Shabbat 9 - Afternoon

Afternoon of any day, not only Shabbat, is the time for the Afternoon prayer (Mincha). Since the time for it ends at sundown, there some activities that one should not start, lest he be absorbed in them and miss the prayer. Therefore, one should not sit down before a barber to have his hair cut close to the time of the Afternoon prayer, he should not enter a bathhouse or a tannery, nor may he begin to eat, nor may he start to judge a case of law. However, if he started any of these activities, he need not interrupt, but he may finish and pray after that.

Actually, there are two time limits for the Afternoon prayer: one can first say it already half an hour after midday, but the ideal time corresponds to the last afternoon sacrifice in the Temple, and it starts at three and a half hours after midday, closer to sundown. Which of the two time limits did our rule mean? If we say that it meant the early afternoon prayer, then why? - there is enough time left in the day!

Not necessarily! It could be that the rule applies to the whole afternoon, and there are cases where one can be drawn into his activity and still miss the prayer. For example, the scissors of the barber may break, and he would be ashamed to walk around with only half of his hair cut; in the bathhouse he may become faint; in the tannery he may see rotting hives requiring immediate attention; a small meal may morph into a large festive one; and in judgment one may suddenly discover an error which will require him to the restart the case.

Art: Albert Joseph Franke - The Barber's Shop