Part 5. Are Women Obligated in 100 Brachos a Day?
Are women obligated in reciting 100 brachos a day? Perhaps unsurprisingly, that is a question with no clear answer.
The first thing to consider is the question of mitzvos asei shehaz’man grama – positive, time-bound mitzvos. Women are obligated in all negative mitzvos (not to kill, not to steal, not to eat non-kosher food, etc.) and in all positive mitzvos that apply at all times (such as giving tzedakah and having a mezuzah on their doorposts) but they are generally exempt from obligations that only apply at particular times, such as putting on tefillin or waving the four species on Succos. (There are some exceptions to this rule for reasons that are beyond our scope.) The question is: is reciting 100 brachos a day a positive, time-bound obligation?
Some authorities feel that reciting 100 brachos a day is indeed a positive, time-bound obligation. After all, it’s a thing that one must do in a particular time frame! Accordingly, women should be exempt. Other authorities differ, considering 100 brachos a day not to be a positive, time-bound obligation. After all, the obligation applies all the time! The obligation is not time-bound, it’s just that the count resets each day. Accordingly, women should be obligated.
There are other factors considered by the poskim in formulating their opinions on this matter. For example, the Shevet HaLevi infers that women are exempt from this obligation because the Beis Yoseif’s list of 100 daily brachos includes a number of brachos that are not traditionally recited by women, such as the brachos recited upon donning tallis and tefillin. Since no workaround is suggested for women to reach 100 brachos, he concludes that they are exempt from this obligation.
That women are exempt from this practice is also the opinion of Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach and others. Rav Shlomo’s nephew, Rabbi Dovid Auerbach, cites this opinion in his book, Halichos Baisah. Conversely, such authorities as Rav Elyashiv, Rav Ovadiah Yosef, Rav Hershel Schachter and others are of the opinion that women are indeed obligated in 100 brachos a day.
If women are indeed obligated in 100 brachos a day, it can be far more challenging for them than it is for men. Aside from tallis and tefillin, most women daven fewer times per day than men. If a woman doesn’t daven maariv (as most don’t), that removes 24 brachos from the Mishnah Brurah’s list of 104 daily brachos. If a woman doesn’t daven mincha (as many don’t), that removes another 19 brachos. If she only recites the morning brachos and Shemoneh Esrei of shacharis, she’s down five more brachos. With the three brachos on tallis and tefillin that she’s not reciting, this woman is down to 53 brachos in her day – and that’s assuming that she has two meals with washing and bentching!
As we have discussed, the gemara (Menachos 43b) tells us how Rav Chiya would snack on Shabbos and yom tov (when the Amidah has only seven brachos, rather than 19) in order to reach his daily 100 brachos. It may not be practical (or advisable) for women to snack to the extent that they recite an additional 47 brachos! So what alternatives exist?
We also cited the Mishnah Brurah (46:14) that on Shabbos one may rely upon hearing and replying amen to the brachos for the Torah and haftarah readings. Perhaps there is room for women to rely on the halachic principle of shomeia k’oneh, that one who listens to and replies amen to a bracha is considered as if he recited it himself. There might also be room for women to rely on some of the minority opinions, such as that reciting the fifteen Psalms that start Shir HaMaalos (i.e., Psalms 120-134) counts as fifteen brachos towards one’s daily total (a position I have seen cited in the name of Rav Menachem HaKohein Risikoff).
Women are advised to consult with their own rabbis to determine whether they are obligated in the recitation of 100 daily brachos and, if so, how best to complete the daily tally. In any event, we should all remember that the Sages instituted this practice because they determined that the people were lacking in gratitude to God. No matter how many brachos a man or a woman recites each day, each of us should strive to recite them with sincerity, humility and appreciation to God.