By Rabbi Moshe Meir Weiss
What comes to your mind first when I mention Yitzchak Avinu, Yitzchak, our Patriarch? You’ll probably say, rightfully so, the Akeidas Yitzchak – when Yitzchak allowed himself to be offered by Avraham, his father. Your next suggestion would probably be when Yitzchak gave the blessings to Yaakov instead of Eisav. But, there is another gift that Yitzchak bequeathed to the Jewish People which we enjoy every single day of our lives and that is the prayer of Mincha.
The Gemora teaches us in Berachos [26b] that Avraham Avinu instituted the prayer of Shacharis, Yitzchak instituted the prayer of Mincha, and Yaakov instituted the prayer of Maariv. The B’nei Yisaschar, Zt”l, Zy”a, says that this is the origin for the popular phrase for prayer, “davenen.” He says that word is a corruption of the Aramaic word d’avinan, that which was instituted by our Fathers.
The Gemora in Berachos [6b] tells us that we should be extremely careful with the prayer of Mincha for Eliyahu HaNovi was only answered through the prayer of Mincha. Furthermore, the Kli Yakar informs us that the prayer of Mincha is so powerful that its requests are often answered immediately. These two facts beg the question: What’s so special about the prayer of Mincha. To the contrary, I would think that Shacharis and Maariv are longer prayers and Shacharis was instituted by our first Father, Avraham Avinu, who we are all disciples of, and Maariv was instituted by Yaakov who was the bechir she’b’Avos, the Choicest of our Patriarchs. Yet, it is Mincha that is touted as being all-powerful. Why is this?
The Tur in siman 232 gives a famous answer. While Shacharis is done before we start our day and Maariv is held after we’ve wrapped up the day, Mincha falls smack in the middle of the day which necessitates our interrupting whatever we are doing to find a Mincha minyan. That’s why it packs such a powerful punch. The Kli Yakar adds another thought. Nighttime is a time of din, strict justice, while daytime is a time of rachamim, of mercy and of compassion. Thus Maariv, which is in the night, and Shacharis, which is near the night, have the disadvantage of being around the time of din. Mincha, which is in the middle of the day, is based at a time of mercy and is therefore more effective.
I’d like to suggest something else. When you want to get the most bang-for-the-buck, you try to go to someone who is a specialist in what you need. When it comes to prayer, Yitzchak is the specialist for, while Avraham is the Amud HaChesed, the Pillar of Kindness, and Yaakov is the Amud HaTorah, the Pillar of Torah, Yitzchak is the Amud HaAvodah, the Pillar of Divine Service, which is prayer. Thus, that which was created by the specialist is more powerful. Furthermore, in Yerushalmi Berachos [4:1], Reb Yosi says that Tefilas Mincha has the power of the Ketores, the burning of the incense, for the posuk states, “Tikon tefilasi ketores l’fonecha maasas kapai minchas orev – Establish my prayer as incenses before you, the offering of my palms, the Mincha prayer.” For, while Shacharis represents the morning tamid offering and Maariv is the smoking-up of the sacrificial limb on the outer altar, Mincha, besides representing the afternoon tamid is also corresponding to the ketores, the incense. Now, the incense has a higher level of kedusha for it was offered on the golden altar inside the Kodesh, the Holy Chamber of the Beis HaMikdash, while the tamid and the sacrificial limb were only offered on the outer altar of the Temple Courtyard, once again indicating Mincha’s rarified powers.
There is another question which Tosefos poses in Pesachim . What is the meaning of the word Mincha? He says it can’t refer to the mincha, the meal offering, which accompanies the afternoon tamid, for Shacharis also has a meal offering which accompanies it. The Avudraham suggests that it comes from the word menucha, to rest, and since Mincha is at the time when the sun comes to rest, that’s why it’s called Mincha. The Orech HaShulchan asks: If so, wouldn’t it be more appropriate to call it Menoach? He answers that since the Rambam holds that biblically one is only required to daven once daily, he fulfills his basic requirement with the prayer of Shacharis. Thus, Mincha, which also means a gift, is a gift offering beyond the absolute requirement.
I’d like to suggest something else. When did Yitzchak institute the prayer of Mincha? When he went out to meet Eliezer when he was returning with Yitzchak’s bride Rivka. At this point it says, “V’yeitzi Yitzchak lasuach b’sadeh – And Yitzhcak went out to talk in the field” and this is the point where the Gemora says he instituted Mincha. Why did Yitzchak wait until this particular juncture of his life to pioneer Mincha? Many times, I’ve taught many young men and women that the single most important decision they will ever make in their lives is about who they should marry. This decision colors their entire futures, whether they will be happy or not, who their descendants will be throughout the ages, and even who their partner will be in the Afterlife. Thus, when Yitzchak was awaiting the arrival of his future bride, this is the point at which he invented the prayer of Mincha.
And, indeed, he was the only one of the Avos who got his wife as a gift. Yaakov certainly didn’t. He had to work for 14 years for Rochel and Leah, and Avraham – being that he was barren – took a woman who were are taught didn’t even have a uterus. But Rivka came to Yitzchak all gift-wrapped and on a silver platter. Eliezer had a miraculous journey to Lavan’s house, the well-water rose when Rivka came, and miraculously all that Eliezer suggested happened exactly as he said it should. Thus, in the merit of Tefilas Mincha, one gets a gift. Furthermore, to prove the point, an anagram of the word mincha is nechama, to receive comfort, for it says “Vayinachem Yitz acharei imo – And Rivka brought Yitzchak comfort after the loss of his mother.
So let’s bear in mind the next time we think that we’re going to daven Mincha at the ‘kosel,’ by the wall of our office or home, that Mincha is oh so powerful for all the aforementioned reasons and that through it we can merit, with the help of Hashem, great gifts of much comfort, with long life, good health, and everything wonderful.
Please learn and daven for the refuah sheleima of Miriam Liba bas Devorah, b’soch shaar cholei Yisroel.
Sheldon Zeitlin takes dictation of, and edits, Rabbi Weiss’s articles.
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