The Shulchan Aruch (OC 61:3) brings from the Zohar that there are 245 words in the three paragraphs of the Shema that we say. Since there are 248 limbs in a person's body, the SA and the Rema provide various ways to "add" recitation of three words in order to reach 248. This is to "heal" all of the 248 limbs (see Mishnah Berurah ad. loc. s.k. 6).

I just discovered that there are 252 (or 253?) limbs in a woman's body. As such, is there no point in women following this halacha? For example, according to the Rema that one should add קל מלך נאמן before saying Shema, could women omit that? Should they? I'm looking for halachic and maybe even Kabbalistic sources which discuss this. I'm assuming that the fact that women are exempt from saying Shema doesn't necessarily imply that if they do end up saying it that they can ignore this halacha. But I could be wrong.

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    +1 for the cute question, but perhaps there’s “no point in women following this halacha” simply bec. they’re exempt from reading the Shema [chapters] (SA 70:1). (As an aside, for the sake of clarity, whilst you call this practice a “halacha” readers should know that if one only recited the [245 words of] Shema, not in compliance with the Zohar, he still fulfilled the obligation of reciting Shema.)
    – Oliver
    Commented Dec 21, 2018 at 16:22
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    "The Shulchan Aruch (OC 61:3) brings from the Zohar that there are 245 words in the three paragraphs of the Shema that we say." Are you sure the S''A was bringing this down from the Zohar? The Mechaber doesn't seem to quote the Zohar at all in the reference you quoted. I'm pretty sure this idea was a chiddush not just from the Zohar. Not to mention you would still need to bring a source that this idea can be found in the Zohar.
    – ezra
    Commented Dec 21, 2018 at 16:33
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2 Answers 2


In his book Shorashe Minhag Ashkenaz (vol. 2 pg. 58), R. Hamburger brings that the Minhat Elazar was asked this question and he replied (ME vol. 2 §28) that since the idea is Zoharic it follows that the reasoning is too and suggests that the limbs to which the amount of words correspond pertain to the spiritual realm and therefore even a woman, whose physical limbs aren’t equal to a male, can still recite the supplementary Shema words.

R. Yitzchak Weiss of Vrbové also dealt with this query (Siach Yitzchak vol. 1 §29) but offers a more literal approach: The female shares the same essential 248 limbs as the male -indeed the female’s additional limbs do not generate impurity in an enclosed area- and therefore it’s “perhaps good for her to recite the words too” just as we find other examples of females doing/saying things that corresponds to the 248 limbs. (One notable example is the ‘Mi She’berach’ for an ill woman in which the accepted text remains “for all her 248 limbs”.)


I think the answer is far simpler than you assumed.

  1. The Zohar does not say we recite Shmah because it has 245 words. The Gemmorah in Berochos discusses how much of Shmah should we read at all, only the first line, one-two or three paragraphs. Therefore reading Shmah is obligatory for both women and men with no connection to the number of words.

  2. Shmah can be read in any language, and besides the first Passuk, it can be read even by omitting words, so again 245 is not obligatory.

  3. The 3 additional words are not there anyway. So Shmah was not "designed" to reflect the body organs, it was the Achronim's idea.

  4. The 248 limbs are not real, they are metaphorical. I've already asked a couple of question on that counting, the Mishnah in Ohalot only counts the bones, no muscles, no brains, eyes, and soft tissues etc. Therefore the claim that women have 252 bones is also simply wrong. Read the Gemorah where it arrives at the conclusion that women have more bones than men and you'll see the hoax.

See: different-counts-of-the-613-248-organs-bones-or-soft-tissues,
See: women-less-mitzvot-more-body-parts,
See: how-is-the-male-skeleton-different-from-female

  • #1 is a straw man. #2 so what? Also, what do you mean it can be read by omitting words? #3 ?? #4 not sure what you mean by the gemarra is "wrong". I think you can sum up your answer with "what the Shulchan Aruch says is a waste of time so obviously women have no reason to follow it", which I think is an unsubstantiated answer that lacks depth.
    – robev
    Commented Dec 23, 2018 at 18:51
  • @robev If you want to comment, please use sound arguments, not just "straw man" or "??". Maybe I didn't express myself or you misinterpreted me, but I meant every word. #1 I don't understand what you mean please elaborate #2 one who omitted single word AFAIK does not repeat the whole Shmah #4 Did you read my linked questions about the 248 organs before you commented?
    – Al Berko
    Commented Dec 23, 2018 at 19:51
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    I was being brief. #1 is a straw man meaning you're trying to disprove something no one claimed, so it's nothing more than a distraction. #3 as well. No one claimed Shema was designed for anything. It's an irrelevant point. #2 someone who omitted != It can be read omitting words. One is bedieved one is lechatchila. I'm clearly asking lechatchila. Also, for #1, women are exempt from Shema, not as you've claimed.
    – robev
    Commented Dec 23, 2018 at 20:14

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