Women’s minyan

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I would like more detail regarding women’s minyan.

What are reasons behind attending?

leading the tefillah

What is the halachah connected, and authorities who are for and against?

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Asked on November 27, 2019 9:45 pm
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A: We plan to write more formally on this topic later this year.

Women wish to attend women’s tefilla groups for a number of reasons, often primarily because of the spiritual uplift in praying with a community of women and because they afford more opportunity for women to take ritual leadership.

Minyan is a misnomer here, since ten men are not present at a women’s tefilla. This also means that tefilla in these groups is not halachically considered tefilla be-tzibbur, which Halacha values highly.

Rituals requiring a minyan are omitted from these groups. Rituals that are permissible to recite without a minyan may be freely led by any woman in attendance.

Torah readings in these groups are properly viewed as communal Torah study with a sefer Torah. (We discuss the halachot of women’s contact with a sefer Torah here.) The aliyot are not classic aliyot, but taking turns at being close to the scroll for the study. What women say next to the Torah varies from group to group.

There has been much halachic controversy around women’s tefilla groups. Concerns include separating oneself from the congregation, willfully choosing not to participate in tefilla be-tzibbur, and the Torah study, which may be mistaken for a classic Torah reading.

Supporters counter that the first concern seems less relevant in the current era of multiple synagogue minyanim, that many very frum women miss synagogue on a regular basis, and that women praying together has a long history in a variety of contexts.

Prominent Rabbis opposed include Rav Herschel Shachter (who wrote a detailed work in opposition to the practice). Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik and Rav Aharon Lichtenstein, among others, conceded that these services might be technically permissible, but did not support them.

In determining whether or not to participate in such a service, a woman should first clarify who provides halachic guidance to the tefilla group and what the position is of local halachic authorities. If the group has halachic guidance and support, she should then weigh for herself the potential benefits of participating against the cost of missing tefilla be-tzibbur, devarim she-bikdusha, and keri’at ha-Torah be-tzibbur.

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Answered on November 27, 2019 9:57 pm