The War in Israel Part 9: Opportune Timing

There are times of the year that are special times of favor before Hashem. During these times, we have greater opportunity to have our tefilos answered. Perhaps the most powerful examples are Yom Kippur, The Ten Days of T’shuvah (Aseres Y’mei T’shuvah), and Purim.

There are also other such times of special favor. Examples include davening with a minyan and the daily tefilah of Minchah. It is beyond our scope to discuss levels of favor and differences between these various times.

This segment will focus on the great opportunity of tefilas Minchah. The Gemara (B’rachos 6b – Rabbi Chelbo in the name of Rav Huna) states that one should always be careful about tefilas Minchah because Eliyahu HaNavi was only answered in tefilas Minchah. The Vilna Gaon states that we see that our tefilos at Minchah have greater opportunity to be answered. It is also suggested, based on this Gemara, that if one has specific requests he wants to daven for, he should make those requests specifically during his tefilas Minchah (Iyun Yaakov and Meon HaBrachos).

Aside from the reason that Eliyahu HaNavi was answered at Minchah, the Tur also brings the reason that Minchah is more challenging, because it comes in the middle of our day when our minds are distracted with our daily activities. During the morning and evening, our minds are much less scattered, and it is easier to focus. Therefore, if we can rise to the greater challenge and bear down and focus at Minchah, we will have greater merit and opportunity.

Preparation is a crucial component of success in any endeavor. This is especially true for tefilah. Preparation for tefilah involves a process. The first step is physical. The halachah tells us we must try to relieve ourselves, so we are certain to approach Hashem with a clean body. We must also wash our hands before all tefilos. (If one is davening Maariv immediately after Minchah, he is not required to wash again.)

The second step is mental and emotional. We must try to settle our minds and emotions prior to speaking to Hashem. If we are upset about something to the point that we cannot get focused, we should not daven at that time. It would also be a good idea to ask Hashem for help to focus and have the physical strength we need to daven and not be yawning during our Shemoneh Esrei. (Aside from the obvious lack of respect and awe required when speaking to the King of all Kings, yawning is not permitted during Shemoneh Esrei.)

Lastly, we have a built-in preparation to remind us of Hashem’s awesome power and loving kindness.  Ashrei, which we recite prior to Minchah, paves the way for us to make our requests, after having internalized Hashem’s desire to bestow kindness and His unlimited ability to do so.

Proper preparation leads to more focused, mindful, and heartfelt tefilah. There are two essential prerequisites for proper preparation. The first is to arrive early enough to settle our minds and hearts and to recite Ashrei mindfully. The second is to study Ashrei outside of davening time. There are many resources available. The better we understand what we are saying, the more powerful our preparation and our ultimate tefilah will be.

As we have been writing, every single tefilah, especially Minchah, is a precious gift and opportunity that we cannot afford to lose. Hashem is “depending” on us to offer sincere and heartfelt tefilos so He can deliver the kindness He desires to shower upon us and upon the worlds. Our brothers and sisters are depending on us. Our loved ones are depending on us.

Ashrei also brings us closer to Hashem through greater praise of Hashem and recognition of His lovingkindness. Before Shemoneh Esrei of Shacharis and Arvis (Maariv), we mention the miracles and kindness that Hashem bestowed upon us when He took us out of Mitzrayim.

Rashi (B’rachos 4b), quoting the Yerushalmi, states that the reason we precede the morning and evening Shemoneh Esrei with praise is that it brings us closer to Hashem, and through that closeness we can approach Hashem with our requests. The same can be said of Ashrei before tefilas Minchah.

Given the daily opportunity and responsibility we have to impact the worlds and our fellow Jews, we are going to focus the next few segments on Ashrei. When we began the Weekly Tefilah Focus over eight years ago, we began with Ashrei. The next few segments will contain some of the original material and some new. It is our hope and prayer that, through a renewed focus on Ashrei, we will merit, b’ezras Hashem, to elevate our preparation for and actual tefilah of Minchah and merit to become a “ben Olam HaBa,” which the Gemara (4b) assures us of, if we say Ashrei three times daily (with proper kavanah, which results in enhanced emunah and closeness to Hashem.