechaveh Da'as 1:68; 3:3) rule that women
are not allowed to daven certain parts of the davening from
which they are exempt.
8 Mishnah Berurah 106:4.
9 Suggested by Harav Y. Kamenetsky (oral ruling quoted in Ko
Somar l'Beis Yaakov, pg. 31)
10 Machazeh Eliyahu 19:5-15. If she has intention to fulfill her
obligation of tefillah through the recitation of Birkas ha-Mazon
she may do so-- ibid.
11 Mishnah Berurah 106:4. See also Mishnah Berurah 263:43.
12 Rama O.C. 70:1
13 Kaf ha-Chayim 70:1 quoting the Levush.
14 Mishnah Berurah 70:4; 106:4. It is not, however, required
that the Shema be said within the time frame allotted to men--
Eishel Avraham (Butchach) 70:1. See also Aruch ha-Shulchan 70:2.
15 Mishnah Berurah 70:1; Aruch ha-Shulchan 70:1.
16 O.C. 47:14. See Beiur Halachah that according to the Gr"a
women are exempt from Birchos ha-Torah. Accordingly, a woman who
is short of time should give priority to the other blessings.
17 Mishnah Berurah 4:1. [Some poskim rule that a woman who
cannot find time to daven [or recite Kerias Shema] and must rely
on the poskim who allow her to fulfill her obligation with any
brief supplication, should not recite the blessing of Al netilas
yadayim upon washing her hands in the morning, since this
blessing is said only in preparation for davening--Machazeh
18 This blessing is given priority in order to satisfy the view
of some poskim who hold that women are obligated to fulfill the
daily mitzvah of Zecher l'Yetzias Mitzrayim (the daily mitzvah
to remember the Exodus)--Magen Avraham 70:1. Many other poksim
do not agree with this obligation.
19 The poskim disagree about whether women are exempt from
Pesukei d'Zimrah--see Mishnah Berurah 70:1; Sha'ar ha-Tziyon 4;
Aruch ha-Shulchan 47:25; 70:1; Yechaveh Da'as 3:3. [Contemporary
poskim also disagree about whether women who come late to shul
should skip Pesukei d'Zimrah in order to daven b'tzibur, since
women are not considered as part of the tzibur--see Avnei
Yashfei, 2nd edition, pg. 202-203.]
20 Although clearly exempt from reciting Kerias Shema, it has
become customary for women to try to recite the entire Shema, so
that they, too, accept Hashem's sovereignty and commandments
21 Minchas Elazar 2:28.
22 Aruch ha-Shulchan 70:1.
23 Harav M. Feinstein (quoted in Ko Somar l'Beis Yaakov, pg.
34); Machazeh Eliyahu 19:5-14. [Logically, women should not
daven Shacharis earlier than alos amud ha-shachar. A woman who
is unable to daven at a later time, may daven Shemoneh Esrei
then, although that Shemoneh Esrei may count for Ma'ariv and not
24 Halichos Beisa 5:5 quoting several poskim.
25 O.C. 89:3.
26 See Kaf ha-Chayim 286:30. See Igros Moshe O.C. 4:101-2 who
questions if women are prohibited to eat after reciting a
supplication even if they are planning to daven later.
27 See Machazeh Eliyahu 20, Halichos Beisa, pg. 51-52 and
Halichos Bas Yisrael, pg. 44 who offer various reasons for this.
28 Machazeh Eliyahu 20.
29 Except for the Hallel said at the Seder, which they are
obligated to recite.
30 Beiur Halachah 423:2.
31 Toras Refael O.C. 75; Minchas Pitim 683; Moadim u'Zemanim
2:146. See also Igros Moshe O.C. 1:190.
32 Beis She'arim O.C. 359; Machazeh Eliyahu 22.
33 Both views are quoted in Mishnah Berurah 106:4 without a
34 Kaf ha-Chayim O.C. 286:7. See also R' Akiva Eiger, O.C. 106.