Our sages teach us that each of the three daily prayer services were established by one of the patriarchs and reflect the foremost character trait of that patriarch:
Shacharit, the morning service, was introduced by Abraham. Characterized by the trait of chesed, loving kindness, Abraham, who was deeply inspired by God, reflected the zeal and freshness of the morning. The trait of chesed is filled with emotional outpouring and inspiration. Abraham so loved serving God that as soon as he awoke he wanted to share his thanks and praise. The morning service is our attempt to mimic this zeal.
Mincha, the afternoon service, was introduced by Abraham’s son, Isaac. Isaac’s dominant character trait was gevurah, inner-strength. While Abraham was inspired and externally motivated by the world he saw around him, Isaac’s trait is internal. The business of the day, the mundane activities of life, all had the potential to distract him, thus forcing him to stop and relate to God from within. Isaac, therefore, is linked to the prayer said in the midst of the day, when it is most likely that one would overlook a relationship with God.
Maariv, the evening service, was introduced by Jacob, Isaac’s son. Jacob’s dominant character trait was emet, truth. Jacob is the fusion of the external chesed and the internal gevurah –the combination of zeal and inspiration with strength and physical reality. He is the bridge to the future because he combines the two initial character traits. Jacob sought to serve God at the end of the day, when he had experienced both moments of inspired understanding and moments of deep concentration. The evening service is an opportunity to review the day and look to the future.