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A seemingly knowledgeable guy who davens with me early each morning is sometimes found in the women's section (which is usually empty during that service). He says that he learned that from a "little-known" halacha at Shulchan Aruch § 109, which he says requires that he daven separately from the congregation (either in the hallway or in the women's section) if the congregation has begun the Shemoneh Esrei before him. Otherwise, he says, he has to wait for them.

I looked at the S.A. § 109 as included in the Mishna Brurah. My Hebrew isn't that great, so maybe I missed something, but I couldn't find anything there that told me he had to separate himself from the congregation. From what I read, it is more of a discussion about catching up methods and priorities. Did I miss it, or did he actually get that from a gloss on the S.A.?

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It's a very common practice, which I've been told is wrong. I used to do it until I was told that I ought to catch up in my usual place. (I have not looked up S"A 109 inside, though I intend to. Thanks for posting this question and the source.) –  Seth J Apr 18 '13 at 20:49
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I think it's important to consider that use of the women's section, in particular, for this purpose could inconvenience or discourage attendance by women. Even if the women's section is "usually empty during that service": a) On the unusual occurrence of a woman showing up, she may feel unwelcome and unable/unwilling to either use the space alongside the late man or evict him. b) Part of the reason that women don't attend in the first place may be that they are aware that the women's section is not effectively reserved for them. I have observed both of these mechanisms in real life. –  Isaac Moses Apr 18 '13 at 21:09
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2 Answers 2

A quick glance at the source cited (Shulchan Aruch § 109), yields an interesting find in the Magen Avraham (2). He debates and compares several different priorities in such a case, including the requirement to pray within the designated time and the requirement to pray with the congregation. Ultimately, he solves the problem by prioritizing certain requirements over others. He does not, however, advise a latecomer to stand apart from the congregation or catch up outside.

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it appears that the M.B. § 109, 1st halacha, says that one MAY "go into the courtyard" to daven shemoneh esrai if he would start too late to complete it before the baal tefilah backs out, OR wait for the repetition. I can see this as an advantage to the gabbai who is counting heads to give a go-ahead signal to the baal tefilah. But it seems to me that if the person who starts the prayer with the baal tefilah, but won't finish before kedushah is in a similar position. Why should we treat them differently? –  Bruce James Apr 22 '13 at 18:33
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I have written elsewhere why it is altogether wrong to daven in the women's section. This place does not have the same 'holiness' as the men's.

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Doesn't that just make it not as good? –  Double AA Apr 1 at 4:44
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