accurately observes. Certainly, halakhic women’s services, in which the Torah is read without the introductory barekhu or the usual keriat haTorah benedictions before and after each aliyya, are making a clear statement that this reading is most definitely not a fulfillment of the rabbinic obligation of keriat haTorah. Such a Torah reading may be unnecessary, but it is not misrepresentation.
3. Splitting a Prayer Community and Be-rov Am Hadrat Melekh: R. Schachter’s third major criticism of women’s services is based on the verse, “Be-rov am hadrat Melekh”—“In the multitude of people is the King’s glory.”143 From this passage, the rabbis derived that it is preferable to perform commandments and rituals together with or in the presence of large numbers of people.144 This principle has been invoked by several posekim to prevent existing minyanim from splitting into smaller groups over petty differences;145 because of be-rov am, the larger, undivided prayer community is clearly preferred. The posekim were willing to entertain approving a split only when the dispute was insoluble (such as differing customs or nusah) or when the rift had already become so deep that the factions were irreconcilable. Since the desire to pray with other women is not of fundamental halakhic importance, it is not a valid reason, argues R. Schachter, for condoning a break-away women’s service.146
We note, however, that be-rov am is only one of many possible forms of hiddur mitsvah, of which some forms may be preferred over others. For example, doing a mitsvah at the earliest possible opportunity (zerizin ma-kdimin le-mitsvot) takes precedence over be-rov am.147 For this reason, davening at sunrise (ke-vatikin) even in a small minyan is deemed much preferable to davening later in the day with a much larger congregation.148
Other, more relevant considerations also set aside be-rov am. The responsa literature points out repeatedly that one may daven where he has greater kavvana149 or where there is greater decorum.150 Posekim151 argue very poignantly that the decision of where one has greater kavvana is very personal and highly subjective. In the words of R. Judah Greenwald:152
“If they know in their soul that somewhere else they will daven with greater kavvana, no matter what the reason should be, it is obvious that they can gather elsewhere . . . .”
Many generations earlier, R. Samuel de Modina153 likewise stated: