We have three daily services: Morning, Afternoon, and Evening, or Shacharit, Mincha and Ma’ariv.

The name Shacharit is connected to the word Shachar, which means dawn. The name Ma’ariv comes from the word Erev, which means evening.

So what would you expect Mincha to mean? Well, in the Torah it doesn’t mean afternoon, so why is it connected to the afternoon service?

The word Mincha, occurs several times in this week’s parasha. In its context, it refers to the offering of flour and oil that accompanied the daily, Shabbat and festival offerings. Every morning and afternoon, an offering of a lamb took place in the Temple, accompanied by a Mincha or a meal offering of flour and oil. Our daily services are in place of the offerings. It is puzzling, though, why our afternoon service is called after one aspect of the twice-daily service, which was identical in every respect.

If we look earlier in the Torah, we find that the word Mincha, is used to describe a gift. Cain offered a Mincha or gift to G-d. Jacob, unsure of Esau’s mood, sent a Mincha, fulsome gifts, ahead of their reunion. Joseph’s brothers brought a Mincha as a good-will gesture from their father to the ruler in Egypt (Joseph.)

Later in the bible, the word Mincha becomes used as the afternoon offering. When the prophet, Elijah, challenged the false prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel, he timed his offering to coincide with Ba’alot Mincha, when the afternoon sacrifice was taking place in the Temple (I Kings 18:36)

Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik (Chumash Me’orat HaRav, Bamidbar p. 225) explains that there is a key difference between the morning and afternoon services.

At Shacharit, we thank G-d for our very existence. We express our gratitude for life itself. This is summed up in the words of the morning meditation: My L-d, the soul You have given me is pure.

In contrast, at Mincha, we thank G-d for the extras; that what is gracious and beautiful in our lives should continue. We express appreciation for those gifts that make life so much more enjoyable.

In short, at Shacharit, we pray for life. At Mincha, we pray for quality of life. Working for a living is not merely for physical sustenance, it is to improve living conditions as well. The Talmud (Berachot 6a) states that one should always be particular in regard to the Mincha prayer. Explains Rabbi Soloveitchik, thanking G-d for the finer things in life is at least as important as acknowledging G-d for subsistence.