The root of our prayer service – by David Goodwin

Wow! I heard a chiddush from Rabbi Jonathan Sacks shlita today that was sooooo beautiful and knocked me’ socks off. I hope you agree.

Ever wondered why we repeat shemoneh esrei at Shacharit and Mincha but not at Maariv. What do you reckon? I always thought that it might be for those who arrive late, can’t read Hebrew or maybe even for those who are a bit hard of hearing!

In the Talmud the famous dispute between R. Yose ben R. Chanina and R. Yoshua ben Levi (Berachot 26b) draws our attention to two explanations about our 3 daily services. The former states that the prayers were instituted by the Patriachs – Avraham (Shacharit), Yitzhak (Mincha) and Yaakov (Maariv). We all know that one. Each Patriach can be sourced in the Torah as ‘having davened at these specific times’. Along comes R. Yoshua ben Levi and states that the prayers replaced the daily Temple sacrifices. The Talmud then goes on to bash out the debate.

So which is it? Well it’s both! Of course it is we’re Jewish! One viewpoint represents personal, prophetic, supplicatory, private prayer – symbolised by the prayers of our Avot; the other viewpoint is indicative of the priestly aspect of prayer – communal, continual and collective without the personal characteristic. Each highlights different functions of prayer itself. And where do we see every day of our lives that both of these aspects are still well preserved by the holy Nation of Israel? Well, consider this – we repeat shemoneh esrei only at Shacharit and Mincha because the Chazzan’s repetition – public, non personal, without private supplication – actually represents the priestly aspect of tefila having just been preceded by the personal, silent and private prayer of the individual. Silence is for the Avot; public is for priests. And why we don’t repeat at Maariv? Simple, because in the times of the Temple there was no evening sacrifice!!

mmmmm, tasty Torah!

Shavua tov holy ones.

ps my chiddush: check out the name of the Rabbis who brought these ideas out to the world. Regarding private supplications it was R. Yose ben R. CHANINA – root of CHANINA is Chet-Nun-Nun like Tachanun which means ‘supplication’ (which we pray at Shacharit and Mincha only). The second Rabbi is R. Yoshua ben LEVI – Levi being the tribe from which who come from? Yep, the Leviim, the priests! Nothing like our holy Torah right!


These daily lifts are inspired by Jonny Chippeck and dedicated to his ‘refuah shleimah’. Get well soon Jonny!

Please step up to the plate and contribute your own small nugget of Torah by sending back to me at The more people we have contributing, the higher this daily lift will go. Keep them coming.

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