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Chayei Sarah

Thursday, 21 November, 2019 - 4:30 pm

 You are in the middle of your workday. Appointments, phone calls, emails, documents to read and letters to send, bills to pay and deals to make. The day is short, your staff is leaving soon and other companies that you need to deal with are soon closing. But it’s almost sunset. So you stop everything and take out your Siddur (prayer book), turn to face east and pray for five minutes. (Ideally this is done with a minyan - a quorum of ten.) You prayed this morning, but that was before you started your day. You will pray again tonight, after your day is done. This prayer requires a special kind of devotion and sacrifice, this is the afternoon prayer called Mincha. The Hebrew word Mincha means a gift, and this is a gift that you give Hashem.

The first Mincha that we know is mentioned in this week’s Parsha. “Yitzchak went out to “speak” (in Hebrew “lasuach”) in the field toward evening.” (Bereshit 24:64.)  Our sages say that this was a prayer. Our three daily prayers were founded by our forefathers. Shacharit in the morning by Avraham, Mincha in the afternoon by Yitzchak and Maariv at night by Yaakov. 

Mincha is the shortest of the three prayers, but our sages tell us that it is the most powerful, because of the statement it makes. When a person is willing to stop everything in the middle of the work day to pray and connect to Hashem, he or she is affirming that the success of our work comes from Him. If it is our own expertise and work that brings us wealth, it doesn’t make sense to stop at the height of the income producing work. When we realize, however, that our work is only a part (albeit an important one) of the equation, and the outcome is ultimately determined by Hashem’s blessing. We then know that not only will Mincha not hurt our income, but on the contrary, it will bring enhanced blessings to our work.

There are many stories of the impact of Mincha and the blessings it brings. A famous one is the story of Dr Velvel Green from Minnesota who was a scientist working on the Apollo program. The local Chabad Shliach, Rabbi Feller, went to visit him in his office with a request relating to the upcoming Chabad dinner. Dr. Green was not connected to Chabad or the Jewish community and was not excited about meeting a Chassidic rabbi, and had only given Rabbi Feller a ten minute meeting. By the time Rabbi Feller went through security and got to Dr. Green’s office, the sun was setting and Rabbi Feller turned to the east and prayed. Dr. Green has never seen anything like this. He was so impressed that Rabbi Feller found praying at that time to be more important than the reason he had come, using up the precious few minutes that he had given him, Dr. Green immediately agreed to the request and a strong bond was created between them. Dr. Green gradually adopted a Torah lifestyle, and he became one of the foremost spokespersons for the synthesis of Torah and science on our generation. (I heard the story, with several more details, from Dr. Green when he visited Palo Alto.)

This concept is on my mind now because I am about to stand up and pray Mincha on a plane 35,000 feet in the air. I will face forward, because I am heading east to New York for the annual Chabad convention, where I will meet with about 4,000 of my Chabad colleagues. I am sure we will trade many stories like this one, because when people dedicate themselves to bringing this message to the world - the fact that the material world can and should be permeated with faith in Hashem as expressed by Mincha, many great things happen.

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