Chapter: Laws of Women’s Prayer

Laws of Women’s Prayer

01. Prayer

Prayer is one of the principal expressions of belief in God. People are not perfect; they are flawed and they long to improve themselves. They therefore turn to the Creator of the world in prayer. Human imperfection is apparent on … Continue reading

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02. The Prayers of Our Ancestors and Prophets

We learn in the Tanakh that whenever our ancestors and the prophets needed help, they turned to God in prayer. The patriarch Avraham stood in prayer and begged that Sodom not be destroyed. God answered him that if there were … Continue reading

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03. The Effect of Prayer

God established a law in creation: when we awaken ourselves to approach the Almighty and request a blessing from Him, He, in turn, is aroused from above to bestow good on us, according to our needs and the world’s needs. … Continue reading

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04. Is Prayer a Biblical Obligation?

The Rishonim disagree about whether there is a Torah commandment to pray every day. According to Rambam (Sefer Ha-mitzvot, mitzva 5), there is a biblical commandment to pray daily, as the Torah states (Shemot 23:25), “Serve God your Lord,” and … Continue reading

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05. The Institution of Prayer by the Men of the Great Assembly

The Men of the Great Assembly instituted the prayers and the blessings (Berakhot 33a). They set the wording of the Shemoneh Esrei and formulated all the berakhot, including those recited before and after the recitation of Shema (Birkhot Keri’at Shema) … Continue reading

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06. The Fixed Formula (Nusaĥ)

Establishing a uniform formula that is repeated thrice daily in prayer has a certain disadvantage. Prayer is likely to become routine and one may lose the kavana that is aroused when one prays to God in her own words. On … Continue reading

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07. Instituting Three Prayers

In addition to the special prayers that our forefathers said in times of trouble, they also set times in which they prayed to God (Berakhot 26b). Avraham established Shaĥarit. It was he who first illuminated the world with his faith, … Continue reading

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08. Kavana and Those Who Find it Difficult to Concentrate

Prayer is considered avoda she-ba-lev (worship of the heart); therefore its essence is dependent upon kavana. This is what the pious and people of deeds would do: They would meditate and concentrate on their prayers until all physicality fell away … Continue reading

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01. A Brief Outline of Women’s Obligation

According to most poskim, women and men are equal regarding the obligation to pray, and therefore women are obligated to recite Shemoneh Esrei of Shaĥarit and Minĥa, while Ma’ariv remains voluntary. Others maintain that women are only obligated to recite … Continue reading

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02. According to Most Poskim Women Are Obligated to Pray Shaĥarit and Minĥa

The Sages of the Mishna say that women are obligated in the mitzva of prayer (Berakhot 20b). According to most poskim, this mishna means the prayers instituted by the Sages apply to men and women alike. Of the three daily … Continue reading

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03. The Poskim Who Maintain that Women Are Obligated to Pray One Daily Prayer

Some poskim say that according to Rambam, women are only obligated to pray once daily because in Rambam’s opinion, the mitzva of prayer is rooted in the biblical commandment to turn to God in prayer daily. Since this mitzva is … Continue reading

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04. The Poskim Who Maintain that Women Fulfill Their Obligation with Birkhot Ha-shaĥar and Birkhot Ha-Torah

There are lenient poskim who maintain that according to Rambam’s opinion women are only bound by the biblical command, that is, they are required to recite some sort of prayer every day. They fulfill this mitzva with any petition to … Continue reading

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05. The Practical Halakha

Le- khatĥila it is best for women to recite the Amida of both Shaĥarit and Minĥa every day. If they pray only once a day, they have fulfilled their obligation. Even though, according to most poskim, women are obligated to … Continue reading

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06. Women Occupied with the Care of Their Children

Women who are busy tending to their young children and occupied with managing the household are permitted le-khatĥila to fulfill the mitzva of prayer by reciting only Birkhot Ha-shaĥar and Birkhot Ha-Torah. As we learned (section 4 above), some poskim … Continue reading

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07. The Rules Governing Which Mitzvot are Incumbent upon Women

As a rule, women and men are equally obligated to perform the mitzvot, with the exception of time-bound positive mitzvot, from most of which women are exempt, as the Sages say in the Mishna (Kiddushin 29a), “Concerning all positive time-bound … Continue reading

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08. Are Women Permitted to Recite Blessings on Time-Bound Mitzvot?

A woman who wishes to voluntarily fulfill the positive time-bound mitzvot receives reward for doing so, although it is not the same as a man’s reward. As R. Ĥanina states, “Greater is the [reward for] one who is commanded to … Continue reading

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09. Musaf and Hallel

It is a biblical commandment to bring additional communal korbanot (sacrificial offerings) on specific special occasions to honor the sanctity of those times. These offerings are called “musafim” (additions). To correspond to these offerings, the Sages instituted the recitation of … Continue reading

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10. Torah Reading

All agree that women are exempt from Torah reading on weekdays and holidays; however, on Shabbat, according to MA 282:6, women must hear the Torah reading, for the Sages instituted that the whole Torah must be heard through the course … Continue reading

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01. Men and Women – Mutually Complementary

As a rule, there is equality between the sexes. Men and women are all created in the divine image, and the uniqueness of the Jewish people inheres in Jewish women and men alike. The Torah was given to all Israel, … Continue reading

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02. Why Women Are Exempt from Positive Time-Bound Mitzvot

The simple and conventional reason why women are exempt from positive time-bound mitzvot is so that they can fulfill their destiny of building the family home. An enormous responsibility is placed upon women: to create and sustain the family, upon … Continue reading

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03. Intellect and Emotion

My teacher, R. Zvi Yehuda  Kook, regularly emphasized the principle that men and women are equal. However, after positing that key precept, he would occasionally dwell on the differences between man and woman: “The element of intellect is more discernible … Continue reading

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04. The Virtue of Men and Intellect

Intelligence is what separates human beings from all other living creatures. It enables man to investigate, reach conclusions, plan action, and make significant changes in the world. It allows people to cooperate, organize themselves as a community, and achieve tremendous … Continue reading

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05. The Superiority of Women and Emotion

By contrast, emotion, which receives and is impressed upon, is able to grasp faith more naturally and spontaneously. From this standpoint, women are closer to the Divine ideal and are more universal. It is through the manifestation of the divine … Continue reading

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06. A Hierarchy of Virtues

First there must be an acknowledgment of the value of the Torah and its study and an awareness of the virtue of the time-bound mitzvot, which illuminate every-day life. It is man’s job to be responsible for the preservation of … Continue reading

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07. Love and Partnership

On its own, every attribute is deficient. The discerning, studying intellect is liable to lose the vitality that stems from its connection to the divine. Likewise, due to its constant involvement in principles and rules, it is liable to lose … Continue reading

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08. Prayer: Communal and Personal Elements

Based on what we have learned, it is possible to better comprehend the significance of women’s prayer. Two elements come into play in prayer, one personal and one collective. The personal is the individual’s appeal to the source of life, … Continue reading

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09. Women’s Prayer

In contradistinction to the aforementioned, in women’s prayer, the personal element is more pronounced. Because women are exempt from time-bound positive mitzvot, they do not need to recite Pesukei De-zimra, the Shema and the berakhot associated with it, or the … Continue reading

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01. Wake Up Like a Lion

“One must become strong like a lion to arise in the morning to serve his Creator, for he should be the one who awakens the dawn” (SA 1:1). The way one gets up in the morning largely indicates her spiritual … Continue reading

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02. Modesty (Tzni’ut)

Even when one is alone is her house, it is proper that she acts modestly, and covers her body. She should not say, “Here I am in the privacy of my own room; who can see me?” for God’s honor … Continue reading

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03. Getting Dressed and Putting on Shoes: The Practice of the Pious

The practice of the pious (minhag ĥasidim) is to begin with the right side in all matters, because the Torah attributes more importance to one’s right side (as in the ritual of sprinkling the blood of a leper’s guilt offering … Continue reading

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01. The Morning Netilat Yadayim

Yisrael 2:29 and Halikhot Shlomo 2:5). The essential objective of netilat yadayim before Shaĥarit is cleanliness, as it is written (Tehilim 26:6): “I wash my hands clean,” and as detailed in Berakhot 15a. The reason for washing one’s hands before … Continue reading

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02. Ru’aĥ Ra’ah (Evil Spirit)

In addition to the reasons mentioned, the Sages of the Talmud state (Shabbat 108b) that one must be careful that her hands do not touch her mouth, nose, eyes, or ears before washing her hands in the morning because there … Continue reading

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03. Ru’aĥ Ra’ah Today

According to Zohar and the kabbalists, one must wash her hands immediately upon waking from her sleep so as not to prolong the ru’aĥ ra’ah upon her hands. They also caution against walking more than four amot before washing one’s … Continue reading

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04. The Time to Recite Al Netilat Yadayim

The correct time to recite “al netilat yadayim” is immediately after washing and before drying one’s hands. However, the general rule regarding all berakhot recited upon the performance of mitzvot, is to recite the berakha first and then perform the … Continue reading

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05. One Who Did Not Sleep All Night

The poskim disagree about the status of one who stayed up all night. In practice, SA 4:13 states that such a person must wash her hands before prayer without a berakha. That way, on one hand, she fulfills her obligation … Continue reading

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06. Hand Washing Three Times after Daytime Sleep

Why exactly does the ru’aĥ ra’ah linger specifically on one’s hands? Is it the mere state of sleep, when one’s consciousness abandons her and she is left without the ability to function? If so, even one who sleeps during the … Continue reading

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07. Waking in the Middle of the Night to Tend to a Baby or for Any Other Reason

A woman who wakes up in the middle of the night in order to cover her child or give him a pacifier need not, technically speaking, wash her hands before doing so, although she must be careful not to touch … Continue reading

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08. Food Touched by Unwashed Hands

We learned (section 2 above) that because ru’aĥ ra’ah rests upon one’s hands in the morning, one must not touch food or drink before netilat yadayim. If a Jew touched food without washing her hands, the ruling is as follows: … Continue reading

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09. Minors

Several major Aĥaronim write that it is important to ensure that even small children wash their hands in the morning. Even though they have not yet reached school age (gil ĥinukh), since they touch food, their hands must be washed … Continue reading

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01. Berakhot of Thanksgiving

The Sages instituted the recitation of many blessings immediately upon awakening in the morning. The purpose of these blessings is to thank God for the good that He bestows upon us every day. The Talmud (Berakhot 60b) teaches that when … Continue reading

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