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Mincha - The Afternoon Prayer

Mincha - The Afternoon Prayer

Mincha is an oasis of spiritual time in a tough workday, a moment of calming nerves and focusing on priorities.

by

Jews are bidden to pray three times daily to God. The Shacharit prayer takes place in the morning. It is the longest of the three daily prayers and contains within it the basic affirmations of Judaism ― the Shema, the Amidah and the ideas of repentance, self-improvement and loyalty to God and Israel.

The Maariv prayer takes place at night, after sunset. It is much shorter in length than Shacharit, but nevertheless includes again within it the basic Shema and Amidah prayers.

The shortest prayer service of the day takes place in the afternoon, or at least just before sunset, and is called Mincha. It is composed of the recitation of Psalm 145, the Amidah, a prayer of repentance and the concluding prayer to all Jewish prayer services, Aleynu. Aleynu is a reaffirmation of Jewish goals and a hope for the better world for all humankind.

Mincha is usually a 10-to-15-minute prayer service, but for much of the Jewish world, it has become almost a forgotten prayer service. It is not the length of Mincha that has caused this, but rather its inconvenience in coming in the middle of a busy working afternoon. But in that fact alone lies perhaps its major importance and necessity.

In the Field

Our Sages attribute the origin of our three daily prayer services to our patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Abraham created the prayer time for Shacharit, Isaac for Mincha and Jacob for Maariv.

It's an oasis of spiritual time in a tough workday, a moment of calm and focus on priorities.

The rabbis of the Talmud deduced the role of Isaac in creating Mincha from the verse in the Torah that tell us that "Isaac went out to converse in the field" (Genesis 24:63-65). Converse with who? The Torah itself is silent on the subject. The rabbis are of the opinion that the conversation was between Isaac and God. And since the Torah describes this event as happening "before evening," Jewish tradition placed the time of Mincha as being in the afternoon before the time of the sun setting.

Mincha is also connected with being "in the field." Shacharit and Maariv are possible to be prayed outside of the time constraints of our mundane everyday tasks. Not so Mincha. It stops us in the middle of work, shopping, school, and all other usual tasks that life places upon us. It meets us "in the field," at our desks and in our factories ― and it is always inconvenient. But it is an oasis of spiritual time in a tough workday, a moment of contemplation, a calming of nerves and a focusing of priorities. As such, it is perhaps the most important and meaningful prayer service of the day.

Neighborhood Groups

Today, there are many "Mincha" prayer groups in companies, stores, colleges, hospitals and in geographic areas of cities where a considerable number of observant Jews are to be found.

When I was a lawyer many decades ago in downtown Chicago, there were few if any such "Mincha" prayer groups. I would lock myself in my office, tell my secretary that I was making an important private call, and pray. (Yes, I was placing a personal call to the Almighty.) Many times I felt a sense of rejuvenation and exhilaration after this 15-minute prayer break. It helped me overcome the disappointments and frustrations that are the daily lot of all of us at our places of work.

What is lacking in much of current Jewish life, even amongst those who are nominally affiliated with synagogues or Jewish organizations, is a sense of personal participation in Judaism, its rituals, values and blessings. We are members but not participants. No sermon, article, book, class, etc. can connect one to being truly Jewish and feeling so in one's inner soul to the extent that a simple Mincha prayer in the midst of a busy afternoon at the office can.

Mincha becomes a major component of experiencing spirit and holy transcendence in daily human life. It can literally change the way we think about people, the world, life, ourselves.

Published: October 26, 2002


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Visitor Comments: 15

(15) D.Altman-Burnworth, April 14, 2014 7:18 AM

so much to learn and so late in life! Iam 75!

I recently found out my grandfather was a german jew. I was told we were pa. dutch. My aunt told me we were of jewish descent a couple years ago. we have no jewish community locally, this site is the only way I have to learn of our heritage! Thankyou!

(14) Mary Ellen Wright, September 22, 2013 7:49 PM

Minchah Prayer -- a wonderful pause

Thank you for this informative article. It is an encouragement to me to pause in the midst of my busyness and talk with G_d. He is never too busy or unavailable.

(13) David, June 11, 2013 5:20 PM

G_d our creator

This comment is directed to me just as much. If we can't find time for our creator & provider for just 15 minutes shame on us/me. I'm going to committ to this for myself.

(12) Ed Stitzer, February 24, 2013 1:43 PM

very enlightening and encouraging

I do believe the Mincha time would be beneficial to all who would practice it. I also believe there are times we need not wait until 'Mincha time' to stop and pray and allow G-d to bring peace, wisdom and focus within us and to our circumstances.

(11) Robert Roseboro, September 4, 2011 11:55 PM

Mincha/Maariv

As a retired military serviceman. I had to do the Mincha/Maariv while on field training exercises in my jeep. As a police officer working the night night shift, I always found an alley where I would pull off the main road and conduct evening prayers. The trunk of my police unit always had melted wax from lighting Hanukkah lights. I believe on judgement day, every nook and cranny will testify. Who prayed where and who sinned where.

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