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MINḤAH PRAYER:

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The afternoon devotional service of the Jewish liturgy. The term is probably derived from Elijah's prayer at "the time of the offering of the evening ["minḥah"] sacrifice" (I Kings xviii. 36). Minḥah is one of the three daily services referred to in Dan. vi. 10. Tradition credits the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob with the authorship of the morning, afternoon, and evening prayers respectively (Ber. 26b). That Isaac was the original author of Minḥah is deduced from the verse, "And Isaac went out to meditate in the field at the eventide" (Gen. xxiv. 63).

Divisions.

Minḥah proper, otherwise known as "Minḥah Gedolah" (major) begins at six and one-half hours of the day (12.30 P.M.); "Minḥah Ḳeṭannah" (minor), at nine and one-half hours of the day (3.30 P.M.); and they both end at sunset (6 P.M.). "Pelag" (split or semi-) Minḥah divides the "Minḥah Ḳeṭannah" in half at ten and three-quarter hours of the day (4.45 P.M.; Ber. iv. 1, 26a). Sunset is calculated to occur at the twelfth hour of the day (6 P.M.); no attention is paid to variations in the length of day and of night according to the seasons, but each is reckoned as containing exactly twelve hours.

The distinction between Minḥah Gedolah and Minḥah Ḳeṭannah corresponds to a division of activities into important and unimportant; it being forbidden to enter upon one of either class after the beginning of the corresponding Minḥah; this rule was made as a precaution against any undertaking being continued after the limit of the time fixed for prayer (Shab. i. 2, 9a). Accordingly, one must not commence a large business transaction or sit down to a banquet after 12.30 P.M., nor begin a small transaction or partake of an ordinary meal after 3.30 P.M., without having previously recited the Minḥah prayer. The semi-Minḥah is a special division made by Rabbi Judah, who sets the limit of the "Minḥah" time at one and one-quarter hours before sunset.

It appears that some made it a practise to pray both at Minḥah Gedolah and Minḥah Ḳeṭannah. R. Maẓliaḥ did so; but Asheri rules against him, inasmuch as there is an additional Minḥah known as "ne'ilah," which is confined to Yom-Kippur and special fast-days (Asheri, Rule iv., § 13). The Shulḥan 'Aruk allows one to say the Minḥah prayer twice, provided one Minḥah is recited as an obligation ("ḥobah") and the other as a voluntary act ("reshut"). This, however, is allowed only to men of extraordinary devotion; this rule being supported by the words of Isaiah: "To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me?" (Shulḥan 'Aruk, Oraḥ Ḥayyim, 234, 1).

Minḥah consists of Ps. cxlv. "'Amidah," "Taḥnun" (except on Fridays), and "'Alenu." When there is a quorum of ten ("minyan") the leader repeats the standing prayer ("'Amidah") aloud, and recites the "Ḳaddishim." On Saturdays and onfast-days a portion of the Pentateuch is read in public before the '"Amidah." When time presses, the leader recites aloud only the first part of the prayer, through "Ḳedushshah" ("thrice holy"), and the rest is said silently with the assembly.

The third meal on Saturdays is eaten between Minḥah and Ma'arib or evening prayer. Formerly, a maggid sometimes preached in the synagogue after Minḥah. In the nineteenth century, when the people became more busy in worldly affairs, it was difficult for them to assemble in the afternoon and again in the evening; hence the Minḥah prayer was postponed to very near sunset in order that it might be followed by Ma'arib after a short interval.

On the relation of the Minḥah prayer to the sacrifices in the Temple see Prayer.

Bibliography:
  • Dembitz, Jewish Services in Synagogue and Home, pp. 76-81, 332, Philadelphia, 1898.
J. J. D. E.
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