The Talmud teaches that the tradition of praying three times a day comes from the practices of our ancestors (BT Brachot 26b). We learn that Abraham got up early in the morning to the place where he had stood before God (Genesis 19:27) – and so Shacharit, the morning prayers, were established. We learn that Isaac went out to meditate in the field at evening tide (ie late afternoon) (Genesis 24:63) – and so Mincha, the afternoon prayers, was established. And in this week’s Torah portion, Vayetzei, we learn that Jacob encountered a place, sleeping there overnight, and in the process experienced God (Genesis 28:11-16) – and so Ma’ariv, the evening service, was established.
There are further word plays that one can make with each of our patriarchs’ names and the service associated with them, by taking the second letter of each of their names and saying that it corresponds to the time of day in which “their” prayer is recited. (more…)