Sunrise, Sunset…Does Anybody Know the Time?


Photo courtesy of Heejing Kim on Unsplash

At times I think my brain may be wired a little differently than most people’s. I might be minding my own business, thinking about things, and suddenly something I’m familiar with doesn’t make sense.

Here’s a perfect example: In the Biblical story of creation in Genesis, each day’s work by the Creator ends in this format: “There was evening, there was morning, the first day.”

To our modern minds and patterns of thinking, that should seem backwards, right? Who defines the day talking about the evening? Even though the actual morning (a.m.) time begins at midnight, when we talk, most of us speak the language of starting our day when we wake up in the morning, whether that’s at 6 a.m. or 9 a.m. or noon. (Get out of bed, you lazy bum.)

And then it struck me that I knew that Jewish holidays begin in the evening. That led me to some research.

DISCLAIMER: I do not consider myself an expert on the Jewish method of keeping time after reading a few articles. Please look upon my summary thinking with kindness. I’ve included a link at the end of this post to an article that most helped me gain a rudimentary understanding.

Since Judaism doesn’t recognize Jesus as the Messiah, their religion couldn’t accept keeping historical time in the same manner as Christians who use B.C. and A.D. (“A.D.” stands for anno domini, Latin for “in the year of the lord,” and refers specifically to the birth of Jesus Christ. “B.C.” stands for “before Christ.”)

For hundreds of years, the Jews used big events as markers of the “beginning” of their timekeeping.  The Exodus from Egypt was used for a while and later the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem was substituted.

But those events, as momentous as they were, just didn’t seem the best choice.

Eventually, the Jewish faith decided to use the most magnificent event of all—the creation as set forth in the first book of the Torah, the law of Moses…Genesis. And that takes me back to where I started…there was evening, and there was morning, the second day.

Before we had clocks, watches, and cell phones to tell us the time, we had nature. So in Jewish time, keeping with the wording from Genesis, the marking of the day begins with the “onset of night (the appearance of the stars).” Other Jewish teachers use sunset to mark the beginning of the new day.

If you didn’t grow up in a Jewish household, that likely seems a bit topsy-turvy. But the last two paragraphs of the article by Rabbi Maurice Lamm are so beautifully worded that I don’t want to paraphrase his explanation.

“Beginning the day with the night is, in a sense, a metaphor of life itself. Life begins in the darkness of the womb, then bursts into the brightness of the light and eventually settles into the darkness of the grave, which, in turn, is followed by a new dawn in the world-to-come.

Life consists of light and dark: “And there was evening and there was morning.” What we make of time is what counts.”


Article by Rabbi Maurice Lamm

Article explaining B.C. and A.D.  




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