Question: Must women recite the morning blessings?
Answer: Our Sages instituted that one should recite the morning blessings (the series of blessings printed in the beginning of all Siddurim) daily since these blessings were enacted based on the order of the world (for instance, the blessing of “Poke’ach Ivrim” is recited for one’s sense of sight). Since it is forbidden to benefit from this world without first reciting a blessing, one must recite these blessings every morning. The morning blessings are the blessings from “Elokai Neshama” until the blessing of “Gomel Chassadim Tovim Le’Amo Yisrael.” Following this, the blessings on the Torah are recited.
The Geonim write that women are obligated to recite the morning blessings, for they are not considered time-bound Mitzvot. This means that although women are exempt from positive, time-bound Mitzvot, such as taking a Lulav and the like, the morning blessings are not contingent on any particular time and thus, women are obligated to recite them.
The blessing of “Shelo Asani Isha” was instituted by our Sages because men must thank Hashem that He has given them the opportunity to fulfill most of the Mizvot of the Torah as opposed to women who are not obligated in all of the Mitzvot. Women, on the other hand, fulfill their purpose in life by performing the Mitzvot they are obligated to, such as Shabbat, blessings on various foods and scents, and the like. They should especially concentrate on the Mitzvot specific to women which are Niddah, Challah, and the lighting of Shabbat candles. Additionally, if a woman is married she should encourage her husband to study Torah for in this way, she connects her soul to the tremendous merit of Torah learning. Even if her husband slacks off in his Torah study, she still acquires the merit of Torah study. Also, if a woman has children, she should guide them on the path of Torah and Mitzvot.
This blessing is not, G-d forbid, meant as any form of discrimination against women, for according to our holy Torah a woman is very respected indeed. Our Sages have already commanded that a man must love his wife like himself and respect her more than himself. Furthermore, the chapter of “Eshet Chayil” which was composed in honor of the G-d-fearing woman is unparalleled in its praise of the woman. This that the Torah exempts women from certain Mitzvot that men are obligated in is for a reason known only to Hashem and every person must accept Hashem’s will and fulfill his/her purpose in this world properly. Just like a Jewish man cannot complain about not having been born a Kohen or Levi and we would tell him to fulfill his role as a Yisrael as per Hashem’s decree, so too, for a woman to show any dissatisfaction with her role as a woman instead of being obligated in Mitzvot like a man, would be completely irrational, for this too was decided solely by Hashem. Indeed, most people who wish to equate women with men with regards to their obligation in various Mitzvot are not acting out of fear of Heaven and are doing so for ulterior motives and only serve to confuse themselves and others in their service of Hashem.
Therefore, instead of reciting the blessing of “Shelo Asani Isha,” women should recite “Baruch She’asani Kirtzono” (Blessed is He Who has created me according to His will) without mentioning Hashem’s name in the blessing. However, regarding the blessings of “Shelo Asani Goy” and “Shelo Asani Aved,” women should in fact recite them with Hashem’s name, for regarding these blessings there is no difference between men and women. Nevertheless, they customarily substitute the word “Goya” with “Goy” and “Shifcha” for “Aved”, in the Hebrew feminine form.
The blessings of the Torah are not like the other morning blessings in that the morning blessings are not linked to any specific Mitzvah; rather, they are a praise offered to Hashem for the creation of the world. It is thus understandable why women are obligated to recite the morning blessings, for they are blessings of praise and not blessings for a Mitzvah. However, the blessings of the Torah are blessings that our Sages enacted over the Mitzvah of Torah learning. If this is the case and as we know, women are exempt from Torah study, would it not follow that women should not be reciting the blessings of the Torah; after all, the opinion of Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch is that women may not recite a blessing on a Mitzvah that they are exempt from?
Nevertheless, Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l writes that even women recite the blessings of the Torah, for they are also obligated to study the laws of the Torah regarding the Mitzvot that they are obligated in, for instance, the laws of blessings, Shabbat, and the like. Thus, they may in fact recite the blessings of the Torah and they may even recite the words “Asher Kideshanu Be’Mitzvotav “Vetzivanu” Al Divrei Torah” (Who has sanctified us with his commandments “and commanded us” regarding words of Torah), for they are also commanded to study Torah in the aforementioned manner.
In the following Halacha we shall, G-d willing, discuss this matter further regarding the actual time for the morning blessings.