There are a few areas in davening where each shul has it's own minhag (custom). For example, whether to say Hallel the 1st two nights of Pesach, in shul.

Some shuls have a ritual "committee" that meets frequently to discuss these minhagim and any modifications made to them. Changes to the minhag are decided by a majority vote of the committee members in consultation with the shul's Rav. The Rav acts as the halachic advisor on all issues. Obviously, if the committee votes on something that is against halacha (e.g. - no men have to wear tefillin during weekday Shacharit), he would veto the vote.

Generally, women are not obligated to attend shul to daven. They are also not obligated to daven all the sections of the davening as men are (have to locate supporting sources in O.C.) Thus, my thinking is that having women on the ritual committee making decisions that they are not obligated or fully involved with, and in a sense deciding what the shul minhag should be when they are uninvolved and, perhaps, "uneducated" would seem inappropriate and possibly lead to a "flawed" decision.

Assuming that the committee does not approve of anything anti-halachic, is a woman allowed to be part of the voting decision regarding any changes to the shul's minhag that affects davening itself?

What about "peripheral" shul minhagim such as changing the nusach (Ashkenaz to Sefarad or vice versa; requiring men to wear tefillin during Hol Hamo'ed when previously the shul didn't, and similar decisions?)

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    What suggests to you that a) a woman being a voting member of a ritual committee may be a problem, and b) the precise nature of the issues dealt with by the committee might determine whether it's a problem?
    – Isaac Moses
    Commented Mar 30, 2015 at 14:35
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    What halachic standing does such a committee have? Anyone in the world can recommend the rabbi do something.
    – Double AA
    Commented Mar 30, 2015 at 15:03
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    @DanF The committee isn't making any decisions. The rabbi is. This committee does nothing. What could be wrong with serving on something that does nothing of import (aside from Bittul Zman)?
    – Double AA
    Commented Mar 30, 2015 at 15:07
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    @DanF That doesn't seem like a traditional Jewish situation. Random people making halachic decisions...just because?
    – Double AA
    Commented Mar 30, 2015 at 15:10
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    I assume as far as differing davening requirements you mean tachanun (or maariv)? Not really sure why that should be relevant to whether or not they can participate in such a committee? Also, as far as their shul-attending requirements, I'm not so clear that there is a real halachic difference (other than perhaps a tradition).
    – Loewian
    Commented Mar 30, 2015 at 16:02

1 Answer 1


Obviously -- for practical matters please consult a local rabbi. Or sometimes the bigger guns must be brought in, and consult (and abide by!) a bigger posek. But here's some theory on the subject.

Rabbi Moshe Feinstein -- Igros Moshe OC2:21 -- addresses a shul making changes to its custom. (Though with regards to Hallel on Seder nights, he suggests that in most cases they didn't have a custom to not say Hallel, they simply didn't have a custom about saying Hallel.) If I recall correctly, usually what's needed is the majority of the congregation, plus a significant rabbi. (Presumably if the shul has a rabbi that would work; sometimes the shul itself is in flux and has no rabbi, and thus contacts an outsider. For instance Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach allowed both a yeshiva in Jerusalem and a shul in Baltimore to generally switch from the German text to the more-common Ashkenazic one.) Drastic changes (such as Nusach Ashkenaz to Nusach Sefard) seem to require an overwhelming majority -- "if the official custom was Nusach Ashkenaz, and many Nusach Sefard people move in, if there remain 'many' Nusach Ashkenaz-ites, even if they're the minority, the custom shouldn't change."

(Mind you, it could be argued that some democratically-organized Shuls today have the official custom of "whatever the ritual committee decides." Also note that Rabbi Feinstein begins his reponsum with the language of rov hamispallelim -- "most of those who pray", and ends it with rov hakahal -- "most of the community." That distinction could come into play here.)

It wouldn't be terribly hard to extrapolate that a synagogue's membership may agree to be represented by a ritual committee, rather than a direct referendum of its entire population. If so, I don't see what the issue would be. (Other than broader questions of serara -- "positions of dominating authority" -- and the like -- vis-a-vis women.) Now if a significant percentage of the shul feels that they should only be represented by men, who are most-significantly affected by changes in the liturgy, they could probably demand a direct referendum. But otherwise, if a shul is comfortable with women having a vote on whether to renovate the building or hire a new rabbi, then I can't see why they shouldn't have it on liturgical changes as well.

For tefilin on Chol HaMoed, I don't think the shul could compel those who don't wear tefilin to wear them (or vice versa!). They could ask those with the non-official practice to please pray behind a mechitza. (And if women show up that day, I guess you'd have the main sanctuary; the walled-off section for those of the "wrong" tefilin persuasion; and the women's section. Ask me if the women want to wear tefilin, you'd need a fourth section ...)

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    Thanks. You bought up an issue that I was unaware of. Please link Rabbi Feinstein's source, if possible, so that I can delve through this, further. This is an angle that I had not considered when composing my question, and it MAY be an issue in this shul.
    – DanF
    Commented Mar 30, 2015 at 16:17

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