Printed from chabad.org
All Departments
Jewish Holidays
TheRebbe.org
Jewish.TV - Video
Jewish Audio
News
Kabbalah Online
JewishWoman.org
Kids Zone

The Three Daily Prayers

The Three Daily Prayers

E-mail

Jewish Law makes it our duty to pray three times daily: in the morning, in the afternoon and at nightfall. These prayers are called morning prayer (shacharit), afternoon prayer (minchah) and evening prayer (arvith or maariv ).

Our Sages tell us that the custom of praying three times a day was originally introduced by our Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Abraham introduced prayer in the morning, Isaac—in the afternoon, and Jacob added one at night.1

In the Zohar2 (where the inner meaning of the Torah is revealed) and in Chabad philosophy3 it is explained further that each of the three Patriarchs represented a particular quality which they introduced into the service of G‑d. Abraham served G‑d with love; Isaac—with awe; Jacob—with mercy. Not that each lacked the qualities of the others, but each had a particular quality which was more in evidence. Thus Abraham distinguished himself especially in the quality of kindness (חסד) and love (אהבה),while Isaac excelled especially in the quality of strict justice (דין) and reverence (יראה), while Jacob inherited both these qualities, bringing out a new quality which combined the first two into the well-balanced and lasting quality of truth (אמת) and mercy (רחמים). We, the children of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, have inherited all these three great qualities of our Patriarchs, and this enables us to serve G‑d and pray to Him with love and fear (awe) and mercy. The quality of mercy enters when we realize that our soul is a part of G‑dliness, and we feel pity for it because it is so often distracted from G‑d by the material aspects of the daily life.

When the Torah was given to us at Mount Sinai, our way of life was set out for us by G‑d. Torah means "teaching," "instruction," "guidance"; for the Torah teaches us our way of life in every detail of our daily life. The Torah contains 613 commandments. Among them is the command to "serve G‑d with all our heart and all our soul."4 How do we serve G‑d with our heart? By praying to Him. In doing so, we fulfill not only the commandment of praying to G‑d, but also other commandments, such as to love G‑d and to fear Him, which are separate commandments.

During the first one thousand years, or so, since the time of Moses, there was no set order of prayer. Each individual was duty-bound to pray to G‑d every day, but the form of prayer and how many times a day to pray was left to the individual.5

There was, however, a set order of service in the The Holy Temple in Jerusalem, known as the Beit Hamikdosh, in connection with the daily sacrifices, morning and evening,while the evening sacrifice extended into the night. On special days, such as Shabbos, Rosh-Chodesh and Festivals, there were also "additional" (musaf) sacrifices. Accordingly, it was perhaps not unusual for some Jews to pray three times a day, morning, evening and night, in their own way. King David, for example, declared that he prayed three times daily,6 and Daniel (in Babylon) prayed three times daily facing in the direction of Jerusalem.7 There is evidence that there were, even during the time of the first Temple in Jerusalem, public places of prayer, called Beit Ha'am,8 which the Chaldeans (Babylonians) destroyed when they destroyed Jerusalem and the Holy Temple.

After the Holy Temple was destroyed and the Jews were led into captivity in Babylon, Jews continued to gather and pray in congregation. The places of prayer became like "small sanctuaries"—Beit Mikdash Me'at,9 during the years of exile, the children who were born and brought up in Babylon lacked adequate knowledge of the Holy Tongue (Hebrew) and spoke a mixed language. Therefore, when the Jews returned to their homeland after the seventy years' exile was over, Ezra the Scribe together with the Men of the Great Assembly (consisting of prophets and sages, 120 members in all) fixed the text of the daily prayer (Shemone Esreithe "Eighteen Benedictions"), and made it a permanent institution and duty in Jewish life to recite this prayer three times daily. Ever since then it became part of Jewish Law (Halachah) for each and every Jew to pray this ordained and fixed order of prayer three times daily, corresponding to the daily sacrifices in the Holy Temple, with additional (musaf) prayers on Shabbat, Rosh-Chodesh and Festivals, and a special "closing" prayer (Neilah) on Yom Kippur.

Thus, the main parts of the daily prayers were formulated by our Sages. These included the Shema prayer and Shemone Esrei, which still are the main parts of our morning and evening prayers, while the Shemone Esrei is the main part of the Minchah service also. The daily Psalm (from Tehillim) which used to be sung by the Levites in the Holy Temple, the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, became part of the morning prayer. Other Psalms of David were included in the morning prayer, and special benedictions before and after the Shema were added. By the time the Mishnah was recorded by Rabbi Judah the Prince (about the year 3910—some 500 years after Ezra), and especially by the time the Talmud was completed (some 300 years later, or about 1500 years ago), the basic order of our prayers, as we know them now, had been formulated.

FOOTNOTES
1. Berachoth 26b; Ber. Rabba ch. 68.
2. Zohar I, 96a, and frequently.
3. Torah Or, 17a, f., 23d f., etc.
4. Deut. 11:13.
5. Rambam, Hil. Tefilah 1:3.
6. Ps. 55:18.
7. Daniel 6:11.
8. Jeremiah 39:8.
9. Ezra 11:16. But
Excerpted from My Prayer by Dr. Nissan Mindel
Published and copyright by Kehot Publication Society, all rights reserved.
E-mail
1000 characters remaining
Email me when new comments are posted.
Sort By:
Discussion (14)
July 23, 2014
prayer is good, but is it mandatory?
Prayer is a wonderful practice. But is it mandatory to pray three times a day, using the traditional set of prayers every time? This article says for the first thousand years, it was up to the individual to decide, and the current order was instituted by Ezra. Is it mandatory today, to follow that exact order or quantity of prayers?
Mark R
Washington DC
July 20, 2014
Are women obligated to pray 3 times a day
Zev Dov
Honolulu
December 29, 2013
I wish to know which is the direction towards Jerusalem Temple from Mumbai for prayer.
Abraham Varghese
Mumbai, India
December 14, 2013
Tefilin and Shema
I can't wrap tefilin in the morning because I have to get up very early (4:30 a.m - before sunrise) to get to work on time. So, I do it in the afternoon (around 4:30 p.m.), when I return home. I say Ashrei, Amidah, and Aleinu, as this time of day corresponds to Mincha. Should I also be saying the Shema? (I say the Shema in the morning and at night before going to sleep)

Micah Thomas
Dallas, Texas
December 13, 2013
prayer
Yup we can go before God and talk to Him just as we would a friend. Prayer is just communication with God and He hears us we need to repent of sins and go to Him in sincerity, doesn't make sense hiding up stuff. He already knows, and he loves us.
Nicole
August 20, 2013
Daily prayer
I worry my prayers should be structured, I guess all that matters is that I am earnest and honest in my prayers and pray for what's important, He knows whats in our hearts, He knows all things!
Glenn
Vermont
May 13, 2013
Three daily prayer
I will try my best to pray three times a day.
David Ramushu
South Africa
March 29, 2013
Thank you and pray for me likewise as I do for you.
Clifton
USA
March 26, 2013
Prayers
Prayers changes many things in these life we are living and It also brings us close to God.It is the only way to communicate with God.
Peter
Kenya
October 1, 2012
The 3 daily times
Does it matter specifically what times a person prayer if he is not with a group and just prays alone. I am the sole Jew in my household and because of transportation can't make it to a synagogue. Is there a traditional time that is considered morning and afternoon ie. 9 am and 1 pm?
Patrik
Show all comments
More in this section
This page in other languages
FEATURED ON CHABAD.ORG