01. The Place of Prayer

The Sages instituted that men pray with a minyan and in a synagogue, but they did not institute that women pray with a minyan. Clearly there is value in praying with a minyan in a synagogue for women as well, because the divine Presence dwells within the minyan and the synagogue is a place dedicated for prayer. Additionally, if a woman prays with a minyan she has the opportunity to answer “amen” Kaddish and Ĥazarat Ha-shatz, to participate in the recitation of Kedusha and Modim, and to hear Birkat Kohanim. Nevertheless, the Sages did not institute prayer with a minyan for women, in order to prevent conflict between the obligations prayer with a minyan in a synagogue and care for her family, for devotion to the family is more important (above, 3:2). As we learned, women are obligated to pray because they too must ask for mercy. 1 However, the institution of prayer with a minyan is not linked to the actual request for mercy; rather, it is an separate matter mitzva that demands more time. Women are thus exempt (see above, 3:8-9, regarding the conceptual difference between men’s and women’s prayer).

On Shabbat and festivals, when there is more free time, many women habitually pray in the synagogue. Likewise, there are women, mainly older women no longer burdened by family demands, who enhance the mitzva by praying every day in the synagogue. Below (20:1-2; 22:7) we will expand on the virtue of prayer with a minyan in a synagogue.

  1. This is based on Ramban’s approach, as explained above, 2:2 n. 1, where we learned that according to Ramban and most poskim, the Sages instituted Shaĥarit and Minĥa as obligatory for women. Even though these prayers are time-bound mitzvot, women are required to recite them, since they too must request mercy. Rambam (according to the accepted interpretation) maintains that prayer is a biblical commandment independent of time, whose obligation is once a day, regarding which women are commanded from the Torah. Following the establishment of the specific times for the prayers by the Sages, women must also pray at the designated times for Shaĥarit or Minĥa, as explained above, 2:3 n. 2.