We’re dedicating new Siddurim on the first day of Shavuot. In honor of this wonderful occasion, we’re using the counting of the Omer to learn about the siddur.
Enjoy today’s siddur related question and answer, which was provided by Eric A..
The siddur outlines a morning, afternoon and evening service. Why do we pray during these three times? Why not more or less?
In our tradition, we also believe in frequent communication with G-d and there is a custom to say 100 blessings a day. As for the three communal prayers, one tradition holds that Abraham instituted the morning (Shacharit) prayers, Isaac instituted the afternoon (Minchah) prayers and Jacob instituted the evening (Maariv) prayers.
To me this makes sense. In the Torah, we read “Abraham woke early in the morning.” He is the sort of person who wants to do a task right away, and he is very detail oriented. It makes sense that his service is the longest and is starts the day. Like Isaac, Minchah comes in the middle, and just as the story of Isaac echoes many elements of Abraham’s life, so the prayers of Minchah echo those of Shachrit, yet it has its own essence. It is fitting that Jacob’s service is that of the evening, after all he dreams of a ladder ascending to heaven and wrestles all night with G-d. Just as Jacob faces many challenges alone, so Maariv is the time when our prayers are the most meditative and individual. Perhaps, this is why we do not repeat the Amidah.
The patriarchs and matriarch are central to our prayers in another way, as well. In the Amidah, you might think we should pray to the G-d of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca, Leah and Rachel. After all, G-d is one. Instead, we pray to the G-d of Abraham, the G-d of Isaac, the G-d of Jacob, etc. This teaches us that each person has a different relationship with G-d. So as we pray, we are reminded that we are individuals, with a distinct personality, and distinct understandings of the Divine. We can also see that we have different moods during the different parts of the day. Thus, in a way, we pray three times, so that there is something for everyone.
Follow Up from Day 19’s question: Were any prayers in the siddur composed by Non-Jews?
A few minutes after day 19’s Omer Learning e-mai went out, I received a text message from my Dad:
“On entering shul every morning we say How goodly are they tents O Jacob …. Written by Balaam a non Jew.”
Good catch Dad! Learn more at: https://www.jweekly.com/2007/06/29/our-opening-prayer-reminds-us-to-keep-our-tents-welcoming/
-Ben S., Omer Counter Extraordinaire