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Is a woman obligated to pray thrice daily?

by Rabbi Dov Grossman

  

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The Short Answer:


Women have a general biblical obligation to pray but are not necessarily obligated in the three daily rabbinic prayers. 


The Askmoses Answer: 


A woman’s obligation to pray is very interesting. It touches on some of the most basic definitions of prayer. To leave the discussions between the greatest Jewish scholars behind the scenes, the basic Halachah1 is that a woman is obligated to pray twice daily; once in the morning, (Shacharit) and once in the afternoon (Minchah).2 The evening (Maariv) prayer, which even for men was not originally an obligation,3 was never established for women. Thus, a woman is only required to pray twice daily.4 This requirement only applies to the actual Amidah, the nineteen benedictions which constitute the main body of prayer, and are considered to be the most crucial. The other prayers which are said are not included in this obligation, but are certainly recommended for one who has the time.


She has a daily requirement to offer a prayer, any sort of prayer
However, there is a dissenting opinion5 which maintains that a woman has no obligation to pray any specific prayer at any specific time. Rather, she has a daily requirement to offer a prayer, any sort of prayer. It can be as short as a few words of prayer upon getting out of bed, or at any other time.6


The halachah, though, follows the first opinion, and does obligate a woman to pray twice daily.


Interestingly enough, traditionally, women have followed the dissenting opinion. Whatever the reason, women would not make a point of praying the two Halachically required prayers, but would rely on a short supplication offered at their own convenience.


In recent times, however, women have become more conscious of their obligation to pray twice daily, and many have begun doing so.

Footnotes

  • 1. Shulchan Aruch O.C. 106:2; see also Magen Avraham.
  • 2. The reasoning of the halachah is based on the assumption that there is no biblical concept of daily prayer at all; and the idea of daily mandatory prayer is entirely of rabbinic origin. (See "Is it a Mitzvah (commandment) to pray?"(http://www.askmoses.com/en/article/577,2080045/Is-it-a-Mitzvah-commandment-to-pray.html),) The rabbis, while introducing the concept of daily prayer, at the very same time also introduced the various forms and times of prayer. Thus, there can be no distinction between the obligation to pray daily and the various forms of prayer, as the two were introduced simultaneously. Being that the rabbis wanted to include women in their requirement to pray daily, they also had to include them in the various forms of prayer, as there can be no distinction between the two. (Although women are normally exempt from time-related mitzvot, the rabbis felt it proper to include them in the mitzvah of prayer, as prayers arouse Heavenly mercies.)
  • 3. See "What is Maariv?" (http://www.askmoses.com/en/article/577,168/What-is-Maariv.html).
  • 4. There is an opinion that a woman is obligated to pray all three prayers, but that is beyond the scope of the accepted halachah.
  • 5. Ibid.
  • 6. This is due to the fact that this opinion holds that there is a biblical requirement for daily prayer (i.e. to pray once a day, at any time, for any thing). The rabbis later established the various forms of prayer, i.e. nineteen benedictions, three times a day, etc. Since women are exempt from all time-related mitzvot, the rabbis did not deem it necessary to include them in their (time-related) amendments of the Torah’s requirement. Thus, women merely follow the biblical model of prayer.

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RELATED CATEGORIES

Women & Judaism » Women's Mitzvot » Obligations/ Exemptions
Mitzvot » Prayer » Laws and Customs

Halachah
Jewish Law. All halachah which is applicable today is found in the Code of Jewish Law.
Halachically
According to Jewish law.
Amidah
Highlight of every prayer, recited silently while standing. Weekday Amidah consists of nineteen blessings, Sabbath and holiday Amidah contains seven blessings.
Shacharit
Morning prayer service. One of the three prayers a Jew is obligated to pray every day.
Maariv
Evening prayer service. One of the three prayers a Jew is obligated to pray every day.
Minchah
Afternoon prayer service. One of the three prayers a Jew is obligated to pray every day.