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Weekly Halacha

Parshas Toldos

By Rabbi Doniel Neustadt

A discussion of Halachic topics related to the Parsha of the week. For final rulings, consult your Rav.


The Halachah obligates men to daven 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 morning1. 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:

1. Reciting a simple supplication is the very least a woman must do according to all the poskim. Any supplication that opens with praise of G-d (shevach) and ends with thanksgiving for His benevolence (hoda'ah), such as Birkas ha-Torah(8) is sufficient(9).

2. Shemoneh Esrei of Shacharis and Minchah. This is the minimum requirement according to most poskim(10).

3. The first verse of Shema(11) and Baruch Shem(12). 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(13).

4. Birchos ha-Shachar(14), including Birchos ha-Torah(15). [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(16).]

5. The blessing of Emes v'yatziv until Ga'al Yisrael(17), 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.

6. Pesukei d'Zimrah(18).

7. The entire Shema(19) prefaced by Kel melech ne'eman(20).

8. The blessings of Yotzer ohr and Ahavah rabbah(21).

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:

1. 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)(22), but she should not recite Birchos Kerias Shema(23).

2. Since it is prohibited to eat before davening Shacharis(24), 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(25).

3. Women are exempt from Tachanun, Ashrei, U'va l'tziyon and the Shir shel yom(26). It has become customary for them to recite Aleinu after Shemoneh Esrei(27).

4. Women are exempt from Hallel on Rosh Chodesh, Pesach(28), Sukkos and Shavous, because it is a time-based mitzvah(29). Some poskim require women to recite Hallel on Chanukah(30), while others exempt them(31).

5. The poskim debate whether women are obligated to daven Musaf or not(32). It is customary that they do(33).

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 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.

9 See Emes le-Yaakov O.C. 106:1 and Halichos Shelomo 2:4.

10 Mishnah Berurah 106:4. See also Mishnah Berurah 263:43.

11 Rama O.C. 70:1

12 Kaf ha-Chayim 70:1 quoting the Levush.

13 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.

14 Mishnah Berurah 70:1; Aruch ha-Shulchan 70:1.

15 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.

16 Mishnah Berurah 4:1.

17 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.

18 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.]

19 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 upon themselves.

20 Minchas Elazar 2:28.

21 Aruch ha-Shulchan 70:1.

22 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 for Shacharis.]

23 Halichos Beisa 5:5 quoting several poskim.

24 O.C. 89:3.

25 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.

26 See Machazeh Eliyahu 20, Halichos Beisa, pg. 51-52 and Halichos Bas Yisrael, pg. 44 who offer various reasons for this.

27 Machazeh Eliyahu 20.

28 Except for the Hallel said at the Seder, which they are obligated to recite.

29 Beiur Halachah 423:2.

30 Toras Refael O.C. 75; Minchas Pitim 683; Moadim u'Zemanim 2:146. See also Igros Moshe O.C. 1:190.

31 Beis She'arim O.C. 359; Machazeh Eliyahu 22.

32 Both views are quoted in Mishnah Berurah 106:4 without a decision.

33 Kaf ha-Chayim O.C. 286:7. See also R' Akiva Eiger, O.C. 106.

Weekly-Halacha, Copyright © 2002 by Rabbi Neustadt, Dr. Jeffrey Gross and Project Genesis, Inc.

Rabbi Neustadt is the principal of Yavne Teachers' College in Cleveland, Ohio. He is also the Magid Shiur of a daily Mishna Berurah class at Congregation Shomre Shabbos.

The Weekly-Halacha Series is distributed L'zchus Hayeled Doniel Meir ben Hinda. Weekly sponsorships are available--please send email to the moderator, Dr. Jeffrey Gross

The series is distributed by the Harbotzas Torah Division of Congregation Shomre Shabbos, 1801 South Taylor Road, Cleveland Heights, Ohio 44118--HaRav Yisroel Grumer, Marah D'Asra



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