Prayer Times
Moshe Ben-Chaim

Reader: I would like in my own home (or in the company of others) to pray at the set times of prayer, and I have heard that this was at sunrise and at 3:00 p.m. I'm not sure I've got it right. Is there a sense of "holy time" in the Torah and what time/s would these be? - John


Mesora: Sunrise is correct for morning prayers (the Shmoneh Esray should begin at sunrise), and sunset for afternoon prayers (the Shmoneh Esray should begin at sunset). Evening prayers may be fulfilled all night.

The reasoning behind this is recorded in Talmud Brachos (29b) as King David addressed God, (Psalms 72:5) "they should fear You with the sun". I believe what King David alludes to here is his wish that man's dichotomy should be removed. I mean to say that man is dichotomized and inconsistent in his appreciation and awe of creation on the one hand, and awe of God on the other. King David had no less awe for God as he did for the solar phenomena of the sun and moon. King David chose these two heavenly bodies as they are most distinct from others in their highly observable circuits, unlike the stars which move much slower and not nearly as observable. The stars as well have a consistent appearance to the novice.

As the sun and moon are so amazing in their circuits, effects and in their size, King David desired to alert mankind to his dichotomy in fearing the sphere more than, and divorced from their Creator. Man's appreciation for nature must by definition eventuate in an awe of God. This is King David's message.

Since prayer by definition is an approach to God, and an understanding of set principles, the uniting of one's prayers with the events of sunrise and sunset highlight the appreciation for the One who causes these solar phenomena, thereby adding to the goal of prayer - the awe of God.

But I wonder at the last part of the passage, "They should fear You with the sun and before the moon throughout generations". Why did King David feel the need to mention "throughout generations"? What is missing without that statement?

I believe King David is teaching that although we have the quality awe for God, it must however surpass awe for creation quantitatively. As God is the Sole Being responsible for all of creation, King David wished to enunciate the need for man to have a quantitatively higher awe for God, expressed by "throughout generations". To state that man should fear God for all generations indicates that God exists for all generations, an Infinite Being, thereby deserving of higher praise and awe than His creations - the sun and moon - which were merely brought into being by Him, and didn't exist eternally as does God.

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