Parashat Vayerah

אברהם תקן תפלת שחרית שנאמר וישכם אברהם בבקר אל המקום אשר עמד שם ואין עמידה אלא תפלה שנאמר ויעמד פינחס ויפלל

Avraham instituted shacharit, as it says “Avraham awoke in the morning and went to the place where he had stood,” and the word standing means prayer, as it says “And Pinchas stood and prayed.” — Berachot 26b

The Gemara tells us that the daily prayers were instituted by our forefathers. Avraham instituted shacharit, Yitzchak created mincha, and Yaakov created arvit. For each forefather, the sages quote a verse to back up this assertion. If we examine the verse that proves Avraham’s institution of the morning prayers, we find something unexpected.

There are many events in Avraham’s life where he encounters Hashem. Which one inspired him to institute daily prayer? We might naively expect that it would be arising early to fulfill the commandment of the Akeda, or perhaps his spirited defense of Sodom before God. But it is neither.

On the morning that Sodom and Gomorrah is destroyed, after detailing Lot’s rescue, the Torah briefly recounts that Avraham had arisen and returned to the spot overlooking Sodom where he had argued with Hashem to spare the cities. He again looks out at the area, but finds they are now smoking ruins. It is this brief aside that the Talmud sees as the basis to our prayers.

There are many moments that seem to demand prayer. By this time, Avraham has already experienced several encounters with the Godly, and he will have several more in the future. But it was a time when he didn’t see any angels, when he was not experiencing prophecy, when he decided to start each day with prayer. What he realized here, which no one ever realized previously, is that it does not take something awe-inspiring and unique to spark the impulse to approach Hashem. Rather each new day of simply being alive, no matter how mundane that life may seem at the time, brings new opportunities to connect to the Creator.

There are many times when we don’t connect to prayer. We fall into the routine of our lives and fail to find anything noteworthy to focus on. When that happens, let us realize as Avraham did before us: that each day can be as special as you make it. Each day we still are alive gives us boundless opportunities to connect with God, who has boundless desire to connect with us.

I am pleased to introduce a new shiur on the daily tefillah. I look forward to following in Avraham’s footsteps together. May we continue to grow each day.