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Why Do Jews Pray Three Times a Day?



Everyone who has been to synagogue knows that we Jews recite the Amidah(silent prayer) three times every day. Why do we all say the same thing, and why do we do it at those specific times? When did it all start?


The Talmud offers two (apparently divergent) origins of the thrice-daily prayer regimen:1

a) The three prayers were actually instituted by our forefathers.Abraham instituted the morning (Shacharit) prayer; Isaac first prayed the afternoon (Minchah) service; and Jacob was the first to say the evening (Maariv) prayers.

b) The rabbis timed the daily prayers to correspond with the two daily Temple sacrifices, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, and the burning of the limbs of the afternoon offering, which would go on through the night. This explains why on days like Shabbat, when additional sacrifices were offered, we have an additional (Musaf) prayer.

The Talmud then goes on to say that both are true. Although the patriarchs established praying at these three times of the day, their conduct wouldn’t necessarily obligate us to do so. It was only later that the rabbis formalized the three daily prayers as standard practice, and they timed them to correspond to the daily sacrifices.

The Rabbis Formalize the Three Daily Prayers

As mentioned, there was not always formal prayer in Judaism. Until the time of Ezra, each person would pray according to his ability and eloquence. A person who was so inclined would offer


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