Women go to shul, and they stand (or sit) behind the mechitza. The question arises: When they daven standing behind the mechitza, are they performing tefila betzibur? Ostensibly, to daven tefila betzibur, a person has got to be situated in the room in which the tzibur is davening. Place is of the essence: it defines the tzibur, as it were. The question is therefore: when a part of the place – the room – is cordoned off by a mechitza, are the two sides of the mechitza considered the same place (room) as far as defining a tzibur is concerned? Or are they considered places each unto itself?
Seemingly, the resolution to this question will determine the resolution to a related question. If some men stand on one side of the mechitza and other men stand on the other side, and neither side by itself contains a minyan of men, do the men standing on either side combine to form a minyan? A Yes answer to the first question would seem to imply a Yes answer to the second.
In Bemechitzas Rabeinu, it is reported that Reb Yaakov Kaminetzky z”l gave a Yes answer to the first question. He is reported to have said that someone standing behind the mechitza and davening synchronously with the tzibur was performing tefila betzibur.
Someone might think to ask: How could it be otherwise? If the women standing behind the mechitza weren’t technically davening with the tzibur, what would be the point of their coming to shul in the first place? A rejoinder is, however, ready to hand. For it is brought down that, when someone is unable to attend a davening in shul and, therefore, to daven with a tzibur, he should nevertheless endeavor to calibrate the timing of his davening so that it is coordinated – temporally coincides – with the tzibur’s davening. It is the next best thing to actually davening as part of a tzibur. Accordingly, it would make sense for women to come to shul in either case, since, however the situation be in regard to the positional status of the other side of the mechitza, by being in attendance they would be able to effectively coordinate their davening with that of the tzibur.
And even this would be nothing to be made light of.