When a woman is busy with children, what is her obligation to daven? And what tefillos take priority?
By Rabbi Yehudah Roth
As it is well known, women are exempt from mitzvas asei shehazman grama, mitzos that are time bound, such as tefillin, tzitzis and sukkah. However, the Mishna (Berachos 20a) says that while women are exempt from kriyas Shema and tefillin, they are obligated in tefillah. Why the exception? And what is the nature of this obligation? There is a disagreement among the Rishonim and their argument hinges on a fundamental dispute on how we understand the mitzvah of tefillah.
Is Davening a Time-Bound Mitzvah?
The Rambam understands that the mitzvah of tefillah is min hatorah. This mitzvah is to daven any tefillah, once a day, as long as it contains the three basic elements of tefillah: Praise, a Request, and Thanksgiving (שבח, בקשה, הודאה). Chazal later instituted the shemona esrei and the obligation to daven three times a day.
The Rambam explains that while women are exempt from these additional time-bound requirements, they are still obligated in the basic min hatorah obligation which is not time-bound.
Rashi, Tosfos and the Ramban understand that there is no mitzvah min hatorah to daven, rather, the entire mitzvah of tefillah is d’Rabbanan. However, when Chazal
instituted tefillah they did not differentiate between men and women, and all are equally obligated in this mitzvah. The Rishonim offer several reasons why tefillah is different than other mitzvas asei shehazman grama. Most explain that since tefillah is asking for mercy, Chazal obligated women as well because we all need mercy.
Most poskim follow the Ramban, however many poskim note that maariv is not an obligatory tefillah. Men have accepted it upon themselves as an obligation, but women have not. Accordingly women only daven shachris and mincha.
The Magen Avraham notes that the minhag is to rely on the Rambam. This minhag is cited and attested to by many Poskim and was widely followed. Some later poskim offer a rationale for the minhag. They write that women who are busy with raising children as well as running the household, often have no time and find it difficult to daven properly, therefore they may be entirely exempt and can definitely rely on the Rambam.
All of the above is only in regard to shemona esrei. What about the rest of davening?
Women are obligated according to most poskim to say:
birchas hashachar (including the beracha al netilas yadaim, asher yatzar and elokai neshama)
Poskim disagree whether women are obligated to say:
Women are not obligated to say:
the beracha preceding kriyas shema
It is commendable to say the first possuk of shema (with baruch shem) since it containswithin it kabbolas malchus shamayaim.
What should one do?
Ideally women should daven the entire tefillah at least twice a day. Although we have what to rely upon, since most poskim agree that women are equally obligated in this
mitzvah, it is important to try and fulfill this obligation. Furthermore, being that tefillah is such an essential part of our connection and relationship to Hashem, even very busy women should carve out time to daven. In fact the busier we are, the more important it can be to use tefillah to bring Hashem’s presence into our lives.
What should you do if you really don’t have enough time, how should you prioritize in your davening?
- Even if you have no time whatsoever, there is still an obligation to daven birchas hashachar, birchas hatorah and a tefillah which contains the three basic elements.
Poskim agree that that birchas hashachar and birchas hatorah actually contain all three elements and suffices to fulfill the mitzvah.
- If you have more time you should also daven shemona esrei.
- If you have even more time you should add pesukei dezimra (it is enough to say
baruch sheamar, ashrei and yishtabach), the first pasuk of kriyas shema (with
baruch shem), emes veyatziv and musaf when applicable.
- If you have more time add the rest of pesukei dezimra.
Davening should always be done in the order of the siddur and not of importance.
Sefardim: Many Sephardim follow the Rambam and daven only once a day. Those who do so should still try to daven the full shemona esrei as well as kriyas shema. Some poskim are stringent and don’t allow women to say pesukei dezimra and emes veyatziv since ordinarily Sephardi women follow the Shulchan Aruch and don’t make a beracha on a mitzvas asei shehazman grama. Other poskim disagree and allow it for these berachos.