Before addressing Shabbat Minchah, let’s understand which days of the week the Torah is read and why.

The Talmud tells us that Moses instituted that the Torah be read three days a week, Shabbat, Monday and Thursday, so that three days would not pass without a public Torah reading.1 This is alluded to in the verses describing how the Jews traveled for three days and then thirsted for water.2 Torah is often allegorically referred to as “water,” thus indicating that after three days of travel, the Jews yearned for Torah.

However, the Talmud also cites a tradition that Ezra the Scribe and the Men of the Great Assembly introduced the practice of reading the Torah on Mondays and Thursdays. So how are these two traditions reconciled?

The Talmud explains that in Moses' times, only three verses were read on the weekdays. Ezra, together with the Men of the Great Assembly, lengthened this quota to a minimum of 10 verses.

We can now return to our question regarding the Torah reading at Minchah on Shabbat.

Too Busy? Learn Extra in Free Time

In addition to instituting the additional verses that are read on Mondays and Thursdays, Ezra also instituted that there be an additional communal reading every Shabbat during the afternoon Minchah service.3 This was to accommodate those who would occupy themselves in commerce throughout the week and couldn’t come to hear the Torah reading on Mondays and Thursdays.

The Deeper Reason

Beyond accommodating those who are busy with business, there are additional, deeper reasons for the Shabbat Minchah Torah reading having been established.

The Zohar4 and the mystics5 explain that on a regular day, the afternoon time, especially as evening approaches and darkness intensifies, is a time of spiritual severity and harsh Divine judgment. Although on Shabbat there is no judgment, this time is still ordinarily connected to negativity. Thus, by reading the Torah, which synthesizes both chesed (kindness) and gevurah (severity and judgment), at this special opportune time, we are able to “sweeten the judgments and severity.”

This time is thus referred to by the mystics as rava d’ravin, “desire of all desires,” when we experience a revelation of G‑dliness from a level that is higher than all of the ten sefirot (attributes), a time when a glimmer of the revelation of the World to Come shines forth. As the kabalistic hymn found in many prayer books and sung by many after Mincha of Shabbat titled Bnei heichalah puts it6:

... Exult, rejoice in this gathering together with the angels and all supernal beings
Rejoice now, at this most propitious time, when there is no sadness
Draw near to Me, behold My strength, for there are no harsh judgments.
… For this time of Minchah is a time of joy for Z'eir Anpin.

May we merit the time when this “glimmer” will become a blazing light with the ultimate revelation in the World to Come.