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Shabbat Parashat Matot Masei| 5770

Ask the Rabbi: Are women obligated to daven Mincha

Question: I (a woman) try to daven Shacharit and Mincha but not Ma’ariv every day. Not infrequently I forget to daven Mincha. When that happens, am I supposed to daven Ma’ariv that night, and if so, once or twice?


Answer: One thing that this matter depends on is whether women are obligated in Mincha. The Rambam (Tefilla 1:2) says that women are obligated by Torah law to daven daily. Since the Torah law is for any request once a day and the rabbinic idea that one daven twice or three times a day is time-based, women might not be obligated in the structure of Shacharit and Mincha as we know them. Many women follow this approach (Magen Avraham 106:2). The Mishna Berura (106:4) prefers the Ramban’s opinion that tefilla is entirely a rabbinic obligation but because of its importance as a request of mercy from Hashem, the Rabbis obligated men and women equally. According to this approach, women are obligated in at least the essentials of Shacharit and Mincha like men. The difference is in regard to Ma’ariv, which is essentially a voluntary tefilla (Berachot 27b). While men accepted it upon themselves as an obligation, women did not (Mishna Berura, ibid.). Another difference is that women who are especially busy, especially those responsible for the unpredictable needs of small children, may be exempt from Shacharit and Mincha, either by relying on the lenient opinion or because their involvement exempts them (see Ishei Yisrael 7:7).

You categorize yourself as one who davens Shacharit and Mincha but not Ma’ariv, and thus your situation is as follows. If you are obligated as men, you should do tashlumin (the makeup prayer) like them. However, tashlumin was instituted as a makeup tacked on to the set tefilla at the next tefilla slot (in this case, Ma’ariv). In fact, if one does something that shows that the first tefilla was the makeup, preceding the set one, he does not fulfill tashlumin (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 108:1). Thus, if you do not daven Ma’ariv, you will not be able to do tashlumin; it cannot be done at Shacharit, as it must be done at the next tefilla period (Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata 43:(110) in the name of Rav S.Z. Auerbach). (One could raise the argument that for a woman, Shacharit is the next tefilla after Mincha, but Rav Auerbach rejects that logic). Even if you are not obligated in Ma’ariv, if you decided to daven it, you could then do tashlumin (see Mishna Berura 263:43). However, it is unclear whether you would be required to go so far as to daven Ma’ariv in order to make tashlumin possible (Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata, ibid.).

The following claim is incorrect. Between Mincha and Ma’ariv a woman is obligated in one tefilla, classically Mincha. If she davens Ma’ariv voluntarily, in effect she got to the correct number of tefillot. The above is incorrect because she had an obligation for Mincha that turned into one for tashlumin for it. A normal Ma’ariv is neither. In fact, once you would daven Ma’ariv, you would be required to do the tashlumin of Mincha (see Ishei Yisrael 36:(15)). Thus, while it is questionable whether you have to daven Ma’ariv, it is a question of two or nothing.

If one falls into the category of one who has not accepted upon herself the obligation to daven Mincha then she obviously cannot be obligated more in tashlumin than she is in the original tefilla. The question would only be if one tries to daven Mincha quite regularly except when she is quite busy, but on a given day she forgot without a real excuse. In this case, she presumably is not obligated since, in the final analysis, she does not treat Mincha as a full obligation.

Again, in your case, it is unclear whether you should say two Shemoneh Esrei’s at Ma’ariv.  While it is hard to outright require it, it can be worthwhile (see Halichot Shlomo, Tefilla 13:8), especially if it makes you feel better or will help you remember about Mincha in the future.


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