It is commonly asked: What should a woman do when she arrives at the synagogue on Shabbat morning and the congregation is about to start the Amida? For men there are detailed halakhot that govern this situation. On one hand, the primary purpose of praying with a minyan is to recite the Amida with the congregation, and one skips Pesukei De-zimra to do so. On the other hand, men may not skip Birkhot Keri’at Shema so that they adjoin redemption to prayer (see Peninei Halakha: Prayer, 14:5 n. 8; 25:4). In contrast, women are not obligated to recite Birkhot Keri’at Shema and hence need not adjoin redemption to prayer. On the other hand, they are not obligated to pray with a minyan.
The answer is that technically every woman may decide for herself how to practice. If she wishes, she may pray the entire service, from Pesukei De-zimra to Keri’at Shema and its berakhot to the Amida. And if she wishes, she may pray the Amida right away with the congregation. This is because women are exempt from Pesukei De-zimra and Birkhot Keri’at Shema as well as from praying with a minyan with the congregation. As a result, there are two values in play, and each woman may choose which value she prefers. Most important is kavana; whatever she thinks will allow her to have more kavana is what she should do.
However, if a woman asks, it is best to recommend that she skip Pesukei De-zimra and Birkhot Keri’at Shema in order to pray the Amida with the minyan. Since a woman’s primary obligation is to pray the Amida only, it is preferable that she prays the Amida in the best possible way, with a minyan. She will also then have the opportunity to answer “amen” and respond to the Kedusha in Ĥazarat Ha-shatz and to hear the Torah reading. She should still make sure to recite Birkhot Ha-shaĥar and Birkhot Ha-Torah before the Amida, and if she has more time she should also say Shema and Emet Ve-yatziv so that she fulfills the mitzva to remember the Exodus and adjoins redemption to prayer. 1
- Women are exempt from Pesukei De-zimra according to most poskim, as we learned above, 15:4, and that is the common practice. Women are obligated to recite the Amida according to the vast majority of poskim, as we learned above, 2:2-5. The reason for the enactment to recite Pesukei De-zimra is to prepare for the Amida, for after introductory praises, the Amida is recited more properly, as explained in Peninei Halakha: Prayer 14:1, and is therefore more likely to be accepted. However, the Sages say that the prayer of one who worships with the congregation is certainly accepted (Berakhot 8a); thus, minyan is of greater value of Pesukei De-zimra. When it comes to men, since the Sages instituted berakhot for Pesukei De-zimra, the ruling is that they may not skip them, as explained in Peninei Halakha: Prayer 14:5. However, since women are fully exempt from Pesukei De-zimra, it seems that they should pray the Amida with the minyan. The very fact that a woman comes to the synagogue implies that her foremost desire is to benefit from praying with a minyan, so it is preferable that she prays with the congregation. If she wants, she may recite Shema and its berakhot afterwards, but it is not necessary to make up Pesukei De-zimra (ibid. n. 9). However, I saw that Halikhot Shlomo ch. 5 n. 4 states that since women do not have a mitzva to pray with a minyan, she should pray in the correct order. Nevertheless, it seems that even though there is no mitzva, there is still value in praying with a minyan, for the Shekhina dwells within a minyan, and when a minyan prays it is an auspicious time. Therefore, in my humble opinion, it is preferable that she fulfill her obligation in the optimal way. R. Naĥum Rabinovitch concurs and adds that even concerning men we regret that a prolonged prayer becomes routine and is no longer supplication, so it is not proper to instruct women to add prayers in which they are not obligated, for there is reason to be concerned that doing so will impair their kavana; it is better to have less prayer with kavana than more prayer without. Still, it seems to me that if she can say Emet Ve-yatziv before the Amida, all the better, for we have already learned (above, 16:3) that even though women are technically exempt from remembering the Exodus, some poskim maintain that they must remember it, so Emet Ve-yatziv has an advantage over the other Birkhot Keri’at Shema. ↩