The Talmud (Brachot 26b) relates that Abraham established the Morning Prayer (called "Shacharit"), as it is written, "Abraham woke up early in the morning [hurrying back] to the place where he had stood before G‑d." (Gen. 19:27) "Standing before G‑d" is a reference to prayer. Isaac established the Afternoon Prayer (called "Mincha"), as it is written, "Isaac went out to meditate in the field toward evening…". (Gen. 24:63) Meditation is a reference to prayer. Jacob established the Evening Prayer (called "Maariv" or "Aravit"), as is written, "He came to a familiar place and spent the night there because the sun had already set…". (Gen. 28:11) Coming to a place is a reference to prayer. mincha, the time when the sun is beginning to go down for a rest after its long day…

The Kedushat Levi (Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev) examined the names of the different prayers: Shacharit is easily understood, for it is in the morning when the sun begins to shine, and "shachar" in Hebrew, means "dawn". Maariv, as well is clear, for it is the evening prayer when the afternoon and night begin to blend (in Hebrew, "la'arev", related to the word "Maariv") and darkness sets in. Regarding Mincha, the Afternoon Prayer, Rabbi Yom Tov Lipman Heller, in the Tosefos Yom Tov on the Mishna (Berachot 5) explained the word "mincha" (from the Hebrew root word "menucha") as meaning "rest", the time when the sun is beginning to go down for a rest after its long day.

But the Kedushat Levi sees much more in the unusual name of the Afternoon Prayer. It is understandable that one would want to pray the Morning Prayer, for G‑d returns the refreshed soul back to the Jew after the long night, and one is truly a newly created person; one feels a sense of relief that the night has passed and the sun is again shining its familiar warmth; therefore it is natural that upon waking, one would want to express gratitude to the Creator. Regarding the Evening Prayer, at night, when one is preparing to sleep, which is 1/60th of death, (Berachot 57b) and about to deposit one's soul with G‑d during the long darkness, there is a feeling of trepidation and so one says the Evening Prayer and rests easy the remainder of the night with full faith that G‑d will return the soul in the morning, splendid and purged of all impurities.

However, Mincha, the Afternoon Prayer, has no natural sense of obligation or gratitude associated with it. Mincha is a special gift which we offer to G‑d, for that is the meaning of the word "mincha": "gift". When one stops and takes a few minutes out in the midst of a busy day, to put aside all other concerns and let the Creator know how much we appreciate the opportunity and obligation to serve Him, and how much we truthfully have to be thankful for, it is indeed a cherished gift to G‑d.

[First published in B'Ohel Hatzadikim, Chayei Sarah 5762]