attendant blessings along with her voluntary performance of the time-determined mitsvah. While the “unnecessary” performance of a mitsvah usually does not clash with any direct prohibition,8 pronouncing a berakha she-eina tserikha (an unnecessary benediction) is normally proscribed on the grounds that it is essentially taking God’s name in vain.9 Furthermore, the text of the blessing is troublesome. After all, the traditional form of these benedictions reads: “Blessed art Thou, Lord our God, King of the universe, Who has sanctified us with Thy commandments, and commanded us (ve-tsivanu). . . .” Since women are not commanded to perform mitsvot asei she-ha-zeman geramman, how can they honestly proclaim that the Almighty has “commanded us”? Nevertheless, the noted Tosafist, R. Jacob Tam,10 rules that petura ve-osa me-varekhet: women voluntarily performing mitsvot asei she-ha-zeman geramman may also recite the attendant benediction. He argues that the prohibition of a berakha she-eina tserikha is actually rabbinic in origin, not biblical.11 As such, the Sages were free to carve out an exception for women, allowing them to make these “unnecessary” and seemingly improper benedictions when performing time-dependent mitsvot.
The crux of R. Goren’s argument is that the petura ve-osa me-varekhet principle enunciated by Rabbeinu Tam is a special dispensation, unique to women and granted to them in order to give them spiritual satisfaction (“bi-khdei la-asot nahat ru’ah la-nashim”).12 It should be pointed out that this concept actually appears in the halakhic literature as the rationale behind another rabbinic dispensation for women. When one brings a sacrifice, he is obligated in semikha, namely, to place his hands on the animal’s head and press down. Although women are freed from this obligation of semikha, because of the above principle they may do so should they desire, though unnecessary contact with a sacrificial animal is usually rabbinically forbidden. R. Goren suggests that similarly, in the case of the recitation of unnecessary benedictions, it was the rationale of “bi-khdei la-asot nahat ru’ah la-nashim” which allowed Rabbeinu Tam to formulate his petura ve-osa me-varekhet principle, thereby setting aside the rabbinic prohibition of taking God’s name in vain.13
R. Goren further suggests that Rabbeinu Tam’s approach, as just delineated, may be likewise extended to allow women to carry out a complete public prayer service without fear of taking God’s name in vain, even when reciting those texts which normally require the presence of a bona fide minyan. The late Chief Rabbi does, however, forbid men from praying in such a service or from responding to the recitation of kaddish, kedusha, barekhu,