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Women in Synagogue
Rabbi David Sperling

1Women Going To Synagogue.
It is widely known that women are not obligated to pray in a minyan. However, this lack of obligation does not belittle the great benefit of going to synagogue, and joining in with the prayers of the community.
Firstly, by doing so, a woman hears - and partakes - in the parts of the service that require a minyan, such as Barechu, Kaddish, Kedusha, and Torah Reading. Secondly, by praying with the community, her prayers join those of the minyan and as such fall under the category of "the community's prayers are always heard" (Rambam, Prayer 8:1). Thirdly, the synagogue building itself is conducive to better prayer, as the Me'iri (B'rachot 6b) says, "Whenever one is able to pray in the synagogue one should do so, because it is there that the heart is able to concentrate." And lastly, in many communities, especially outside of Israel, the synagogue represents the very heart ofJewish life, and by participating in it, one not only strengthens the community, but in turn, becomes strengthened in one's commitment to Torah.
We find in even very early sources, records of women who received great reward for attending the synagogue. The Midrash Yalkut Shimoni (Ekev) records the case ofa woman who was extremely old. She came before Rabbi Yosi ben Chalaftah, and said to him, "Rebbi, I have become too old, and my life is disgusting. I want to depart from this world." He asked her, "Which mitzvah are you accustomed to doingevery day ?" To which she replied, "Every day, even if I'm involved in something I very much enjoy, I put it aside and go to the synagogue." He advised her not to come to the synagogue for three days running. Thus she did, and on the third day, she died. And this is what Shlomo HaMelech meant when he wrote, "Happy is the one who listens to me watching daily at my doors", to which he wrote immediately following "For whoever finds me, finds life." (Proverbs 8,34-35) [hinting that whoever goes to the synagogue daily will have a long life].
Of course, because this is not an obligation, one should weigh up the benefits of going to synagogue against everything else. The Vilna Gaon wrote to his family, that the women going to synagogue should be swift and leave quickly, "and it would be better to pray at home, because in the synagogue it is impossible to escape from jealousy and from hearing idle chatter and forbidden gossip, for which one is punished... And all the more so on Shabbat and Festivals when they gather together for that purpose - it would be better not to pray at all. Also for your daughter, it would be better for her not to go to synagogue at all, for there she sees fancy clothing and the like, and she is jealous, and when she comes home, she will start talking about it, and thus will come to forbidden gossip, and other things. Rather, ‘all the honor of a princess is inside [the house]'".
This, however, needs to be measured against the prevailing reality. What will the women be doing if not in synagogue - reading ethical treatises at home, as the Vilna Gaon suggests,or idly gossiping in the park ? What is the synagogue like ? Today it is not so difficult, in most places, to find a women's section that is full of devotion and prayer, where modesty in dress and action prevail.
Another factor to be taken into consideration is taking care of young children and babies in synagogue. Rav Henkin writes (B'nay Banim Vol 1, 5) that "today, when women leave the house on all occasions for all other matters, it would be wonderful if they would leave the house in order to go to the synagogue... If their hearts desire to come to the synagogue, we should relate to this seriously... And so, in my opinion, you should organize a roster for child-minding in order to allow the women to attend the services." Where this is not possible, thenone should make sure that bringing the baby (or very young child) to synagogue does not disrupt other people's praying. [In some communities there are early minyanim which allow the husband to return home in time to allow the wife to go to synagogue while he minds the children].
2Saying the Amidah with the Minyan.
When attending the synagogue, one should try to join in with the community's prayers. Thus, there are several halachot that teach us how to align one's personal prayer with what is being said by the congregation.
The major benefit of the synagogue prayer is reciting the Amidah (silent devotion) together with the minyan. In order to do this, one should skip over earlier parts of the service so as to start the Amidah with the congregation (or at least with the chazan's repetition - see below). During shacharit, one must say at least the blessing over washing the hands and after the bathroom (if these were not recited upon awakening), Elokay Neshamah, the blessings over learning Torah, and Baruch She'amar, Ashray, Nishmat (on Shabbat), andYishtabach.[There are differing opinions about this - but if one recites at least the above list they will certainly be acting properly]. One should try to say the complete service from Barechu onwards, and not skip over these parts of the service.
If one estimates that she has more time in which to pray and still be able to say the amidah with the minyan, she should add the following sections in their correct place in the service, as time allows :- Hallelu Kel b'kodsho, Hallelu et Hashem min hashamayim, the rest of the Hallelukahs, Vayevarech David until Tifartecha, Hodu until V'hu Rachum, Mizmor Letodah, and the rest of Pesukay D'zimra.
On Shabbat, the weekday sections come first (as we have just listed them), [except that Nishmat is also obligatory], and then one adds Lamenatze'ach, LeDavid B'Shanoto, and Tefilla L'Moshe, if there is more time. Those parts of the service that were left out - including the morning brachot - should be recited after the service [note:- one is not allowed to say the blessings of Baruch She'amar and Yishtabach after shacharit - they may only be recited before one starts the blessings of the Shema].
By skipping over these parts of the service, one should hopefully be able to start the Amidah with the congregation. One should try and do this even if it means praying more quickly than one would normally like, as long as each word is pronounced correctly.
If this skipping over the parts of service does not allow one to start the Amidah with the community, one can rely on the opinions which hold that by saying the Amidah at the same time as the Chazan, it is considered as communal prayer. To do this, one should say all the words together with the chazan, including the words of the kedushah. One should be extra careful to keep pace with the chazan and to say Shome'a Tefillah (on a weekday), and Modim with him.
If one comes late to synagogue for the afternoon service, and they are about to start the Amidah, one should join them, and say Ashray after the end of the service. If one comes late for the evening service, and cannot catch up to the Amidah with the congregation, she should start the Amidah with them, and say the Shema, and the blessings , after the service.[1]
3If One Is Unable To Catch Up.
The Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 109, discusses what to do when arriving late to the service, in order to be able to answer Kedusha, Kaddish, Modim etc. He rules, in general, that it is forbidden to begin the Amidah if one will not be able to finish in time to answer to Kedusha, or Amen after the blessing of Shome'ah Tefillah, or Kaddish, rather one must wait and pray after these responses (or pray with the chazan).
Perhaps, though, this law only applies to men who have an obligation to participate in the communal service, as opposed to women, who are not obligated in these sections of the service at all. See the Mishna Brurah (ibid, 4,5) from which it is apparent that a man who has fulfilled his obligation to hear these sections of the service (in another minyan), does not have to wait before beginning the Amidah. From this we may learn that a woman who is not obligated at all to hear these sections, also does not have to wait. It is also unclear whether this obligation applies to women in the women's section of the synagogue. See the Mishna Brurah (ibid 1) who writes that all of these laws only apply inside the synagogue, but not "B'azarah, chutz l'beit ha'knesset" in the enclosure outside the synagogue. Perhaps this includes the women's section.
Nonetheless, a woman who has started her Amidah and is still praying when the chazan reaches the Kedusha, should stop her prayers, and listen - without answering - to the chazan. There are two exceptions to this. Firstly, if she herself has just finished the blessing of Mechayai Ha'Maytim, she can say all of the kedusha with the chazan. Also, if she has recited the line "Yiyu LeRatzon..." at the end of the Amidah, even if she has not taken the three steps backwards, she may also recite the Kedusha.
She should also stop and listen to the line of Amen Yehay Shmay Rabah... in Kaddish; and to Barechu. She should also bow at Modim and Barechu, with the community, (unless she is at the very start or end of a blessing of the Amidah that we do not bow for), without though, saying the reponse itself.If the priestly blessing is recited, she should also wait and listen to it before completing her Amidah.
4Catching Up During The Torah Reading.
The Magen Avraham, 282, 6, writes that from several sources it is apparent that women are obligated to hear the Torah reading. The Mishna Brurah (ibid 12) quotes this opinion and adds that "we are not accustomed to be careful to fulfill this" and quoting the final words of the Magen Avraham himself, concludes, "the opposite it true, that there are places where the women leave the synagogue."
Whilst it is almost universally accepted that women are not obligated in hearing the Torah reading (except perhaps for Parshat Zachor), there are those who understand the Magen Avraham to be obligating women who are already in synagogue to listen to the reading, and not to leave. [See Rav Henkin's B'nay Banim, (vol 2, 10).] Others add that even if it is not an obligation for women to hear the reading, it is a sign of disrespect to the Torah to leave the synagogue for the reading (See Ishay Yisrael 38,21 and footnote there). Because of these opinions, it would seem to me that a woman who comes to the synagogue late should not catch up during the reading. Starting to pray other prayers during the reading is at least as bad as (if not worse than) leaving the building.
Halichot Bat Yisrael (chapter 2, 30) writes that women are allowed to pray shacharit during the Torah reading. But a close examination of the source there reveals that this is only when if one listens to the reading the time for shacharit will pass. Otherwise, though, it would be better to listen to the reading. [See there in the name of Rav Elyashiv that it is proper for women to listen to the reading, and that the citations about women leaving the synagogue at that time were only when they did not understand the Torah portion.]
To catch up on one's prayers between the call-ups is allowable, as long as one is very careful to stop one's own praying when the next call-up begins, in order to answer amen to the blessing before the Torah reading (and after).
It would seem that one could catch-up their own davening during the reading of the Haftorah and its blessings.
 

5Shacharit During Musaf.
The Mishna Brurah (90,30) rules that if one prays the shacharit amidah at the same time that the minyan says the musaf prayer, it is considered as prayer with the community. With this in mind, a woman who comes late to synagogue, may want to pray the shacharit amidah while the community is saying the Musaf silent amidah, and then say the musaf amidah together with the chazan, and in such a way merit to have two prayers with the community.
Someone who is doing this should ensure that the time for shacharit does not pass before they start Musaf. Also, one would have to start the complete shacharit service as soon as the Torah reading was over, in order that one reaches the Amidah together with the minyan's starting Musaf. (Or start during the sermon if there is one at that point of the service). If you are slightly ahead of the minyan, you can wait for the minyan to begin the Amidah, at the words "Shira Chadasha...".
6Hallel.
If one arrives at synagogue in time for Hallel, one should say this with the community, rather than after one's own Amidah. But one must at least say the blessings over the Torah first. If one is in the middle of Pesukay D'zimra and Hallel begins, one should say Hallel with the minyan, but without the blessings at the start and end of Hallel (we rely instead on the blessings before and after Pesukei D'zimra itself). This is true, unless full Hallel is being said, in which case one can not say Hallel in the middle of Pesukei D'zimra because one would miss reciting the blessings (see Mishna Brurah 422, 16). Sephardim generally do not say Hallel in the middle of Pesukei D'zimra at all. If, though, one has already finished Pesukei D'zimra, and started Shacharit, one is not allowed to stop praying in order to say Hallel with the minyan.
7Pre-empting The Congregation.
The Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 90,10, rules that one is not allowed to pre-empt the minyan, and begin saying the Amidah before they do. The exception to this is where the minyan is going to be praying after the acceptable halachic time. Whilst it may be argued that this law also does not apply in the women's section, this is not so clear. Many authorities rule that it is forbidden to start before the community even if one leaves the synagogue (see Aruch HaShulchan ibid, 14), all the more so in the women's section itself. Therefore, one should be careful not to start the Amidah earlier than the community. If one needs to, it would be preferable to leave the synagogue and pray at home if one is forced to pray early. In a case of great need one can pray earlier than the minyan even inside the synagogue (see Aruch HaShulchan ibid and Mishna Brurah 36).
8Mincha On Erev Shabat.
After the minyan in the synagogue has accepted Shabat, by saying Mizmor Shir L'Yom HaShabat, it is forbidden for an individual to pray Mincha inside the synagogue. One should go outside and pray there. It would seem that this is true of the women's section also, and a woman who comes late to synagogue on Erev Shabat should make sure not to pray the weekday Amidah inside the synagogue where they have already accepted the Shabat.
Also connected to this topic is whether women can pray mincha after lighting candles. The Mishna Brurah (263, 43) rules that it is forbidden for a woman to pray mincha after accepting Shabat with candle lighting. Furthermore, he rules that she is not allowed to light on condition that she will not accept Shabat in order to allow her to pray after candle lighting. There are those who rule that she can make a condition to light without accepting Shabat, and pray mincha afterwards. And there are even opinions that allow women to pray mincha after candle-lighting even without making a condition (as opposed to doing any forbidden Shabat labours). (See Rav O. Yosef's Levi'at Chen where he rules leniently even for Ashkenazi women).
Rav C.P. Sheinberg told my wife that one should act in accordance with the Mishna Brurah's strict ruling even if she wants to pray with a minyan after candle-lighting.
Conclusions.
The merit of praying together with the community is great. However, as with every mitzvah, it is important to enter into the mitzvah with a clear knowledge of the halachot involved, in order to be able to fulfill it properly. May we merit that our synagogues be filled with holiness and reverence, and that the prayers of all Israel be speedily answered.
 
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[1]I have seen written in the work Halichot Shlomo, in the name of Rav Shlomo Zalman Orbach zt"l, (Chapter 5, footnote to para. 2) that "a woman should not skip over any of the order of the prayer service in order to pray with the community, because she has no law of communal prayer at all." It is unclear to me what is meant by the phrase "she has no law of communal prayer at all". Does it mean that she has no obligation to pray with the community (and so she should not skip parts of the service to join the minyan), or that even when praying at the time and place of the minyan, she does not benefit from communal prayer ?
If the former, then the sources quoted there, (the Shvut Ya'akov and the T'shuvah Me'Ahava), do not support this idea, as they merely state that a woman is not obligated in communal prayer. If however she chooses to pray with the community, why should she not skip parts of the service inorder to do so ? Perhaps, one might say that she should not skip the obligatory service in order to participate in non-obligatory communal prayer. However, as many opinions hold that Pesukei D'zimra is not obligatory for women {see "Women's Prayer When Time Is Short", sent out several months ago}, it would seem to me that it is perfectly valid to skip parts of the service in order to join the minyan in saying the Amidah.
If however what is meant is that women do not benefit at all from communal prayer, it is not at all clear that this is the case. See Rav David Bleich's Contemporary Halachic Issues Vol. 3, where he states "If she chooses to pray privately she is in no way remiss; but if she does pray with a minyan she enjoys the kiyum (fulfillment) of tefillah b'tzibbur (communal prayer)." He brings as a proof to this the Meiri in Rosh HaShana 28a where he says that "our women, who pray in a synagogue separate unto themselves do not share in communal prayer". From this one can infer that women who do not pray in a synagogue separate unto themselves, but together with the main minyan, such as in our synagogue buildings today, where the women's section is in the same building as the main sanctuary, they do benefit from communal prayer. Another proof he cites is the Midrash we quoted above, where Rav Chalaftah told the woman not to come to the synagogue for three days, which caused her demise. From this it is evident that it was the communal aspect of her prayers she benefited from, and not the prayers themselves, for these she was not told to refrain from (nor could she refrain from them, as they are obligatory).

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Women And Prayer When Time is Short
Rabbi David Sperling

A major issue that often arises is not having enough time to pray in the mornings. This is especially acute when women either start working, and/or start raising a family. Obviously the ideal situation is to set aside twenty minutes or so in the morning in a quiet and unrushed atmosphere in which to pray. However, we are all aware that the reality often does not allow us this spiritual pleasure. Let's examine the obligations of a woman in prayer for a normal weekday, and the order ofpreference when time is short.
1. The Mishna.
In Masechet Brachot (Chapter 3, mishnah 3) we find "Women, slaves, and childrenare exempt from reading the shema and from tefillin, [but] they are obligatedin tefillah, mezzuzah, and grace after meals." The gemara (Brachot 20b) states that the mishnah obligates women in prayer because they also need to request mercy from Heaven, even though we might have thought to exempt them on the basis of it being a time-bound precept.
There are two possible understandings of the obligation of women in tefillah (prayer) according to this mishnah. The Ramban, and many other rishonim, understand that the obligation of praying in general is rabbinic, and not from the Torah. If this is so, then the mishnah can only be obligating women in the rabbinical mitzvah of the Shmonah-Esrei (the center of our daily services found in the siddur) as there is no Torah-obligated "tefillah" that it could be referring to.
However, the Rambam is of the opinion that there is a Torah obligation to pray, learned from the words "Andyou shall serve Him with all your heart" (Deut. 11,13). This mitzvah is defined by the Rambam as praising God, making a request of Him, and giving thanks to Him, in any language, every person according to their ability. This is not limited to any definitionof how often to pray each day, or any specific language to be used. (See Rambam Tefillah, Chapter 1,2). If so, is the mishnah coming to obligate women in this Torah mitzvah ? Or, perhaps, the mishnah is obligating women further, to the rabbinic mitzvah of prayer, which encompasses the language ofthe Shmonah-Esrei found in the siddur, and the restrictions of when and how often one must pray.
The Magen Avraham (Orach Chaim, 106, 2) states that "According to the Rambam, from the Torah it is enough to pray once a day, in any form one chooses. Thereforemost women are accustomed not to pray regularly, because they say a request immediately upon arising, straight after washing their hands, which suffices from the Torah. And it is possible that the Rabbis did not obligate them more than this. The Ramban and most of the poskim (codifiers) are of the opinion that prayer is [entirely] rabbinic in nature."
Based on this reasoning, there are certain halachic opinions that state that it is enough for women to recite one small "praise - request - thanks" each day. (Saying the morning blessings, the blessings on the Torah,grace after a meal, or making up one's own prayer - "O mighty God, please give me strength, and I thank you for all the things you do for us" -would suffice).This opinion is held by Rav Ovadiah Yosef (Yabiah Omer Vol. 6, 17).
However, there are several reasons for not ruling in line with this opinion. Firstly, as the Mishna Brurah (106, 4) points out, most of the poskim rule in line with the Ramban against the Rambam. The Mishna Brurah writes, "And [the Ramban's opinion] is the major one, because that is the opinion of most of the poskim, and so too ruled the Sha'agat Ari'eh, therefore one should advise women to pray the Shmonah-Esrei".
Secondly, even the Magen Avraham himself does not rule that women are exempt from formal prayer. He merely tries to explain why many women do not pray regularly. He himself seems to rule in several places that women are obligated to pray the Shmonah-Esrei. (See the Sha'aray Tzion 106,5).
Thirdly, and most importantly, it is not at all clear that this interpretation of the Rambam is correct. We have already pointed out the possibility that the mishnah may be obligating women even beyond the Torah obligation, and placing them under a rabbinic commitment. This is borne out by the Rambam's commentary to the mishnah in Kidushin (chapter 3,7), where he lists tefillah amongst the list of mitzvot that women are obligated in even though the mitzvah is time-bound. The Rambam must be referring to the rabbinic commandment of prayer, because as we have seen, the Torah commandment is not bound by time restraints. This is also clear from the Rambam's Laws of Prayer (Code, Tefillah, 6: 10) where he obligates both women and children in prayer. This cannot be referring to the Torah obligation of prayer, because children are exempt from that, therefore it must be an obligation to rabbinic prayer. Accordingly, the understanding of the Magen Avraham is incorrect, and even the Rambam holds that women are obligated in the Shmonah-Esrei like men. Rav Henkin in B'nei Banim (Volume 2, 6) rules this way, as do many other latter day poskim.
Based on these three reasons, it seems difficult to use the Rambam as a source for allowing women to refrain from praying the Shmonah-Esrei. (It is noteworthy that this is true irrespective of whether one is Askenazic or Sephardic.)
2. Why some women don't pray
Quite apart from the understanding of the mitzvah of prayer vis--vis women, is the reality of what women actually practice. This practice also has halachic weight, if we can find an acceptable halachic explanation for it. The reality of women's prayer is not so clear. Whilst we find statements like that of the Kaf HaChaim, (70,1) where he writes that "Women who know how to learn are accustomed to pray the complete prayer service like men",we also find statements like that of the Magen Avraham (ibid.) that most women are not accustomed to praying regularly. We must assume then that the practice of women varied greatly from community to community, between different types of women - from the learned to the less learned, perhaps even at different times in a woman's life, and at different periods in history. Even today in the religious world, we find pious women who pray the complete service, and others who do not pray on a regular basis at all.
We have already shown that the Magen Avraham's attempt to explain those women who do not say a regular Shmonah-Esrei, based on his understanding of the Rambam, is difficult to rely upon. However there are two other explanations that seem reasonable, and thus can be used to support the wide-spread practice amongstcertain women not to pray.
3. "Serving the Sick."
Rav Yakov Kamenetzky is quoted as saying that just as we find that someone who is caring for the ill is exempt from prayer, so too women who are involved in the raising and care of children are exempt from prayer. This is either because they are unable to pray and are considered "anus" (unable to perform a mitzvah under compulsion), or because they are busy with one mitzvah, and come under the category of "osek b'mitzvah patur min hamitzvah" (those busy with one mitzvah are exempt from another mitzvah). (See Halichot Bat Yisra'el Chapter 2, footnote 2).
Obviously this justification of those women who do not pray can only apply to those truly involved in child-rearing. It would seem that once the children are all at school, or in childcare, the women would once again become obligated. Also, on the infrequent days that the woman is not involved with the children (such as when they have gone to the grandparents for Shabat etc.), she would also be obligated.
4. Lack of Concentration.
Some opinions (see B'nei Banim ibid., and also the Responsa Machazeh Eliyahu 19) explain the reason for some women not praying to be based on the law that one needs to have extreme concentration when praying. The Rambam writes that "one who finds his concentration disturbed, and his heart worried, is forbidden to pray until his concentration returns. Therefore someone returning from a trip, who is tired or upset, is forbidden to pray until his mind is at rest. The Chachamim said that one should wait three days until his mind is at rest and only then pray." (Code. Tefillah 4,15). Due to the general lessening of concentration in prayer, the Shulchan Aruch rules that today we have accepted upon ourselves to pray even when our minds are not totally at rest (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim98). However, perhaps women did not take upon themselves this stringency, and remain obligated to pray only when they are not involved with raising a family.
According to this line of thought, those women who are not overly burdened with the task of raising a family, would also be obligated to pray.
5. Shmonah-Esrei Conclusions.
The overwhelming opinion of the poskim is that women are obligated to pray the standard Shmonah-Esrei twice a day (shacharit and minchah). Those women who due to raising a family find this impossible should at least try to fulfillthe Torah obligation and say a small prayer once a day (if they can manage to say the Shmonah-Esrei once a day, all the better). But it should be remembered that when the family situation changes and a womanhas time, she should return to the practice of saying the full Shmonah-Esrei twice daily.
The obligation to recite the evening Shmonah-Esrei is also a matter of debate. There are opinions that obligate women to say the evening Shmonah-Esrei - such as the Aruch HaShulchan (106,7) and the Kaf HaChaim (299,62). However the practice of most women is in line with the Mishna Brurah (106,4) that the evening service was originally optional, and that only men took it upon themselves as an obligation, whereas women did not accept the responsibility. (See also B'nay Banim Vol. 1, 19). Those women who desire to pray the evening service are certainly praiseworthy, but it may be advisable not to take this on as an obligation, but rather to expressly state that one only intends to pray the evening service when she has the opportunity.
6. The Shema.
We have already seen the mishnah that states that women are exempt from reciting the Shema. This is indeed the halacha (Orach Chaim, 70 : 1). However the Shulchan Aruch adds that "It is correct to teach [the women] that they should receive upon themselves the yoke ofheaven." The Rema adds "And they should at least readthe first verse". There is some argument about whether the Rema is only explaining the Shulchan Aruch, or perhaps ruling that whereas the Shulchan Aruch advises women to recite the complete first paragraph, the Rema is more lenient and requires the recitation of "at least"(and exclusively) the first line (Mishna Brurah 4 and 5).
A woman very pushed for time should at least say the first line of shema and "Baruch Shem kevod...". However, it would certainly be correct for women to say the complete first paragraph. A woman who has the time would certainly be praiseworthy in reciting all three paragraphs of shema, however this should not be at the expense of praying those sections of the service that she is obligated in. Rav Henkin has pointed out to me, that since women are only obligated to pray when they have full concentration (see paragraph 4 above), this may result in an added stricture for them. That is, when a woman does in fact pray, she must be even more careful than men to ensure that she concentrates. Because of this a woman should judge very carefully and make certain that she does not take on additional optional prayers at the expense of saying the Shmonah-Esrei with correct concentration.
7. Blessings Of the Shema.
Women are exempt from saying the blessings before the shema, because they are a time-bound mitzvah (see Mishna Brurah 70, 2). However the blessing after the shema - "Emet v'yatziv" - which was written in order to fulfill the mitzvah of recalling the exodus from Egypt daily, must be recited by women, according to the Magen Avraham (ibid). This opinion is widely quoted, although there are those that argue this point, and say that either a woman can (or should) fulfill this mitzvah by reciting the third paragraph of shema, or shirt haYam etc., or that this is a time-bound mitzvah that only applies in the daytime and not at night. The practice today is for women to say this blessing. (For the Sephardi ruling concerning the brachah, see below).
If one is already saying this blessing, there are two important points to be taken into consideration. Firstly, there is a rule that one should connect "geulah", redemption, with tefillah. Therefore, one should make sure that the blessing after shema is said without any interruptions between it and the Shmonah-Esrei. (It is even more important not to interrupt the recitation of shema itself).
Secondly, even though women do not have to be particular to recite the shema byany particular time, the blessing must be recited before the end of the first third of the day (Mishna Brurah 58, 25). To determine the exact hour, one needs to consult a Jewish calendar with the last time for tefillah marked on it [one takes the daylight hours, divides by 12, then multiplies that number by 4, the result being the length of4 halachic hours]. In cases where circumstances beyond the woman's control prevented her from praying on time, such as feeling ill, caring of children, etc, then there is an opinion that can be relied upon to recite this blessing, and the Shmonah-Esrei, up until half the day has passed (Bi'ur Halacha 58,6).
8. Morning Blessings.
The blessings recited in the morning for Torah study also apply to women. Even though women are exempt from the mitzvah of Torah study in and of itself, they are still obligated in knowing Halacha, and therefore are obligated to recite the blessings in the morning. (Shulchan Aruch 47, 14). It seems to me that a woman who is actually going to learn Torah, should be extra careful to recite this blessing before beginning her studies.
The rest of the morning blessings - "Elokai Neshamah", and the following blessings up to "ha'gomel chasadim"... - were decreed for women equally as for men. This can be seen by the language of the Shulchan Aruch (46, 4) where after writing that men say "‘who did not make me a woman', women recite ‘who made me according to His will'".If time is lacking, these blessings can be recited until the end of the fourth hour, and (bedi'avad) if this was not possible, then they can be recited all day, even after nightfall (Mishna Brurah 52, 10).
In connection to reciting the korbanot (offerings), even though the Mishna Brurah rules in line with the Agur that women must say them (or at least the tamid (Shulchan Aruch Ha'Rav 47, 10)), the common practice of women today is not to recite them. This is based on the many commentators who question the Agur's ruling (Pri Megadim, Tehilah L'David, HaYa'avetz).
9. Pesukei D'Zimrah.
The Mishna Brurah (70, 2) learns from the ruling of Rav Akiva Eiger, who states that pesukei d'zimra was established in order to prepare for prayer, as the gemara in brachot (32a) says "a person should always prepare the praises of the Lord and only afterwards pray". From this he learns that because women are obligated to pray, they are also obligated in pesukei d'zimra. However, he also quotes (and questions) the ruling of the Shulchan Aruch HaRav, who exempts women from pesukei d'zimra. This is the view shared by the Aruch HaShulchan (though he states that women accepted this upon themselves as an obligation) and others.
A woman with the time should certainly recite all of pesukei d'zimra. If one has less time, then "baruch she'amar", "ashrei", and "yishtabach" would suffice. Those women who are very pushed for time and do not recite it all have authorities to rely upon.
10. Sephardiot and Blessings.
There is a major difference between the rulings of the Shulchan Aruch as opposed to the Rema in the question of whether one can say a blessing over a mitzvahthat one is not obligated in. A woman is not obligated to hear the shofar, for example. Therefore, the Shulchan Aruch rules that she cannot recite the blessing over the mitzvah, in line with the rishonim who say that one cannot say "vetzivanu", "who has commanded us", when there is no obligating command. However the Rema rules in line with Rabbenu Tam, who holds that one can recite a blessing over a mitzvah even if the mitzvah isn't obligatory (see Orach Chaim 589, 6). To this day, most Sephardi women do not say blessings over mitzvot they are not commanded in (such as shofar, lulav etc), whereas Ashkenazi women do pronounce the blessing. [Though there are Sephardic communities where the women do say the blessings, and they should continue with their custom, see Birchei Yosef, Orach Chaim 654,2]
In connection to prayer then, it is clear that Ashkenazi women pronounce all the blessings, even over the sections of the service that they are not obligated in. However in the Sephardic community, there are two common practices. Rav Ovadya Yosef is of the opinion that women cannot say the blessings over the parts of the service that they are not clearly obligated in. Therefore, he rules that women do not recite the blessing with G-d's name in "baruch she'amar" nor in "yishtabach". They should also refrain from saying the blessing ("baruch ata Hashem ...") in the blessings before and after the shema. He has had a siddur for women printed with these blessings excluded from the prayer service.
There is a different custom for Sephardic women, which allows women to say all the blessings of prayer (except for those before and after hallel), because they are not concerned with being commanded in anything, and do not include the wording "vetzivanu", "who commanded us". This opinion is held by Rav Aba Shaul zt"l, and the Tzitz Eliezer (Vol. 9, 2). In practice, one should follow one's family tradition, or that of the local community.
11. Tachanun and the End of the Service.
The rest of the service, from the end of the amidah onwards, is not obligatory for women (see Halichot Bat Yisra'el, Chapter 2, 12). Even so, the gemara praises the idea of reciting "ashrei" thrice daily. Also ending the service with "aleinu" is of great importance. And as we quoted earlier, the Kaf HaChaim describes learned women as praying the complete service like men. However, these parts of the service are optional, and not obligatory.
12. Praying on the Bus or Train.
It is clearly preferable to refrain from praying on the way to work or school. The advantages, both halachic and spiritual, of having a fixed place in which to pray - a particular seat in the synagogue, or a corner of the room, are well known. (In passing, I would like to correct a common misconception that I have encountered, which is that many people think it is forbidden to pray in a bedroom. Whilst it may be more conducive to prayer to find a place in the living room, there are no halachic impediments to praying in a bedroom - as long as the other people who may be there are clothed, and there is no foul matter, such as dirty diapers. [Perhaps this misconception began when people still had chamber pots under their beds ?]).
Though it is not ideal to pray on the bus or train - and it is certainly forbidden to pray the amidah whilst driving at the wheel - if one has no other time in which to pray, then it can be done. (See Shulchan Aruch 94, 4-5). Preferably one should stand up in the vehicle to pray the Amidah, or at least for the first blessing, the places where one needs to bow, and the end of the Amidah in order to take three steps backwards. However, if one is unable to stand, or one would fear falling over, then one can pray sitting down. It seems to me that in a case where one will not be able to have the correct kavana (intention) during prayer if she stands (because of the fear of falling, or the self-consciousness of praying standing up in front of a busload of people), then one should pray sitting down. One should try to face Jerusalem in prayer, but if this is impossible, then it is enough to turn one's face in the correct direction. If the vehicle constantly changes direction, or one is uncertain of the correct way to face, one should turn one's heart to Jerusalem.
I have seen it quoted that Rav Chaim Kani'evsky rules that if in the middle of the Shmonah-Esrei, the bus reaches your stop, you are allowed to alight and to continue praying after leaving the bus (as long as the break in praying was not longer than it takes to say the complete Shmonah-Esrei). This would also apply to having to move whilst standing up on the train, if you find yourself blocking someone's path.
13. Conclusions.
While when time allows, it is proper for women to pray the complete service, the order of preference would be as follows (see Ashei Israel Chapter 7, 18):-
1.A small prayer that includes praise, request and thanks.
2.The Shmonah-Esrei
3.The blessing of "emet v'yatziv" (which is found after the shema)
4.The morning blessings
5.The blessings over the Torah
6.Pesukay d'zimra ("baruch she'amar", "ashrei", "yishtabach")
7.The first verse of the shema and "baruch shem kevod"
8.The rest of pesukei d'zimra
9.The complete three paragraphs of shema.
Each item on this list that is added to the morning prayers must, of course, be added at the correct place in the service. Therefore, a women needs to estimate before she begins praying how much time she will have. If she only has a few minutes she will say only items number 1 or 2. If she knows that she will have five minutes or so, she will first say item 3, then the Shmonah-Esrei (item 2). A woman who knows she has about 15 minutes or so, should be able to recite the complete list, in the correct order that it appears in the siddur (items 5,4,6 + 8,7,9,3,2). Those women with more time could say the complete service as found in the siddur, just leaving out those parts that require a minyan (if she is not praying with one). This should normally take about 30 minutes or so.
May we all merit to have our prayers worthy of being answered, together with the prayers of the entire nation of Israel.