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 the Musaf prayer on those days: Shabbat, Rosh Ĥodesh, festivals, and Ĥol Ha-mo’ed.
The poskim disagree about whether women must pray Musaf. Some say that since in Musaf a request for mercy is made, it is therefore similar to the other obligatory prayers, which are obligatory for women as well according to Ramban. Furthermore, since these prayers were instituted in honor of the sanctity of the day, just like women are commanded to say kiddush on Shabbat, so too they must pray Musaf (Magen Giborim). Others say that because the Musaf prayer is time-dependent, women are exempt (Tzlaĥ). In practice, because this is a rabbinic mitzva, the halakha follows the lenient opinion, and women are not obligated to pray Musaf, although one who wishes to may do so and it is to her credit. On Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, it is proper that every woman prays Musaf, since the primary request for mercy on the Days of Awe is made in the Musaf prayer. 1
The Sages instituted the recitation of Hallel for men on holidays and on Ĥanuka. It is also customary to recite Hallel on Rosh Ĥodesh. Because the recitation of Hallel is dependent on time, women are exempt, although one who wishes to recite it is praised. As noted, Sephardic women do not make a berakha on the Hallel, whereas Ashkenazic women do. 2
- The crux of this disagreement may hinge on the dispute between Ramban and Rambam. According to Ramban, women must recite all prayers instituted by the Sages, including Musaf, whereas according to Rambam, they are only obligated in one daily prayer but exempt from Musaf, for which time is a determinative factor. One may argue that even according to Ramban women are exempt from praying Musaf because women are only obligated to recite prayers whose essence is for mercy, and the essence of the Musaf prayer is the fact that it corresponds to the korban musaf and not that it is a request for mercy. Moreover, since the korban musaf was taken from the half-shekel that was given as a donation to the Temple (maĥatzit ha-shekel), and women are exempt from the mitzva to give half a shekel, they are therefore also exempt from praying Musaf. Conversely, one might argue that in Musaf a request for mercy is made and therefore it pertains to women just like men. Furthermore, women also were granted atonement by bringing the musaf offering, and therefore they too must pray Musaf. As a rule we are lenient regarding rabbinic uncertainties, and therefore women are exempt from praying Musaf; however, if they wish to recite it, they may. (Still, Yalkut Yosef part 1, p.187, states that it is best that they fulfill their obligation by hearing the ĥazan recite the prayer, because these berakhot are dependent on time, and according to him, even though they are not technically considered berakhot recited upon mitzvot, it is necessary in this case to be cautious not to recite a berakha le-vatala. Nonetheless, he agrees that if they pray by themselves, they have on whom to rely, especially concerning Musaf of the Days of Awe and Ne’ila. Kaf Ha-ĥayim 286:7 states that the custom is that women pray Musaf just as they pray Shaĥarit.) ↩
- See above n. 9. As noted, even among the Sephardic poskim there are those who maintain that women are permitted to recite a blessing, whereas some Ashkenazic poskim say that it is preferable not to recite a blessing. So state Yaavetz and Yeshu’ot Yaakov 422:6. See below, ch. 23 n. 9. ↩