The Talmud in Brachot 4B proclaims, “ Anyone who recites the Ashrei three times daily is destined to reside in עולם הבא –The World to Come. Ashrei is located twice in Shacharit and once in Mincha. It is evident that the Sages intended to link Ashrei with the reciting of Kedusha. The first Ashrei is in פסוקי דזמרה, the second before ובא לצין, and the third in Mincha. Since Maariv does not contain a Kedushah we do not recite it then.
Why should it be that one who recites Ashrei daily receives eternal reward? What is so significant about this prayer that it contains the potential for eternity within it? The Tefillah is unique because it is an acrostic that presents praise to Hashem in alphabetical order. This implies that when saying the Ashrei we praise G-d every way possible. But why is this enough to merit a guaranteed space in עולם הבא?
Rav Schwab zt”l explains that the twenty one verses in the psalm/prayer can be divided into two. The first eleven are written in a direct fashion second person e.g. “ Every day I will praise you…” Whereas the second set are written in third person e.g. “ G-d is close to all who call upon Him in truth.” It is also explained that the first eleven represent an image of the World To Come. The latter verses project life in the world that we live. Contained in this Tefillah are praises from every letter in the alphabet about every sphere of existence.
Although we do not recite the Ashrei at night, the fact that we say it three times a day is symbolic of the three times a day that we pray. The Sages explain that praying at different times of the day represents different times in our lives. Davening Shacharit when the day begins is praising G-d when life is radiant and pleasant. Davening Mincha as the sun sets represents praising G-d when life bodes uncertainty. Davening Maariv when it is dark outside is symbolic of praising G-d even when things are dark and bleak.
Perhaps this is why the Talmud states that one who recites Ashrei diligently three times a day merits the World To Come. One who expresses prayers and praises to Hashem throughout every sphere of life in hard times and in better times merits eternal rewards in Olam Habah.
Rabbi Epstein, Congregation Sons of Israel Cherry Hill NJ
Orthodox Union Department of Community Engagement
Rabbi Judah Isaacs, Director
Hannah Farkas, Program Manager
Adina Schwarzbaum, Administrative Assistant