Shabbat is a very special day of the week. Its uniqueness can be seen through its prayers, as it is the only day of the week during which the Shemoneh Esrei has a different text from the ordinary Shemoneh Esrei for all three main Tefillot – Ma’ariv, Shacharit, and Minchah. Of the three unique Tefillot, Minchah is the most unusual; it begins with the first three standard Berachot, in which we rely on our Zechut Avot and talk about Techiyat HaMeitim and Hashem’s Kedushah. After these first three Berachot, we continue the prayer with the paragraph of Atah Echad, in which we mention our forefathers again. No Shemoneh Esrei throughout the year, even those of the Shalosh Regalim and Yamim Nora’im, discusses the Avot after the first three standard Berachot. What special quality of Shabbat Minchah warrants our mentioning of the Avot and our reliance on Zechut Avot?
We can try to understand the uniqueness of Shabbat Minchah by looking at the day’s themes. The first goal of Shabbat is to remember that Hashem created the world. The second goal of Shabbat is to remember the Exodus of Egypt. The last, and perhaps most important, goal of Shabbat is to remember our uniqueness as a nation. Shabbat distinguishes us Jews from the other Umot HaOlam and builds a connection between us and Hashem.
These three themes are expressed in the Shemoneh Esrei of the three main Tefillot of Shabbat. We talk about Hashem’s creation of the world during Ma’ariv and recite the Pesukim of VaYechulu to show that Hashem crea ted the world and rested on Shabbat. During Shacharit, we mention the Exodus and Bnei Yisrael’s Shabbat in the desert, and we recite the Pesukim of VeShameru to show Bnei Yisrael’s dedication to the day. Even after davening Ma’ariv and Shacharit, we still have yet to address the most important aspect of Shabbat, our specialness as a nation and connection to Hashem. Because of our waiting until the last minute, we “pull out the big guns,” the Zechut of the Avot, to try to remember the last and most important part of the day. We need the Avot to make up for our procrastination, and then we can proclaim that “Ki MeiItecha Hi Menuchatam, VeAl Menuchatam Yakdishu Et Shemecha,” “because from You comes their rest and through their rest they will sanctify Your name.” Shabbat is our bridge to Hashem, and our keeping it brings us closer to Hashem. We require the Zechut of the Avot to make this connection, especially at the end of the day.
The theme of trying to make a late connection appears in Parashat Mishpatim. According to Ramban (Shemot 24:1 s.v. VeEl Moshe Amar), the order of events were as follows: first we received the Aseret HaDiberot, then Hashem gave us the laws that appear in Parashat Mishpatim, then Moshe Rabbeinu wrote portions of the Torah and made twelve Mizbachot upon which we offered Korbanot, and then Bnei Yisrael proclaimed “Na’aseh VeNishmah.” Why did Bnei Yisrael not say this earlier? Hashem had already given the Decalogue and more commandments by the time Bnei Yisrael said that they accepted them!
One possible answer is that Bnei Yisrael were so caught up in the moment, with all of the miracles and rules given by Hashem, that they forgot to make their part of the connection to Hashem. The situation in Parashat Mishpatim and the case of Tefillot Shabbat are very similar – Hashem gave us both the Ten Commandments and Shabbat, but we did not accept them right away. We got caught up in the details of the moment so much so that we forgot to remember its primary goal. Therefore, we try to finish off both by saying that we want a connection with Hashem, whether through the day of Shabbat or through observing all of the Mitzvot.
Just as the Avot invested their efforts to create a connection with Hashem, so too must we try our hardest to connect with Hashem. May we all be blessed to remember the big points in life and not get caught up in the details.
 As we mention in Kiddush, “Zeicher LItzi’at Mitzrayim.”
 As we mention in Kiddush, “Zikaron LeMa’aseih VeReishit.”
 As we mention in Kiddush, “Ki Vanu Bacharta VeOtanu Kiddashta MiKol HaAmim.