This week’s Parashah contains the source for Tefilat Ma’ariv. The Pasuk states, “VaYifga BaMakom VaYalen Sham,” “[Yaakov] encountered the place and spent the night there” (BeReishit 28:11), and the Gemara derives that the word VaYifga does not mean “encounter” in this case, but rather is an expression of prayer (Berachot 26b). The Gemara also explains that in this Seifer, Avraham institutes the prayer of Shacharit, and Yitzchak establishes the Tefilah of Minchah. These inferences of the Talmud lead to the following question: does Avraham Daven Minchah and Ma’ariv, and the other two Avot’s prayers merely serve as the sources for those Tefillot, or do Yitzchak and Yaakov actually institute Minchah and Ma’ariv? Similar to many of the answers of many Torah questions, the answer is subject to a Machloket.
According to Tosafot (ibid. s.v. Yitzchak Tikein), after Yitzchak begins Davening Minchah, Avraham does as well. However, neither Davens Ma’ariv, as neither would have seen Yaakov Daven that Tefilah. Conversely, according to the Penei Yehoshua, Avraham Davens Minchah and Ma’ariv as well because he observes the entire Torah, as the Pasuk states, “VaYishmor Mishmarti Mitzvotai Chukotai VeTorotai,” “[Avraham] observed My safeguards, My commandments, My decrees, and My Torahs” (BeReishit 26:5). Through these Tefilot, he is able to fulfill the Mitzvah of the Korbanot Tamid. However, Avraham ascribes a special importance to Shacharit, just as Yitzchak does with Minchah and Yaakov does with Ma’ariv.
These answers both raise additional questions. Why do Yitzchak and Yaakov either institute the new prayers of Minchah and Ma’ariv or add importance to them to supplement their
purposes of replacements for Korbanot? In addition, why does each forefather choose to pray at the time he does?
My brother, Rabbi Elon Weintraub, suggests that the time of day that each forefather prays corresponds to the attribute that he represents. Avraham Davens in the morning because he emphasizes the concept of Zerizut, excitement to do Mitzvot. He does so by waking up early to perform Mitzvot as the Pasuk describes regarding Akeidat Yitzchak, “VaYashkeim Avraham BaBoker,” “Avraham woke up early in the morning” (BeReishit22:3). Yitzchak institutes Minchah because it represents his attribute of Gevurah, strength. Minchah entails the difficulty of stopping one’s activity in the middle of the day to pray, and Yitzchak prays outdoors in the field during the day. Yaakov stresses Torah study, as the Torah describes him as an “Ish Tam Yosheiv Ohalim,” “A wholesome man, residing in tents [of Torah study]” (25:27). Rambam explains that Torah study is special at night because if one does not learn Torah at night, it is as if he has never learned Torah in his life (Hilchot Talmud Torah 3:13). Therefore, Yaakov prays during the night to emphasize his personal connection with that time.
Each of the Avot is able to channel his particular strength into fostering a stronger connection with Hashem. Hopefully, we can learn from them and use our God-given gifts to honor and serve HaKadosh Baruch Hu.
- Including ideas from Rav Moshe Weinberg