Women in the Minyan and as Shelihot Tzibbur

(OH 106)

Question: 
Are women required to recite the amidah three times a day? Are they required to recite musaf and neilah? Is it permissible to count them in the minyan for barekhu, kaddish, and the repetition of the amidah? May they serve as cantor for shaharit, minhah, ma'ariv, musaf, and neilah?

Responsum: 
According to the Mishnah (Berakhot 3:3), women are required to recite the tefilah, and tefilah in the Mishnah does not mean "prayer" but rather the amidah or the eighteen benedictions. The discussion of this Mishnah in the Bavli (20b) had been preserved in three different versions and the Rishonim ruled according to the text which they had in front of them. The Rif, Maimonides and others ruled that tefilah was originally a positive commandment for men and women without a fixed time or text; when Ezra and his court enacted fixed times and texts, men and women were obligated equally. Halakhot Gedolot, Rashi and Ramban ruled that tefilah was originally a rabbinic enactment, which applied equally to men and women since tefilah involves asking God for mercy. In any case, according to the Mishnah, the Bavli in all of its versions and the Rishonim cited in the responsum, women are required to recite the amidah three times a day exactly like men. Furthermore, there are many testimonies from the Talmudic period until the eighteenth century which prove that women actually prayed every day and even three times a day at home or in the synagogue just like men.

There is a disagreement among the Aharonim as to whether women are required to recite musaf, but the proofs adduced by both sides are not very convincing. In such a case, it is preferable to rely on the early sources and, according to the plain meaning of the Mishnah and the Rambam, women are required to recite musaf and neilah just as they are required to recite shaharit, minhah and ma'ariv.

Barekhu, kaddish and the loud repetition of the amidah are usually called devarim shebikedushah and many authorities forbid women from being counted in the minyan for these prayers. However, this prohibition is nowhere mentioned in the Talmud or in the Rambam. On the contrary, a careful reading of the Talmud and the Rambam reveals that it is permissible to count women in the minyan for these prayers. The Talmud derives the need for a minyan for certain ceremonies from a derashah found in Megilah 23b (= Berakhot 21b). The very same derashah appears word for word in Sanhedrin 74b as an asmakhta for sanctifying God's name in the presence of a minyan. The latter passage in the Talmud assumes that Esther and other women are required to sanctify God's name in the presence of ten Jews, and this was codified by the major codes of Jewish law. Furthermore, a number of authorities ruled that women may even be counted in the minyan required for the sanctification of God's name. It is clear from the identical derashot adduced in these two passages that devarim shebikedushah and kiddush hashem are two sides of the same coin, since they both stem from the desire to sanctify God's name in public. Therefore, if it is permissible to count women in the minyan for kiddush hashem, they can be counted in the minyan for barekhu, kaddish and kedushah as well.

Finally, there is a basic principle that whoever is obligated to do something, may fulfill the obligation of the congregation (Mishnah Rosh Hashanah 3:8). We have proved above that women are required to recite the amidah in every prayer service and that they are required to sanctify God's name in public. As a result, it is permissible for them to act as cantor for all of the parts of the service under discussion.

Rabbi David Golinkin
In favor: Rabbi Michael Graetz
Rabbi Gilah Dror
Rabbi David Frankel
Rabbi David Lazar
Rabbi Simchah Roth
Opposed: Rabbi Yisrael Warman


Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies
P.O. Box 16080, 4 Avraham Granot Street, Jerusalem 91160 Israel
phone: (972-2) 679-0755 fax: (972-2) 679-0840 email: pr@schechter.org.il

New York Office: 
Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies, Inc.
475 Riverside Drive, Suite #244
New York, New York 10115-0244 USA
phone: (212) 870-3173 fax: (212) 870-3176 email: schechter@jtsa.edu

ResponsaForToday.com