commandments.92 Should a woman wish to perform such a mitsvah, she is free to do so and will receive the appropriate heavenly reward.93 But what if a woman deliberately decides to perform a time-determined commandment in an incorrect fashion? Certainly, she will accrue no divine credit for her actions, but will she thereby violate any biblical injunction? Let us imagine, for example, a woman who, on Sukkot, takes in her hand only three of the requisite four species with the intention of thereby performing the prescribed religious ritual. A man doing the very same act at the very same time would be viewed as transgressing the above injunction of “. . . nor diminish from it,”94 but most scholars rule that a woman does not violate any injunction and cannot be charged with an “incomplete” fulfillment of the mitsvah. As a general rule, no one—male or female—can be criticized for having performed the mitsvah incorrectly when he or she was under no obligation to perform the ritual in the first place.95
Consequently, a woman who fails to say one of the requisite additions (me-ein ha-me’ora, e.g., ya’ale ve-yavo on festivals) to the amida service, which (according to various opinions) she had no obligation to pray, need not repeat the amida correctly; had a man omitted the very same section, he would certainly be required to recite the amida properly.96 Having had no obligation to pray the amida altogether, the woman’s omission of the addition is arguably not a critical flaw—it is not an incomplete fulfillment of the mitsvah.97
The same would hold true, therefore, for women who prefer praying in a women’s prayer group rather than with a male minyan. Since women are not obligated in tefilla be-tsibbur to begin with, their prayer—even absent those sections of the service reserved for a minyan—can in no way be deemed flawed.
It should also be noted that inasmuch as tefilla be-tsibbur is not mandatory for women, it is at best a hiddur mitsvah, i.e., a more preferable manner of fulfilling their prayer obligation.98 But praying with greater concentration, understanding and personal meaning—“kavvana”—is also an enhanced and elevated mode of prayer.99 For those women who find that women’s prayer groups enable them to pray with increased kavvana, the question then arises: which form of hiddur mitsvah takes priority, tefilla be-tsibbur or kavvana? This question is not unique to women and has been debated with regard to properly constituted male minyanim as well. Many authorities have squarely ruled that praying with increased kavvana takes precedence over tefilla be-tsibbur even for men. Thus, these scholars permit one to pray alone in the privacy of his home,100 or individually, at his own pace, in the