2. [following Halakhah 1, where Rambam defined the Toraic
obligation of T'fillah as being unbound by time...] Therefore,
women and [non-Jewish] slaves are obligated in T'fillah, since it
is a Mitzvat 'Aseh (Mitzvah of commission) which is not
time-bound. Rather, the obligation of this Mitzvah is as
follows: that a person should *mit'hanen* (plead) and *mitpalel*
every day and tell the praise of haKadosh Barukh Hu (the Holy
One, Who is Blessed), then ask for his needs which he needs by
requesting and pleading and then give praise and thanks to God
for the good which He has granted him, each person according to
Women's T'fillah Obligation
by Yitzchak Etshalom
The Mishnah in Berakhot (3:3) states: "Women, slaves and minors
are exempt from K'riat Sh'ma and from Tefillin and are obligated
in Tefillah, Mezuzah and Birkat haMazon (blessings after meals)".
Before analyzing the ruling of the Mishnah in regard to T'fillah
& women, an introductory note is in order: Why are women and
slaves thrown into one category?
[There is a significant debate among the Rishonim about the
"minors" mentioned in this Mishnah. It could be referring to
minors who are of an educable age (Rashi), who are, nevertheless,
exempt from these Mitzvot - or it could be specifically referring
to younger children (Rabbenu Tam); in which case the second
clause of the Mishnah only refers to women and slaves. See the
Rishonim here (Berakhot 20) for the various approaches.]
TWO KINDS OF SLAVES - A THUMBNAIL SKETCH
Before proceeding, it is important to note that there are two
types of *'avadim* (slaves) in the Halakhic universe. An *'eved
'ivri* (lit. Hebrew slave) is a fellow Jew who is either sold
into indentured servitude because he stole and cannot pay back,
or who was so poor that he sold himself into such servitude. This
is the slave who goes free after 6 years, whose ear is pierced if
he chooses to stay after 6 years and who, in any case, goes free
at the Yovel (Jubilee year). An 'eved 'ivri is a 100% Jew and is
bound by all of the Mitzvot - with the exception of one law
within the realm of marriage and procreation. (You can read up
on the 'eved 'ivri at Shemot [Exodus] 21:1-6, Vayyikra
[Leviticus] 25:8-24,39-43, Devarim [Deuteronomy] 15:12-18 and in
MT, Hilkhot Avadim, Chapters 1-3). The institution of 'eved 'ivri
went the way of the Yovel, with the destruction of the first
Temple (586 BCE) and has been "out of practice" since then.
On the other hand, a non-Jew who becomes enslaved to a Jew is
called an *'eved k'na'ani*. Such an 'eved, when he/she enters
the master's house (whether through purchase or through
conquest), goes through a phase of conversion which gives him/her
the status of a member of B'nai Yisra'el - albeit without
*Kedushat Yisra'el* (the sanctity of Yisra'el). After being
freed, the 'eved k'na'ani goes through another conversion (just
ablution) process (the nature of this second ablution is subject
to a debate among the Rishonim - see MT Issurei Bi'ah 13:12 and
Magid Mishneh ad loc.).
An 'eved k'na'ani is obligated to refrain from all Halakhic
violations and to fulfill some Mitzvot 'Aseh - the same ones
which women are obligated to do. This is argued as follows: There
is a corollary between some rules affecting the bill of
emancipation of an 'eved k'na'ani and a divorce write, based upon
the common word "lah" used in both contexts in the Torah (*gamar
lah-lah me'ishah* - Kiddushin 23a). The Gemara in Hagigah (4a)
extends this comparison to obligations of Mitzvot - that any
Mitzvah which is obligatory for women is incumbent on slaves.
Rambam (MT Hagigah 2:1) rules this way.
The Mishnah in Kiddushin (1:7) teaches that women are exempt from
all *Mitzvot 'Aseh shehaZ'man G'rama* - Mitzvot of commission
which are time-oriented. (Examples: shaking Lulav on the first
day of Sukkot, hearing the Shofar on Rosh haShanah, residing in
the Sukkah, T'fillin, Tzitzit). It follows that an 'eved k'na'ani
is also exempt from these Mitzvot. In spite of this rule, our
Mishnah clearly states that women (and slaves) are obligated to
fulfill the Mitzvah of T'fillah. Why is this the case? Is
T'fillah an exception to the rule of "time-bound Mitzvot" or is
it, for some reason, not properly in that category to start with?
THREE APPROACHES TO THE PROBLEM
A) T'fillah may not be time-bound at all. This may sound
surprising, however, once we review the two-tiered obligation of
T'fillah, it will be "easier to hear". If, as Rambam posits, the
Torah obligates us to say T'fillah at some point each day (with
not set time to it), then it is not time-bound on its fundamental
level of obligation. Once the Rabbis enacted three daily
T'fillot - with a time structure - that did not erase the more
essential obligation of the Torah. In other words, if the Torah
obligates everyone to say T'fillah, the Rabbis certainly would
not be coming along to _lessen_ that obligation by building the
number and time structure of daily T'fillot!
B) The rule may not apply to T'fillah. If we take Ramban's
approach, that regular (daily) T'fillah is solely a Rabbinic
obligation, the rule of "time-boundedness" may not apply. There
are Rishonim (cf. e.g. Tosafot Pesahim 108b s.v. she-Af) who
imply that the exemption of women (and slaves) from time-bound
Mitzvot only applies to Mitzvot from the Torah. If T'fillah is a
Rabbinic obligation, T'fillah is unaffected.
C) T'fillah may be an exception on its own "merits". The rule of
"time-bound" exemptions is not hard and fast; there are several
Mitzvot 'Aseh (Mitzvot of commission) which are _not_ time-bound,
yet women are exempt (e.g. reproduction, Talmud Torah) and there
are several time-bound Mitzvot which, for various reasons, women
must perform (e.g. Matzah, Kiddush on Shabbat). Perhaps T'fillah
is another exception. In other words, even though it is
time-bound (in its Rabbinic form) and even though the time-bound
exemption may apply to Rabbinic obligations - we may not apply it
to T'fillah due to other considerations.
THE BAVLI AND ITS "GIRSA'OT"
[Preface: the Babylonian Talmud, although remarkably
well-preserved throughout the ages, does have various,
conflicting manuscripts. The Vilna edition, which is the
conventional printing we use, is only one (and not necessarily
the "best") of several significant manuscripts. The Rishonim had
several different versions - (*girsa'ot* [sing. *girsa*] which
literally means "reading") available and sometimes based their
understanding of the Halakhah on the "preferred" version. In
other cases, they "preferred" one version because it fit better
with their understanding of the sugya in question.]
The Bavli (Berakhot 20b), commenting on the Halakhah in our
Mishnah about T'fillah, states (this is the version as it is
printed in the conventional Gemara):
"*d'rachamei ninhu* (it is *bakashat rahamim* - a plea for God's
compassion). What might you have thought? (in other words, why
did the Mishnah have to teach us this [seemingly] obvious
Halakhah?). Since the verse (T'hillim [Psalms] 55:18) says:
'Evening, morning and noon [I will speak (i.e. pray)]' that
[T'fillah] is like a *Mitzvat 'Aseh shehaZ'man G'rama*, therefore
[the Mishnah] teaches us [that this is not the case]."
[mark/highlight this section, as I will refer to it several times
later on in the shiur.]
The Yerushalmi, commenting on our Mishnah, has a (possibly)
different explanation for women's obligation to say T'fillah. "It
is reasonable [that they are obligated to say T'fillah] - so that
every individual will ask for God's compassion for him/herself."
In other words, even though we might have reason to exempt women
from T'fillah (time-boundedness?), they are still obligated, in
order to promote their personal relationship with God. This is
likely the intent of the phrase *d'rachamei ninhu* in the Bavli.
Rashi rejects the *girsa* of our Gemara, based on one simple
consideration. Commenting on the Mishnah (ad loc. s.v.
v'Hayyavin baT'fillah), he explains: "Because T'fillah is
*rachamei* (see above) and it is d'rabanan (Rabbinically
mandated) and they [the Rabbis] ordained that women should also
Why does Rashi have to bring up the issue of the source for the
Mitzvah of T'fillah? What is the relevance of it being d'rabanan
to our Mishnah? Before answering, let's see how Rashi deals with
Commenting on the Gemara (s.v. hakhi garsinan), he states: "[this
is how we should read the Gemara] - 'T'fillah - d'rachamei ninhu
[see above]' and we do not read *peshitta*, since it is not
d'orayta [from the Torah]."
What is Rashi talking about?
Evidently there was another girsa (besides ours and Rashi's
preferred reading) in which the Gemara, commenting on the
Mishna's statement that women are obligated to say T'fillah,
protests "*peshitta*" - it is obvious! " But there must be more
to this other reading that Rashi does not tell us. If we look
across the page to Tosefot (s.v. baT'fillah), we see the full
reading to which Rashi was referring:
"*peshitta* - it is obvious [that women are obligated to say
T'fillah]; since the verse says: 'Evening, morning and noon...'
that [T'fillah] is like a *Mitzvat 'Aseh shehaZ'man G'rama*,
therefore [the Mishnah] teaches us [that this is not the case].,
because it is *rachamei*."
In other words, the reading that we have in our Gemara (see
above) is very close to the one Rashi rejects - with two
differences, one of them significant. Besides the introduction of
the word *peshitta* (the insignificant difference), the placement
of the terms of the argument are different.
In Rashi's rejected reading (if it is the same as the one
suggested by Tosafot), *d'rachamei ninhu* is the reason that we
don't consider T'fillah to be time-bound - or, perhaps, why we
"override" the time-bound rule.
In our reading, there are two separate issues presented. First
of all, T'fillah is an obligation on everyone because it is
*rachamei*; plus, I might have thought that women are exempt
because of the time-bound consideration, therefore the Mishnah
has to teach us that they are, indeed, obligated.
Truth to tell, as both Rashi (and Bach - see ad loc.) indicate,
our girsa is very hard to comprehend. The one rejected by Rashi
is a bit clearer, as follows. The Gemara comments that women's
obligation should be obvious, since T'fillah is not time-bound.
Then the Gemara suggests why someone would not have assumed that,
since T'fillah is practically done (by Rabbinic mandate) at
specific times and we would have considered T'fillah to be
time-bound; therefore, the Mishnah teaches us that it is not the
case, since *rachamei ninhu* and we don't take the
time-boundedness into account.
Rashi feels that this reading would only make sense if T'fillah
were d'orayta. I believe that Rashi is referring to Rambam's
understanding of T'fillah (which he rejects). If T'fillah were
d'orayta, it would have no set time (since the Tosefta [Berakhot
3:1] explicitly credits the times of T'fillah to the Rabbis) -
and then it would be "obvious" that women are obligated.
Since Rashi maintains that T'fillah is d'rabanan - that the
Rabbis created both the basic obligation of T'fillah and its
times - there is nothing obvious about women's obligation in
T'fillah. The reason for this is quite clear: the rule about
women's obligations applies exclusively to Mitzvot from the
Torah; regarding laws mandated by the Rabbis, we have to see
which group they were addressing when they formulated the law.
Since Rashi maintains that T'fillah is d'rabanan, there is
nothing obvious about who is obligated. Therefore, the *peshitta*
challenge is out of place. According to Rashi, *rachamei ninhu*
explains why the rabbis, when creating the obligation of
T'fillah, included women in that obligation.
Two final notes about Rashi.
A) The implication of his comment is that the rule which exempts
women from time-bound Mitzvot only applies to Mitzvot d'orayta.
This works well with the second proposal suggested above (II
B) Since Rashi maintains that T'fillah is d'rabanan and
(following the Mishnah) women are obligated in T'fillah, it
follows that women are obligated in T'fillah as defined by the
Rabbis. In other words, women are obligated to say T'fillah,
with the liturgical model established by the Rabbis (i.e. the 19
Berakhot during the week, 7 on Shabbat and Yom Tov), two or three
times a day (see below).
Tosafot (ibid), following Rashi's lead that T'fillah is
d'rabanan, sets out to "defend" the girsa which Rashi rejected.
The gist of their defense is that the rule of time-bound
exemptions seem to apply to Mitzvot d'rabanan. Their proof-text
is from Hallel [the festive recitation of T'hillim 113-118 on
holidays]. Hallel is a Mitzvah d'Rabanan which is time-bound. It
is recited on certain days - and only during the daytime - hence
the "time-bound" status. If the time-bound exemption didn't
apply due to its status as d'rabanan, women would be obligated in
the Mitzvah of Hallel. However, the Mishnah in Sukkah seems to
indicate that women are exempt from Hallel. Clarifying this issue
and the various approaches to it is well beyond the scope of this
shiur. In any case, Tosafot more or less adopt Rashi's position
- and *rachamei ninhu* explains why the Rabbis chose to include
women in this Mitzvah. The Rosh (Berakhot 3:13) clearly takes
The commentary attributed to the students of Rabbenu Yonah
(printed with the RIF on Berakhot), suggests a different reason
for the obligation of women in T'fillah. Even though T'fillah
does have a set time (which would be cause for exemption -
following Tosafot's suggestion that the time-bound exemption also
applies to Rabbinic laws), since R. Yohanan b. Zakai said
"Ideally a person should say T’fillah all day" (see our shiur,
titled T'fillah: Header, for a discussion about this statement) ,
it is considered like a Mitzvah which is not time-bound. This
seems to accord with the third approach suggested above - that
even though T'fillah should follow the rule of time-boundedness
and women should be exempt, since it has a unique feature, they
are obligated. What is that feature? That it is something which a
person would ideally be doing constantly, hence it loses some of
the edge off of its time-boundedness. Another way of
understanding it is that a Mitzvah which is so important and
central to our spiritual life that the Rabbis encouraged people
to be involved in it at all times is not something from which it
is appropriate to exempt anyone.
What is clear from the Rambam is that women are obligated in
T'fillah. What remains to clarify is - how intense is their
obligation? There are several possibilities here:
A) They are obligated to say T'fillah following the structure
created by the Rabbis - two or three times a day (yet to be
discussed - see below), at the times set for those T'fillot,
using the words found in the Siddur.
B) They are obligated to say T'fillah once a day at the proper
time for that T'fillah (whichever one they choose - perhaps),
again using the Siddur.
C) They are obligated to say T'fillah once a day - at any time,
again, from the Siddur.
D) They are obligated to say some sort of prayer to God which
follows the pattern which Rambam claims is d'orayta (praise,
request, thanks) - at any time of day, once a day.
E) They are obligated to say some sort of prayer to God once a
day, at any time.
There is no direct help from the Rambam, although the last
possibility doesn't seem to be possible, considering that Rambam
himself defines the d'orayta structure of T'fillah as praise,
request and thanks - if women are obligated in the "d'orayta
level" of T'fillah, it follows that they must at least fulfill
the d'orayta mandate. Nevertheless, Magen Avraham (Orach Hayyim
106:2) suggests that the common custom (at his time) for women
not to "daven" might be defended along those exact lines! They
are following the Rambam and, since they say some sort of prayer
upon waking up (e.g. Modeh Ani), that is sufficient. Many
Aharonim take exception to this approach, on two accounts. First
of all, most Rishonim maintain that T'fillah is d'rabanan and,
according to them, women must certainly say a full T'fillah in
the morning and the evening. Second, even following the Rambam,
it is clear that "just any prayer" doesn't fit the Torah's basic
structure, in which they are obligated.
However, there is good reason to argue that even according to
Rambam, women are obligated in T'fillah twice (or thrice) daily,
at the proper time and with the conventional liturgy.
As we follow Rambam's treatment of the historical development of
T'fillah through the rest of the first chapter, we never find
that the Rabbis established some other level of T'fillah - beyond
that which is mandated by the Torah - for some extraneous reason.
Unlike, for example, the laws of Muktzeh (not moving certain
items on Shabbat), which were ordained by the Rabbis in order to
strengthen and protect the spirit and laws of Shabbat (see MT
Shabbat 24:12), the Rabbinic "version" of T'fillah was created in
order to make the T'fillah itself more "successful" (read ahead
in our chapter and you'll see what I mean). It was not meant as
a protection or "fence" for T'fillah - it became T'fillah itself.
Following that reasoning, once women are obligated to say
T'fillah (from the Torah law) - and once T'fillah becomes
"refined" by the Rabbis, the refinement becomes the "new"
definition of T'fillah - and women are obligated to say T'fillah
according to that new model.
The Shulhan 'Arukh (Orach Hayyim 106:2), who patterns his ruling
here after our Rambam, seems to indicate that women are fully
obligated to say T'fillah in the conventional manner (i.e. the
right times, liturgy etc.).
In our sugya (Berakhot 20b), in the Gemara's explanation for the
inclusion of "T'fillah" in the Mishnah,
Rashi reads: "*d'rachamei ninhu*" - and that's it. In other
words, the Gemara is explaining why the Rabbis chose to obligate
women in T'fillah. (See Sh'agat Aryeh #12 at the end)
Tosafot reads: "*peshitta* - it is obvious [that women are
obligated to say T'fillah]; since the verse says: 'Evening,
morning and noon...' that [T'fillah] is like a *Mitzvat 'Aseh
shehaZ'man G'rama*, therefore [the Mishnah] teaches us [that this
is not the case]., because it is *rachamei*." Tosafot defend this
girsa on grounds that rabbinic laws are also subject to the
Rabbenu Yonah (likely) reads like Tosafot.
Rambam likely reads like Rashi, since the time-bound factor never
enters into his approach.
THREE DAILY T'FILLOT - OR TWO?
Several times in the shiur, I alluded to the notion that women
may only be obligated to say T'fillah twice a day - even
according to Rashi (, Ramban) and Tosafot. The full treatment of
the subject belongs to Halakhah 6 in our chapter; but a few words
are in order here.
Once the Rabbis established a fixed number of daily T'fillot,
they did so in concert with the daily offerings in the Mikdash.
There was a morning offering and an afternoon offering - and,
complementing these, the Rabbis established a morning T'fillah
("Shacharit") and an afternoon T'fillah ("Minchah"). Although the
evening is an especially auspicious time for reflection,
meditation and prayer, there is no corresponding offering in the
Mikdash. A debate raged both through Tannaitic times and during
the period of the Amoraim as to whether the nighttime T'fillah
("Arvit") with which they were all familiar was obligatory or
Surprisingly, the Halakhah is that Arvit is voluntary; however,
since the Jewish people accepted it upon themselves as an
obligation, it has the force of law. Some of the Aharonim (e.g.
Mishnah B'rurah, OC 106:4, Arukh haShulhan OC 106:7) debate
whether this "acceptance" affects women, who did not actively
accept Arvit as an obligation. Therefore, some authorities
maintain that even according to Rashi (et al), women are not
obligated in Arvit.
now, to the questions:
Q1: What is the relationship between the quality of being
"time-bound" and women's obligation to say T'fillah?
YE (Yitz Etshalom ): See shiur above.
Q2: Why are women and non-Jewish slaves included in one
YE: See shiur above.
Q3: Why are these three components (praise, request, thanks)
the basics of T'fillah?
YE: See the response to the next question.
Q4: Following the previous question, why is the order of these
three significant (Rambam seems to indicate - "and then...";
impliying that the order matters)?
YE: The next shiur will focus on this issue; it will be titled
"T'fillah 1:02b" and will come out next week.
Q5: In practical terms, what is the obligation of T'fillah for
YE: See shiur above. Please keep in mind that this shiur is not
intended to serve as practical Halakhic instruction. In case of
a question, contact your local Halakhic authority.