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    Women’s prayer services – Ask the Rabbi

    Q. What is your view of women’s prayer services?

    women prayer tefillah minyanA. Both sexes have spiritual yearnings. Both men and women can and should seek and speak to God. But the halachic rule is that public worship is to be conducted by men, and women are not counted in the minyan which is required for certain prayers such as Bar’chu and K’dushah.

    There are many precedents for women having their own prayer gatherings, though they are not called a minyan. Rav Moshe Feinstein ruled in 1982 that if the women are genuinely pious, not acting out of militancy or to undermine tradition, they may hold services and even read the Torah, though without the accompanying blessings. There is no reason why they should not touch the Torah scroll.

    May they use the tropes, the Torah chant? The answer is that this is not “singing” in the sense in which women’s singing voices during prayer may not be listened to by men. Men should not attend the women’s services.

    As well as Rav Moshe, Chief Rabbi Shlomo Goren gave guidance to women’s groups about how to conduct their services.

    Let me add in all humility that for as long period I was the rabbinic mentor of the Sydney Women’s Prayer Group and the guidelines they followed were drafted in consultation with me after checking the halachic writings on the subject.

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