A chassidic master once questioned his disciple about the young man’s frequent absences from communal prayer and study.
“Rebbe,” said the man, “You must understand. I work very hard to support my children. Really, if it was up to me, I’d never miss a prayer or a class. But how else will I raise healthy, strong and pious children? It’s for the children. Believe me, only for the children.”
The master smiled. “It’s rather interesting, don’t you think? When I ask my disciples about their decreasing synagogue attendance, they blame it on the children. Twenty-five years later, those grown children will be asked by their rabbis, ‘Nu, so when will you be joining our Gemara class?’ And voila! They will decline on account of their own children.
“Years pass, and now Mr. Grown Grandchild is nudged, ‘Nu, why don’t we see you at the Tanya class?’ And it’s deja vu all over again! ‘It’s for my children, you must understand,’ he explains.
It’s for my children, you must understand.
“Master of the Universe! Where is that final child for whom generation after generation of fathers have sacrificed their own Judaism? Where is he? When is he? Will he ever exist?”
You are busy. I know that, you know that, and your spouse definitely knows it. In fact, social standing in the 21st century is based not on dress, habits, culture or interests, but on how busy one appears to be.
Our sages teach us that the most important prayer of the day is Minchah, the afternoon service, because it needs to be said smack in the middle of the afternoon. Unlike Shacharit (the morning service), which is said before the chaos, and Maariv (the evening service), which can wait until work is over and the kids are asleep, Minchah calls at the intersection of stress and insanity, while life is zipping by at breakneck speed. Minchah will find you in middle of a project at work, picking up the kids from school, at home during “happy hour” or apologizing to your wife for your late homecoming. And yet, you pray.
Minchah is the prayer of character. The more difficult something is, the more rewarding. Winning a tennis match against an amateur is minuscule compared to winning at Wimbledon.
So we know that the daily Minchah prayer shows up at the busiest time, but how about the Minchah of your life? When would that be?
Youth? That is Shacharit, the morning service. One is still free from responsibility. To study and pray during our youth is impressive, but expected. What else should a growing tween be doing, if not falling in love withWhat else should a growing tween be doing? G‑d, and working on refining his or her nature? This is the time!
Likewise in our golden years, when we’re finished raising our children and are relatively financially secure, swimming in the sea of Talmud and roasting in the flame of prayer is to be expected. It’s about time!
But it’s in those hectic, helter-skelter, dog-eat-dog years of building a career, sustaining a marriage, raising a family, buying a home and keeping the pantry full that our true commitment is put to the test. This is the big leagues of Judaism. This is the real McCoy of the G‑d-Me relationship. This is the Minchah of our lives.
And that is why, when you find yourself in that “Minchah” stage of life, it’s all the more important to make time for synagogue and Torah class attendance. Is it more difficult? Absolutely! But it is also more rewarding. Not only will you do yourself a favor by cutting out time for G‑d during the busiest years of your life, you’ll be doing your entire family a favor.
So, next time your rabbi texts you, ‘Minyan needed,’ drop whatever you’re doing (baby can come with you), and rush right over to the Minchah of your life.
Based on a discourse by Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak of Lubavitch, Sefer HaMaamarim Kuntreisim, vol. 1.