Peninei Halakha

03. Order of Preference in the Shaĥarit Service

A woman who is preoccupied with raising her children may fulfill her obligation to pray by reciting Birkhot Ha-shaĥar and Birkhot Ha-Torah. In extenuating circumstances even a woman without that burden may fulfill her obligation by reciting only those berakhot (above, 2:4-6). However, a woman who wishes to fulfill the mitzva of prayer in accordance with the main thrust of the halakha recites Birkhot Ha-shaĥar, Birkhot Ha-Torah, the first two verses of Shema, and Shemoneh Esrei (above, 2:5).

If she wants fulfill the mitzva more meticulously, she mentions the Exodus, in order to fulfill her obligation according to the poskim who maintain that a woman must commemorate the Exodus daily. If she wishes to perform the mitzva of remembering the Exodus in the best may, she recites the berakha of Emet Ve-yatziv and adjoins the Amida to the berakha on redemption (see below, 16:3).

One who has more time and wants to enhance the mitzva even further recites the main parts of Pesukei De-zimra: Barukh She-amar, Ashrei until the end of the Halleluyot (six psalms), and Yishtabaĥ (below, 15:4). One who wants to add more prayers recites Shema and its berakhot. Beyond that, she may add the passages of the Tamid and the incense before Pesukei De-zimra (below, 15:1-2). If she wishes to say more, she may completes all of Pesukei De-zimra.

Nonetheless, it must be reiterated that the mitzva of prayer for women in accordance with the halakha is fulfilled in its totality by reciting Birkhot Ha-shaĥar, Birkhot Ha-Torah, the first two verses of Shema, and the Amida. Beyond that, women are not obligated. The woman praying must take care not to allow her desire to enhance the mitzva by adding more passages and berakhot to ruin her kavana in the main passages of prayer. Therefore, if she is concerned that increasing the quantity of her prayer will diminish her kavana, she should recite the obligatory prayers without adding to them.

However, in educational institutions, girls should be taught to pray the whole prayer service: Birkhot Ha-shaĥar, Birkhot Ha-Torah, the passage of the Tamid offering, Pesukei De-zimra, the Shema and its berakhot, and the Amida. Since these girls are single and in an organized framework, it is good that their prayers, too, possess an enhanced structure and that they become familiar with the entire prayer service. Still, after the girls have learned the order of the prayers and are accustomed to it, care should be taken to ensure that the essence of their prayers is kavana and the request for mercy. If the teachers see that lengthy prayers detract from kavana, it is proper to let the girls who wish to shorten their prayer to say what they are obligated to say without additions. 1 a plea for mercy and supplication before God.” Similar words are written in m. Berakhot 4:4. Women especially must be meticulous about this, as explained above (3:8-9). For me, the structured framework of prayer has become more important than kavana and sadly overshadowed it, and consistency has prevailed over supplication; yet, this is the customary practice, as it establishes and institutionalizes sanctity within communities. However, there is no reason to impose this upon women as well. Therefore, if extra prayers will detract from her kavana, it is a case of subtraction by addition. Everything we have written about prioritizing extra prayers applies to one who will not lose kavana by taking on additional prayers.

The prioritization is established in accordance with two principles. The first principle is the extent of women’s obligation, and the second is the individual significance of each part of prayer. Thus, a biblical commandment is of greater priority than a rabbinic requirement. Thus, most important is the recitation of Birkhot Ha-shaĥar (including Birkhot Ha-Torah) and the Amida, for they are obligatory. Although it is uncertain whether or not there is a full obligation to recite Birkhot Ha-Torah, it is clear that women customarily recite them every day, as explained in SA 47:14. Additionally, according to most poskim, they have a biblical basis. Moreover, they are brief and there is no burden in saying them. Therefore, they must be recited with Birkhot Ha-shaĥar. Concerning the first verses of Shema, although there is no obligation to recite them, SA 70:1 rules that it is proper to recite them (see below, 16:1). Since they have a biblical basis, their significance is well known, and they do not take a long time to say, they take priority over other prayers. Next in importance is the commemoration of the Exodus, for according to MA, women are obligated to remember the Exodus. Although most poskim disagree with MA, there is a great mitzva in doing so, for it is a biblical commandment, and it can be fulfilled with the recitation of just one verse at the end of Va-yomer (the third paragraph of Shema). If she wishes to enhance the mitzva, she can mention the Exodus from Egypt in the recitation of Emet Ve-yatziv, thereby also gaining credit for adjoining the berakha of redemption to the Amida, as explained below, 16:13. Next in virtue is Pesukei De-zimra, for there are poskim who maintain that women must recite them. Although it is evident that, according to most poskim, women are exempt from Pesukei De-zimra, their recitation is a rabbinic command, and the halakha follows the lenient opinion (below, 15:4). Still, all agree that their recitation is preparation for prayer, and therefore they precede other passages. One should recite the essential parts of Pesukei De-zimra, that is, the berakhot and the six Halleluyot.

Next in priority are the rest of the Shema and its berakhot. Although some poskim maintain that women must recite the Tamid passage, in practice it is clear that they are not obligated to do so, as explained below (15:2). Moreover, this is a matter of uncertainty concerning a rabbinic command, in which case the halakha follows the lenient opinion. Therefore, it is preferable that whoever has extra time recites Shema and its berakhot. Although it is clear that women are exempt from them, there is great virtue in the recitation of both Shema and its berakhot. Next in priority is the Tamid passage, a prayer which some poskim maintain that women should preferably recite. Next in importance is the recitation of verses of the incense that are connected to the Tamid passage, as explained below (15:1-2, n. 1).

Next in priority are the remaining passages and verses of Pesukei De-zimra, which are not the main part of Pesukei De-zimra (see below in 15:5 and Peninei Halakha: Prayer, 14:2 n. 3). There are women who wish to enhance the mitzva even more and say the whole prayer service in order, from the passage of Akedat Yitzĥak in the beginning of Korbanot until Aleinu, as brought by Kaf Ha-ĥayim 70:1.

Perhaps we can suggest that instead of the verses of Birkat Kohanim and the beraita recited after Birkhot Ha-Torah, women can recite a verse mentioning the Exodus and perhaps the Tamid passage as well, thereby fulfilling the obligation according to those poskim who maintain that women are required to recite them. After all, it is necessary to study Torah right after Birkhot Ha-Torah, but it is not necessary to recite specifically that beraita and those verses. Perhaps a verse that mentions the Exodus and the Tamid passage should be printed in siddurim instead.

Berur Halakha (Zilber) 1:70 and Ishei Yisrael 7:18 present a different order regarding three things. First, they state next in priority after Emet Ve-yatziv is are Barukh She-amar, Ashrei, and Yishtabaĥ and only then should Birkhot Ha-shaĥar and Birkhot Ha-Torah be recited. This is very difficult to explain, for according to practically all of the poskim the recitation of Birkhot Ha-shaĥar is obligatory (see above, ch. 6 n. 1). Likewise, regarding Birkhot Ha-Torah, women are so accustomed to saying it that it is considered an obligation (SA 47:14; see above, 7:3 n. 3). In contrast, women are exempt from the recitation of Pesukei De-zimra according to virtually all poskim, as explained below, 15:4 n. 2. Additionally, it is always proper to say Birkhot Ha-shaĥar, for in extenuating circumstances, a woman may fulfill her obligation to pray by reciting them, as explained above, 2:5. If they are not recited first, in extenuating circumstances one will not recite anything. The second change mentioned by Berur Halakha and Ishei Yisrael pertains to Pesukei De-zimra and is explained below, 15:7 n. 5. The third change is that they maintain that Pesukei De-zimra takes priority over the first verse of Shema. From my words above, it is clear why I do not concur. ]

  1. Avot 2:13 states: “Do not make your prayer fixed, but [make it

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Series Editor: Rabbi Elli Fischer

The Laws of Shabbat (1+2) - Yocheved Cohen
The Laws of Prayer - Atira Ote
The Laws of Women’s Prayer - Atira Ote
The Laws of Pesach - Joshua Wertheimer
The Laws of Zemanim - Moshe Lichtman

Editor: Nechama Unterman