MINORS AND WOMEN ARE EXEMPT FROM KERI'AS SHEMA [Keri'as Shema : women and minors]
(Mishnah): Women, [Kena'ani] slaves and children are exempt from Shema and Tefilin. They are obligated in Tefilah, Mezuzah and Birkas ha'Mazon.
Question: Obviously, women are exempt from Shema. It is a Mitzvas Aseh sheha'Zeman Gerama (a positive Mitzvah that applies only at certain times). Women are exempt from such Mitzvos!
Answer: One might have thought that they are obligated, because Shema involves accepting Ol Malchus Shamayim (the yoke of Heaven). The Mishnah teaches that they are exempt.
Women are obligated in Tefilah because it is a request for mercy. (Also women need mercy!)
Rambam (Hilchos Keri'as Shema 4:1): Women, slaves and minors are exempt from Keri'as Shema. We train minors to read Shema in its time and to bless before and after, in order to train them in Mitzvos.
Lechem Mishneh: The Rambam holds that even though letter of the law women and minors are exempt even mid'Rabanan, still, we train minors.
R. Yonah (11b DH Tefilah): Even though Tefilah has a fixed time, since we say 'it would be great if a person prayed the entire day' (21a), it is like an Aseh she'Lo ha'Zeman Gerama, and women are obligated. Alternatively, since it is mercy, they are obligated.
Tosfos (20a DH u'Ketanim): Rashi explains that the Mishnah exempts a minor who reached the age of Chinuch. This is wrong. When a minor knows how to guard (Kedushas) Tefilin, his father must buy Tefilin for him (Sukah 42a). This shows that when he reaches the age of Chinuch proper for Tefilin, he is obligated in Tefilin. Presumably, there is a greater Chiyuv to train him in Keri'as Shema, for once a child knows how to talk, his father teaches him Torah and the first verse of Shema. R. Tam explains that the Mishnah exempts a minor who did not reach the age of Chinuch. However, the Seifa obligates them in Tefilah. The Ri says that this discusses a minor who reached the age of Chinuch. If not, Chachamim would not obligate him. This is wrong. If so, minors are unlike women and slaves, who are exempt in every case. A minor is exempt only until he knows how to guard Tefilin! R. Tam says that the entire Mishnah discusses a minor below the age of Chinuch. The Seifa applies only to women and slaves. Minors are totally exempt, for they did not reach the age of Chinuch. If so, why were they taught with women and slaves, since they are unlike them? The Tana normally teaches together women slaves and minors who did not reach the age of Chinuch, e.g. 'women, slaves and minors are exempt from Sukah' (Sukah 28a).
Shulchan Aruch (OC 70:1): Women are exempt from Keri'as Shema, for it is a Mitzvas Aseh sheha'Zeman Gerama. It is proper to teach them to accept on themselves Ol Malchus Shomayim.
Magen Avraham (1): It seems that women are exempt also from Birkos Keri'as Shema, which also has a fixed time (58:6). R. Yonah says that they are obligated in Tefilah because it would be great to pray the entire day, so is like Lo ha'Zeman Gerama, or because it is mercy. The Gemara gives the latter reason. I wrote that women are similarly exempt from Kidush Levanah (426:1). However, they must say Emes v'Yatziv, for remembering Yetzi'as Mitzrayim is mid'Oraisa. If so, they must be Somech Ge'ulah l'Tefilah (say Shemoneh Esreh right after Ga'al Yisrael).
Mishnah Berurah (1): They are exempt (from Keri'as Shema) even mid'Rabanan.
Mishnah Berurah (2): They are exempt also from Birkos Keri'as Shema, but they must say Emes v'Yatziv. Similarly, they must say the Berachos after Shema in Ma'ariv, for remembering Yetzi'as Mitzrayim applies also at night. If so, they must be Somech Ge'ulah l'Tefilah. The Pri Megadim says that according to the opinion that remembering Yetzi'as Mitzrayim at night is only mid'Rabanan (the verse is only an Asmachta), it is Zeman Gerama, so they are obligated only mid'Rabanan. Even if you will say that the Torah Mitzvah is during the day and at night, Sha'agas Aryeh (13) leans to exempt women because the Mitzvah to mention it during the day is an independent Mitzvah. If one did not mention it during the day, he need not mention it at night (to compensate). There is a separate Mitzvah to mention it at night. I wrote about Chiyuv. Obviously, they can accept a Chiyuv on themselves, and bless (even) Birkos Keri'as Shema (Rema 17:2).
Kaf ha'Chayim (1): Even according to the opinion that they are exempt, if they say it, they are rewarded for a Mitzvah in which they were not commanded. They may say all the Berachos. The custom is that women who know say all of Tefilah from the Akeidah until Aleinu.
Rema: They should read at least the first verse.
Source: Beis Yosef (DH Kasuv, citing Ohel Mo'ed): Women must accept Yichud Hash-m (His unity), i.e. the first verse.
Gra (DH v'Nachon): This is a mere stringency, unlike Ohel Mo'ed, who says that they are obligated. The Gemara connotes unlike him. It says 'one might have thought that they are obligated...'
Kaf ha'Chayim (5): They should say also Baruch Shem Kevod...
Mishnah Berurah (4): The Bach rules that letter of the law, they must say the first verse, but many Acharonim disagree.
Mishnah Berurah (5): Nachalas Tzvi says that the Mechaber means the entire first Parshah, and the Rema adds that they should say at least the first verse. The Levush says that also the Mechaber means the first verse, and the Rema explains the Mechaber.
Shulchan Aruch (2): A minor is exempt. R. Tam explains that this refers to a minor who did not reach the age of Chinuch. Rashi explains that it is even a minor who reached the age of Chinuch, for he is not found by his father at the time of Keri'as Shema at night, and he is sleeping in the morning.
Gra (DH l'Rabbeinu): The Yerushalmi connotes like Rashi. It asks 'the source that minors are exempt is "Lema'an Tihyeh Toras Hash-m b'Ficha" - when he constant in it (learning Torah). In any case R. Tam's Perush is difficult, like Tosfos brought. The reason one teaches his son to say Keri'as Shema is not due to Keri'as Shema and at the time of Keri'as Shema. Rather, in order to teach him Torah, we teach these two verses ("Torah Tzivah Lanu Moshe..." and "Shema Yisrael...")
Mishnah Berurah (6): When he reaches the age of Chinuch, i.e. six or seven, his father must train him, just like for all other Mitzvos. Also, he should read in the time for Keri'as Shema, with the Berachos beforehand and afterwards.
Mishnah Berurah (7): His father should teach him the first verse from when he knows to speak. It need not be at the time of Keri'as Shema.
Mishnah Berurah (8): The Bach says that from the age of 12, all agree that the father must train him in this.
Kaf ha'Chayim (6): Shalmei Tzibur and the Birkei Yosef (in Kesher Gadol) say that the age of Chinuch for Keri'as Shema is nine or 10. I say that it depends on the child's sharpness.
Shulchan Aruch (ibid.): It is proper to conduct like R. Tam.
Mishnah Berurah (9): Even though letter of the law, presumably the Halachah follows Rashi, and so writes the Gra, it is proper to conduct like R. Tam. The Rambam connotes like this. All agree that regarding Tefilah, he is obligated from the age of Chinuch (106:2).
Kaf ha'Chayim (8): One must hear his children say Keri'as Shema every day, to ensure that they are Yotzei. One may not rely on them to read it themselves, even if they know to take a Sefer and read it. The Chazakah is that they do not say anything. Even some adults do not say anything! One must teach them to say one word at a time, and not lose any letters, which are worth more than pearls, and to have proper intent in the names of Hash-m.
Bi'ur Halachah (DH Ketanim): The Graz says that Rashi exempts minors also from Birkos Keri'as Shema. This requires investigation. Perhaps they are exempt only from Keri'as Shema, for which the time is only until three hours, for the child is not found near his father then. After, he is with is father! However, Rashi explains that minors are obligated in Tefilah, for it is mercy. Also the time for Tefilah extends past three hours! Even so, Rashi needed another reason to obligate minors. Also, it is unreasonable to be more stringent about Birkos Keri'as Shema than about Keri'as Shema itself. The Magen Avraham obligates women in Emes v'Yatziv; that is different.