MINḤAH (Heb. מִנְחָה), the afternoon prayer service, one of the three daily services of the Jewish liturgy. The name of this prayer is derived from Elijah's devotions "at the time of the offering of the evening (minḥah) offering" (i Kings 18:36). One tradition ascribes the institution of this service to Isaac, who "went out to meditate in the field at eventide" (Gen. 24:63), while another attributes the formalization of the three daily prayer services to the men of the *Great Synagogue as substitutes for the daily sacrifices, with the Minḥah prayer taking the place of the lamb sacrificed in the Temple at dusk (Num. 28:8; Ber. 26b). The custom of three daily prayers is also implied by Daniel 6:11. The Minḥah prayer consists of *Ashrei (Ps. 145, preceded by Ps. 84:5 and 144:15 and closed by Ps. 115:18), the *Amidah, *Taḥanun, and concludes with the *Aleinu. On Sabbaths and fast days, a portion of the Torah is read before the Amidah (see *Torah, Reading of). In some rites, portions dealing with the daily sacrifices are read before Ashrei. The time for the recitation of the Minḥah prayer begins at the conclusion of six and one-half hours of the day. In calculating this time, an "hour" is one-twelfth of the length of the day. Minḥah prayed at this time is known as Minḥah Gedolah ("major"). Minḥah recited after nine and one-half hours of the day is called Minḥah Ketannah ("minor"). R. Judah set the final time for the Minḥah prayer until midway (pelag) through the time designated for the Minḥah Ketannah, or until one and one-quarter hours before sunset. The law is, however, in accordance with the opinion that the Minḥah may be recited until sunset, which is calculated to occur at the conclusion of the 12th hour of the day (Ber. 4:1; Ber. 26b–27a). As a precaution lest people forget to pray the afternoon prayer, the rabbis ruled that it is forbidden to commence a large business transaction or sit down to a banquet once the time has begun for the Minḥah Gedolah, without having previously recited the prayer. Likewise, it is forbidden to begin a minor transaction or partake of an ordinary meal after the time for the Minḥah Ketannah (Shab. 1:2; Shab. 9b). It seems that some made it a practice to pray both at Minḥah Gedolah and Minḥah Ketannah. However, *Asher b. Jehiel ruled that it is forbidden to do so (resp. 4:13). According to the Shulhan Arukh (oḤ 234), it is permitted to recite the Minḥah prayer twice, provided one is recited as an obligatory prayer (ḥovah) and the other as a voluntary act (reshut). This, however, is only allowed for the extremely pious who are certain that both their prayers will be recited with true devotion. Otherwise, the additional prayer will be considered an unwelcome addition in accordance with the exhortation of Isaiah: "To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto Me?" (Isa. 1:11). The third meal on the Sabbath (see *Se'udah Shelishit) is usually eaten between Minḥah and Ma'ariv. During daily worship, the Minḥah prayer in the synagogue is usually delayed until near sunset in order that the congregation may assemble to pray Ma'ariv shortly after the Minḥah service is completed (see Magen Avraham to Sh. Ar., oḤ 233:1).
Idelsohn, Liturgy, 118, 145; Elbogen, Gottesdienst, 98f., 117–20.