A story is told of a father waking his son up to go to shul on Shabbat morning. To his chagrin the son seems to be in a
comatose state of Shabbos Menucha , the father exclaims, “You had better be in shul by Barchu”. The father arrives to shul, he davens Psukei Dzimra and does not see his son, Shacharit begins and the son is nowhere to be found, Barchu comes and goes and the son has not arrived. Thirty minutes later during the latter section of the Torah Reading the son walks proudly into shul, sits down joyfully next to his father only to find his father disgruntled and frustrated. The father turns angrily towards the son and says, “Where were you? I told you that you had to be here by Barchu.” The son answers, “You did not say which Barchu – there are still a few Barchus left in the Torah Reading.”
This story inspired me to consider exactly when and why we recite Barchu in our prayers? There are three times in our
prayers when the Barchu is recited.
· 1- every morning after Yishtabach preceding the blessings before Shema.
· 2 – before each Aliyah read from the Torah.
· 3 – at Maariv, the evening prayer, introducing the blessings before Shema.
· Additionally – if one misses saying Barchu early in the service, it may be recited at the conclusion by the
latecomer or another.
What is the function of Barchu?
When is it said and why is it said?
Why is there no Barchu at Mincha?
Rav Schwab zt”l explains that the Barchu formula is an invitation. The leader/reader/Chazzan calls out Barchu-Proclaim Gd’s Blessing to the entire congregation and invites them to respond Baruch Hashem…which states G-d’s benevolence and blessedness. The Talmud explains that this interchange is based on the verse “Ki shem Hashem Ekra Havu godel Laylokeynu” (Deut 32:3), which means “To the name of G-d I will call, exclaim greatness towards our G-d”.
Barchu is only recited as an introduction to the recitation of Scripture i.e. Shema or Torah Readings in the morning and the evenings; therefore it is not recited during Mincha. The question is why not?
HaRav Abraham Azulai zt”l (1570–1643)who is quoted in the Sefer Levush explains that when the Leader chants Barchu Et Hashem Hamevorah – Blessed are You G-d the Blessed, and the congregation answers with alacrity Baruch Hashem Hamevorach Leolam Vaed – Blessed are You G-d forever and ever, it is an expression of gratitude that we have been blessed with a Soul – the G-dlike spirit that infuses all mankind with life. The mystics teach us that there are five components of the soul: Nefesh, Ruach, Neshama, Chayah and Yechidah. Therefore our response Baruch Hashem contains specifically five words corresponding to our souls.
I would like to suggest that one reason we do not recite Barchu at Mincha is because we do not recite Shema or generally read Scripture at Mincha. Another reason perhaps is because at night when we sleep our souls depart, and in the morning when we awaken our souls are returned; therefore at those dynamic moments we celebrate our souls and recite Barchu with all of our hearts and souls. During the daytime when our souls remain within us, we do not recite Barchu at Mincha.