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 Ladies and the Musaf Prayer


In this week’s article, we will discuss a women’s obligation relationship to the Musaf prayers. Is Musaf a compulsory prayer for women like Shacharis and Mincha or not? Prayers come in place of the sacrifices in the Mikdash. Did women have a portion in the Musaf sacrifice offered in the Mikdash or was it dependent upon the Machatzis Hashekel – the half-shekel donation used towards purchasing the communal sacrifices? Does this connection also result in a Cohen or Levi’s exemption from Musaf since they, too, were not obligated to offer this donation? Is their requirement similar to that of women for Musaf? And if women are not obligated to pray Musaf– are they permitted to do so voluntarily? Since only males over the age of 20 donated the half-shekel, is it preferable to have a shliach tzibbur for Musaf who is over the age of 20?

Of this and more, in the following article.

Women and Musaf

The second half of Prashas Pinchas deals with the Musaf sacrifices offered in the Beis Hamikdash on holidays.

Nowadays, since the Mikdash no longer stands in Yerushalayim, our prayers come in place of the korbanos: “…Let us render [for] bulls [the offering of] our lips” (Hoshea 14:3). This indicates that the offering of our lips – the words of prayers, spoken by the lips — stand today in place of the bulls – the sacrifices in the Mikdash (Bamidbar Raba, 18:21). The Shacharis and Mincha prayers stand in place of the morning and afternoon Korban Tamid, and the Musaf prayer on Shabbos, Rosh Chodesh and holidays instead of the day’s Korban Musaf.

In the following article, we will take a closer look at the women and their portion in the various korbanos — the regular ones, as well as the special Musaf sacrifices, with hope and prayer to see the reinstitution of the korbanos in the Mikdash, speedily in our times.

Musaf – a Time-Bound Positive Commandment

Rav Yechezkel Landau (Tzlach, Brachos 26a); Rabbi Akiva Eiger (Hagahos Rabbi Akiva Eiger Orech Chaim 106) and the Amudei Or (7) exempt women from the Musaf prayer just as they are excused from all time-bound positive commandments (mitzvos ase shehazman grama).

Does this exemption apply to all prayer? The Mishna in Berachos 20a establishes that women are obligated to pray daily, despite established prayer being a time-bound commandment (morning and evening). The Gemara there explains that this obligation stems from the fact that prayer involves supplication for Divine mercy, of which all are in need. Prayers on Shabbos and holidays, though, do not constitute supplications for mercy. Nevertheless, the chachomim did not differentiate between the days and the prayer obligations remain the same every day.

Since regular prayer consists of supplication for mercy, it is removed from the category of time-bound positive commandments. But Musaf is not supplication for mercy — it is recited in place of the Musaf sacrifice. This is seen from the text of the prayer – it consists of the verses describing the relevant sacrifice. Other prayers, Shacharis and Mincha, in contrast, do not even mention the verses relating to the daily morning and afternoon sacrifices. This implies that while the daily prayers are essentially supplications for mercy and not substitutions for the daily sacrifices, the Musaf prayer is different as its entire content describes the Musaf sacrifice. According to these Poskim this reverts Musaf back to being a regular time-bound commandment and there is no reason to obligate women to recite it (See Talmidei Rabbeinu Yona, 18a in Alfasi).

Musaf and Supplications

Many Achronim (Be’er Yitzchok, Orech Chaim 20:3; Beis Yitzchok Orech Chaim 17:2; Magen Giborim 106:4; Shoel U’meshiv, Tenina part II, 54) disagree with this understanding of women’s obligation to daven Mussaf. They maintain that when the Chachomim obligated women to pray they included the Musaf prayer in this institution.

The Magen Giborim refers to the ancient custom of reciting 18 brachos in the Musaf prayer on Rosh Chodesh and Chol Hamoed – brachos that include supplications for mercy. He reasons that during that period obviously, women were obligated to pray Musaf just like they were obligated to pray all regular prayers. Therefore, although the custom of reciting 18 brachos in Musaf was cancelled – women were not absolved from praying Musaf.

The Beis Yitzchak reasons that even the our Musaf prayer contains supplications for mercy which are necessary for males and females alike.

Women’s Portion in Korban Musaf

Rabbi Akiva Eiger (141 Orech Chaim 9) writes another reason to absolve women from Musaf prayer: the Machatzis Hashekel. The Machatzis Hashekel was a monetary donation of silver used towards purchasing animals for the communal sacrifices. Every male was obligated to make the donation, thus buying him a portion in the communal korbanos of Tamid and Musaf. The Musaf prayer comes in place of the Musaf sacrifice. Since only males were obligated to donate towards purchasing a portion in the sacrifice, it follows that nowadays only males should be obligated to pray Musaf. This is also the opinion of the Maharam Schick (Orech Chayim 90) and Rabbi Shimon Sofer of Erloi (Hisorerus Teshuva part III, 66b).

Maharam Schick (Mitzva 106b) and the Kehillos Ya’akov (Zevachim 4) both see the two above-mentioned reasons as two sides of one coin: women are not obligated to donate the Machatzis Hashekel because the Tamid and Musaf korbanos are mitzvos aseh shehazman grama – time-bound positive commandments.

Rabbi Akiva Eiger adds that women have the custom to recite the Musaf prayer, and obligated themselves, even though they are not required to do so.

Kohanim, Levi’im and Youngsters

Following the opinion that women are not obligated to pray because they don’t have a portion in the korbanos, it would seem that all members of klal Yisroel who (according to some opinions) don’t give a Machatzis Hashekel would be absolved from the Musaf prayers. This would include the kaohanim, levi’im, and young males under the age of 20. This assumption seems preposterous, and many Achronim (Be’er Yitzchok orech Chaim 20:3; Beis Yitzchok Orech Chaim 17b; Amudei Ohr 7; Maharsham, Da’as Torah Orech Chaim 286:1) try to settle this dilemma.

Amudei Or and Levush Mordechai write that although women do not give Machatzis Hashekel, the sacrifices are offered in order to atone for Yisroel’s sins, including women’s sins.

Sho’el Umeishiv (part II, chapter 55) clarifies this further – the Musaf prayer commemorates the Musaf sacrifice. Since that sacrifice was for the entire nation, all are obligated to pray Musaf.

According to the Kehilos Yaakov, the difference between the various males – kohanim, levi’im, youngsters and women lies deeper. According to the Kehilos Yaakov there is one mitzva of donating the Machatzis Hashekel; another is ensuring that the obligatory sacrifices are offered. Although, according to some opinions, the above-mentioned group of males may be absolved from the donation of Machatzis Hashekel; they are nevertheless obligated to ensure that the required sacrifices were offered on time. If, for example, the Machatzis Hashekel donations were insufficient, those males are obligated to give a donation to ensure the sacrifices are offered on time. Women however who are absolved from giving the Machatzis Hashekel because the mitzva is a time-bound positive commandment, are also absolved from ensuring the sacrifices are offered on time.

Therefore, explains the Kehilos Yaakov, Rabbi Akiva Eiger’s opinion indicates that he sees the Musaf prayer as filling the requirement of ensuring the offering of the Musaf sacrifice, and only those who are required to ensure it are also required to recite the prayer. And indeed, the prayer of Musaf is accepted as if the sacrifice was offered, and all of Yisroel are atoned in its merit – males and females, young and old.

The Day’s Power

Another factor, raised by Rabbi Yosef Shaul Nathansohn (Sho’el U’meishiv, second edition, II, no. 55), should be considered in the context of a woman’s obligation in the Musaf prayer. Even if the prayer was fundamentally instituted based on the Musaf sacrifice, and for this reason there is room to debate whether it applies to women, surely the Musaf prayer has another level as well: It is the prayer of the day, relating specifically to the sanctity of the day. The Musaf sacrifice is the special sacrifice offered on Shabbos and holidays, and similarly, the Musaf prayer is the special prayer added on Shabbos and holidays. This prayer constitutes a special fulfillment of “Remember the Shabbos day to sanctify it” (Shemos 20:8), the source of the obligation of Kiddush. In light of this, just as women are obligated in the unique Kiddush of Shabbat or the Festival, so too are they obligated in the Musaf prayer, the unique prayer for that day.

(Following this opinion, Shoel Umeishiv adds that the mitzva of Eiruv Tavshilin obligates women under a similar reasoning: although it is a time-bound positive mitzva m’idrabonon – anything that was instituted to fulfill the obligation of sanctifying the holiday — obligates women as well. Eiruv Tavshilin was instituted in order to ensure saving nice food items for the holiday – part of the mitzva of sanctifying the holiday. Therefore, it pertains to males and females alike.)

Similarly, the Mishnas Ya’avetz (Orech Chaim 4) explains that the Musaf prayer was not instituted in place of the sacrifice but due to the day’s sanctity. As such, Rabbi Akiva Eiger’s approach is inapplicable.

Permission to Pray

The opinions that absolve women from Musaf raise another question – are ladies permitted to pray, or does the prayer then constitute an unnecessary bracha (which is forbidden)?

The Tzlach (Bracos 26a) writes that for those who follow Minhag Ashkenaz this question is irrelevant – according to Minhag Ashkenaz women recite blessings on mitzvos even if those are time-bound positive commandments, of which they are not obligated (Rema Orech Chaim 589:6). Therefore, it is simple that they are permitted to pray Musaf. Even according to Sefard Minhag (Rambam, Tzitzit, chapter 3:9; Shulchan Aruch) that does not allow for women to recite the blessing on time-bound positive commandments, they are permitted to recite the Musaf prayers. The reason for woman not reciting the blessing on time-bound mitzvas is because of the blessing’s wording – “Asher kidishanu bemitzvosav vetzivanu – Who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us…”[here the specific mitzva is mentioned]. Women are not included in the commandment, and so they may not say they were commanded, as it is untrue. Since the Musaf prayer has no blessing mentioning a commandment, women are permitted to pray just as they are permitted to perform any time-bound commandment without reciting the blessing.

The Mahram Schick raises another question on the topic. On Shabbos and holidays non-compulsory prayers are not recited, so why is it accepted for women to pray Musaf — a non-compulsory prayer, according to this opinion?

The Maharam Shick himself settles the question in his sefer on the mitzvos (Mitzva 106, beis). He writes that just as the Machatzis Hashekel is accepted from females who donate voluntarily, a woman who wishes to pray Musaf is permitted to do so.

The Maharam Shick though raises another concern on the topic – the Magen Avraham (296:11) states that although women do recite the bracha on time-bound mitzvos according to Minhag Ashkenaz, nevertheless for mitzvos that consist only of a bracha such as Kiddush Levana or Havdala, the bracha is not recited. The Musaf prayer is also just a bracha. This point remains unresolved according to the Maharam, although he does agree that the accepted custom is for women to pray Musaf.

The Shevet Halevi (Part IV) and Rabbi Nosson Geshtetner (Lehoros Nosan part II 14:2) both answer the Maharam’s question regarding praying non-compulsory payers on Shabbos and yomtov. They say that since women took upon themselves to pray Musaf, the prayer now has the status of a compulsory mitzva. The only prohibition against praying additional prayers on Shabbos refers to one who wishes to pray of his own volition, not a regular commonly accepted prayer.

In practice, all poskim agree that although women are not obligated to pray Musaf they are permitted to do so, but when there are additional doubts  it is preferable not to.

Safek Yom Tov Sheni

An interesting application of this ruling concerns a woman who grew up outside of Eretz Yisroel marries a man from Eretz Yisroel and they plan on moving to the Holy Land in two years’ time. Rav Moshe Sternbuch (T’shuvos Vehanhagos part II, 330) writes that in this case it is better for the woman not to pray Musaf on the second day of yomtov. Although her husband does not keep yomtov sheini, and she still does — until she actually moves to Eretz Yisroel — nevertheless since there are opinions that women should not pray Musaf, it is better for her to follow the lenient opinions and not pray Musaf on the second day of yomtov, even while still residing outside of Eretz Yisroel.

Eidot Hamizrach

Women’s recitation of the blessing on mitzvos is disputed among the poskim followed by Eidot Hamizrach. The Rambam and the Shulchan Aruch write that females should not recite the blessings on time-bound positive mitzvos such as shaking the lulav. Nevertheless, there are many communities that follow the Chida (Yosef Ometz 82) and S’dei Chemed (40:136) who quote the accepted custom in Yerushalayim which was to recite the blessing. The Ben Ish Chai (Rav Pealim part I) writes that the custom in Bavel was for women to recite the blessing before shaking the lulav on Succos. Women who follow this custom can certainly pray Musaf like Minhag Ashkenaz previously discussed.

The Kaf Hachayim (Orech Chaim 286:4) notes there is a machlokes in the achronim if women pray Musaf or not, ending with the prevalent custom – that they pray Musaf like they pray Shacharit. The Or Letzion (Part II, chapter 8:24) writes that this is also the basic understanding from the Rambam, despite their not being obligated with the Machatzis Hashekel – they are atoned with the Musaf prayer and therefore they are obligated to recite it. As a full obligation, any discussion about recitation of the bracha is irrelevant.

Rav Ovadya Yosef (Yabia Omer, part II Orech Chaim 6), though, quotes Rav Gagin (Yerios Haohel in Sefer Ohel Moed 63b) who ruled that women were not obligated to pray Musaf and as such they are forbidden to do so, as one is forbidden to recite an unnecessary blessing. He suggests that women should hear the repetition of the chazzan and have in mind to be yotze. Nevertheless, he writes not to object woman who recite the prayer because there is a safek if they are required to pray and if they are permitted to do so.

Musaf on Yamim Noraim

Interestingly, the Musaf on Yomim Noraim it treated differently from all other Musaf prayers. Rabbi Shimon Sofer (Hisorerus Teshuva part III 66b) writes that all the above is said of regular Musaf prayers all year round. On Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, though, when the prayers contain many supplications for mercy, women are obligated to pray them just as they are obligated to pray Shacharis and Mincha.

Rav Ovadya Yosef rules accordingly – women are permitted to pray Musaf on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur.

Mothers of Small Children

To compete the discussion let us make one last point: Rav Sternbuch (Moadim Vezmanim part I, chapter 9) notes an opinion that obligates women to pray Musaf, even more than regular prayers. Today, a woman who is preoccupied with her children is permitted to rely on the lenient opinions allowing her to satisfy her prayer requirements with asking of one bakasha-supplication a day. Rav Sternbuch adds that this exemption only refers to supplications, but when the prayer is in place of a sacrifice the exemption is not applied. On the contrary — this kind of prayer is even more obligating. Therefore, he deduces, women should not rely on the opinions that Musaf is non-obligatory, especially on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur — days of judgement, and make time to pray the Musaf prayers with full kavana.

Youngsters and Musaf

In light of the above, some achronim raised the question if a young male, under the age of 20, can serve as shliach tzibur for Musaf.

To understand this discussion let us take a look at the mitzva of Machatzis Hashekel. Machatzis Hashekel, the half-shekel coin used towards buying animals for the communal sacrifices was taken from every Jewish male. The exact age when one is obligated to donate is debated in the rishonim. The Rambam (Shekalim chapter 1:1) and Ramban agree that the obligation begins when one reaches the age of 13, as all other mitzvos. According to their opinion, the passuk obligating only males over the age of 20 was only referring to the one-time fundraising in the desert, when the half-shekels were used for the silver base of the Mishkan’s planks. Nevertheless, the Rokeach (232), Chinuch (mitzva 105) and others maintain that the regular obligation to donate the half-shekel always only began at age 20.

Based on this, some Achronim (Torah Temima, Shemos 30; Shut Sha’arei Deah part I 17; Shut China Dechayei 88) wrote a novel idea – if a young man less than 20 is not obligated to donate the Machatzis Hashekel, he has no portion in the Musaf sacrifice, and as such, according to Rabbi Akiva Eiger — is not obligated to pray Musaf. Therefore, such a youngster cannot be motzi others who are fully obligated.

However, most poskim disagree with this idea. They point out a number of differences between youngsters and women.

Beyond the difference mentioned earlier in this article, there is the opinion of the Tzitz Eliezer (Part 11:1) that 13-year-olds are certainly obligated to donate Machatzis Hashekel. The only difference is that they are not mortgaged if they fail to bring their donation. The Mirpersin Igri (p.21) quotes Rabbi Michel Feinstein in saying that males under 20 will eventually reach the age of 20 and be obligated to donate, while women will never reach that obligation. Therefore, the obligation to pray Musaf for all males is the same even if it is different for women.


The Mishna Brura (106:4) refers to women’s general obligation in prayer: the common custom that most women rely upon is fulfilling the obligation of prayer with saying a bakasha in the morning. Nevertheless, it is preferable to recite the Shemone Esrei, morning and afternoon. Regarding Musaf, he notes the Tzlach and Magen Giborim’s dispute. The dispute remains unresolved in contemporary halachic writing.

In practice, ladies who follow Minhag Ashkenaz and those communities of Eidot Hamizrach that recite blessings before mitzvos can certainly pray Musaf. Moreover, according to Rabbi Akiva Eiger, Musaf is accepted as an obligation. Members of communities that refrain from reciting such blessings: according to the Kaf Hachayim they are permitted to pray and according to the Ohr Letziyon they are obligated to do so. According to Rav Ovadya it is preferable for them not to do so, and to listen to Chazarat Hashatz instead. All this is true for the whole year, but on Yamim Noraim it is preferable that they pray alone as well.





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