Halacha for Wednesday 8 Tevet 5781 December 23 2020

Keri’at Shema and its Blessings Regarding Women

Question: Are women obligated to recite Keri’at Shema every day?

Answer: In the previous Halacha, we have mentioned the words of our Sages in Masechet Kiddushin (34a as well as in Berachot 20b and other places) that women are exempt from positive, time-bound Mitzvot, i.e. Mitzvot which need to be fulfilled actively such as the Mitzvot of Lulav, Sukkah, Tefillin, etc. and can only be fulfilled during a specific time, such as the Mitzvah of Lulav which can only be performed during Sukkot. Our Sages derive this from verses in the Torah.

Certainly then, Keri’at Shema is considered a positive, time-bound Mitzvah, for the Torah limits the Mitzvah of Keri’at Shema to the morning and nighttime hours, as the verse states, “And you shall speak of them etc. and when you lie down and when you arise.” Our Sages (Berachot 10b) understood that one must recite Keri’at Shema at the time when people lie down (to sleep) and at the time when people wake up in the morning. It is for this reason that the Mishnah (Berachot 20a) states that women are exempt from the Mitzvah of Keri’at Shema.

Nevertheless, the Sefer Ohel Mo’ed (one of the great Rishonim) writes (in Sha’ar Keri’at Shema) that although women are exempt from reciting Keri’at Shema in a general manner, they are nevertheless obligated to read the first verse of Keri’at Shema, for they are also obligated in the most basic Mitzvah that every Jew is commanded to fulfill, which is to believe that Hashem is the one and only G-d. Reciting the first verse of Keri’at Shema is an acceptance of Hashem’s absolute oneness.

Although Maran Ha’Bet Yosef (Chapter 70) quotes the opinion of the Ohel Mo’ed, it seems that from the words of other Poskim that they did not accept the position of the Ohel Mo’ed and in their opinion, women are not halachically obligated to read even the first verse of Keri’at Shema (although women are most certainly obligated in the belief of Hashem’s oneness).

Halachically speaking, Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch rules that women are exempt from reciting Keri’at Shema, however, it is proper for them to read the first verse of Keri’at Shema every day in order for them to accept the yoke of Heaven upon themselves.

We have already established in the previous Halacha that according to Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch and the Sephardic tradition, women may not recite a blessing with Hashem’s name before performing a Mitzvah they are exempt from. According to the Rama’s ruling and the Ashkenazi custom, however, women may recite a blessing before performing even Mitzvot that they are exempt from.

Based on this, we can infer that women may not recite any of the blessings of Keri’at Shema, i.e. the “Yotzer Ohr”, “Ahavat Olam”, and “Emet Ve’Yatziv” blessings in the Shacharit prayer and the “Ha’Ma’ariv Aravim”, “Ahavat Olam”, “Emet Ve’Emunah”, and “Hashkivenu” blessings in the Arvit prayer. Nevertheless, according to the Ashkenazi custom, women may recite these blessings as well.

Summary: Women are halachically exempt from reciting Keri’at Shema. It is nevertheless preferable for them to recite at least the first verse of Keri’at Shema on a daily basis. If they decide to read the entire prayer service, they may not conclude (or begin) the blessings of Keri’at Shema with Hashem’s name (i.e. by reciting “Baruch Yotzer Ha’Me’orot” etc.). On the other hand, the Ashkenazi custom is that women recite the entire prayer service while including Hashem’s name.

8 Halachot Most Popular

Parashat Ki Tetze

Gathered from the teachings of Maran Rebbeinu Ovadia Yosef ztzvk”l (from the years 5744-5772) (written by his grandson HaRav Yaakov Sasson Shlit”a) (translated by our dear friend Rav Daniel Levy Shlit”a, Leeds UK) Ellul is the Time to Engage in Battle Against the Yetzer Hara, ......

Read Halacha

Eating Cake on Shabbat Morning

Today's Halacha is dedicated for the merit and protection of All Our Dear Soldiers May Hashem give them strength and courage to vanquish our enemies and may they return home safe and sound amid health and joy. May Hashem protect all the captives and have mercy upon them so that no harm befalls......

Read Halacha

 The “Shehecheyanu” Blessing

Our Sages teach us (Eruvin 40b) that one should recite the “Shehecheyanu” blessing upon seeing a new fruit that renews once a year. Even if one sees this fruit in the hands of another person or on the tree, one should recite the “Shehecheyanu” blessing. Nevertheless, the P......

Read Halacha

The Laws of Blood Found in Eggs

Blood in Eggs Blood found in eggs is forbidden for consumption, for this blood indicates the beginning of the embryotic development of the chick and this chick has the halachic status of “fowl” whose blood is forbidden for consumption by Torah law; thus, the opinion of the Rosh and Tosa......

Read Halacha


Parashat Terumah

From HaGaon Rav Zevadia HaCohen Shlit”a, The Head of the Batei Din in Tel Aviv (translated by our dear friend Rav Daniel Levy Shlit”a, Leeds UK) The Difference Between Moshe and Betzalel [Understanding Why Betzalel Was Able to Make the Menorah, Whilst Moshe Couldn’t] This Sh......

Read Halacha

The Proper Method for Reciting Blessings

During the days preceding Tu Bishvat, we have discussed some laws of blessings. We shall now discuss the law that the food must be in front of the individual before reciting a blessing, for this is the first law in reference to the laws of blessings. Waiting Until the Food is Brought Before the I......

Read Halacha

The Scent of Lemon

Question: If one smells the pleasant scent of a lemon, which blessing should one recite? Answer: The Gemara (Berachot 43b) states: “Mor Zutra said: One who smells the fragrance of an Etrog  (citron), or a quince recites the blessing of ‘Baruch Ata Hashem Elokeinu Melech Ha’......

Read Halacha

Parashat Vayechi

From HaGaon Rav Zevadia HaCohen Shlit”a, The Head of the Batei Din in Tel Aviv (translated by our dear friend Rav Daniel Levy Shlit”a, Leeds UK) The Power of a Good Word In the weekly Parashah, Yaakov Avinu gathered his sons and blessed them before he passed away, as the Torah sta......

Read Halacha