NOT FOR CIRCULATION WITHOUT THE EXPRESSED PERMISSION OF THE AUTHORS - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED ©2010
Published in Tradition, 32:2, pp. 5-118 (Winter 1998).
Rabbi Aryeh A. Frimer is Ethel and David Resnick Professor of Active Oxygen Chemistry at Bar Ilan University.
Rabbi Dov I. Frimer is an attorney practicing in Jerusalem and Adjunct Professor in the Faculty of Law at The Hebrew University.
Women’s Prayer Services — Theory and Practice1
Part 1: Theory
(Revised January 12, 2010)
R. Joseph B. Soloveitchik has described prayer as “a basic experiential category in Judaism,” one through which our forefathers achieved a covenant with God and through which we expect eventually to realize that covenant. The people of Israel is “a prayerful nation.”2
It comes as no surprise, therefore, that both men and women are enjoined by Jewish law to pray daily, though there is some difference of opinion as to the extent of the obligation. Yet, despite this basic requirement to pray, women need not fulfill their obligation within the context of communal services—tefilla be-tsibbur. Moreover, ten women who join together in prayer—as opposed to ten men—cannot constitute the minimum quorum of ten individuals, a minyan, necessary by law to recite certain passages and texts generally reserved for public worship, including, inter alia, the kaddish, kedusha, barekhu or the thirteen attributes of God, the repetition of the amida, and the reading of the Torah and the haftara with their attendant blessings. While there are occasions within Jewish practice where women do count towards a minyan, public prayer is not among them.3 As a result, the synagogue service has historically remained almost exclusively male-oriented.
In the early 1970’s, however, the Women’s Liberation Movement stimulated within traditional Jewish student circles a re-examination of the role of women in Judaism. This coincided with an accelerating growth of higher-education opportunities for women in all areas of Jewish studies, including Talmud, halakha, Tanakh, and Jewish thought. The