When does the day start, and why?

My oldest Robby and Talitha were arguing over what day was Shabbat yesterday as we were preparing for Shabbat dinner. My daughter was convinced that it was Friday, because we were about to have Erev Shabbat dinner. My son was convinced it was Saturday because he knew he couldn’t watch his Saturday morning cartoons until Sunday.  I interjected that they were both right. The proper way to count the day is from sundown to sundown…both of them were satisfied with being right. But why? Why do we count this way?

We always go back to first mention. Gen 1:5  “And G-d called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day.”  Because this is the way G-d counted the days.  But why did He count the days this way, so many ideas have been put forth. This is my favorite from Chabad.org:

This definition of the passage of time is not only relevant to how we set up the calendar. It has profound implications as to our attitude to life itself.

Everyone agrees that life is full of ups and downs. We go through periods where the sun is shining upon us and we feel on top of the world, only to turn a corner and be faced with difficulties and obstacles that drag us down. But it isn’t long before something pleasant comes our way to pick us up again.
The question is: which one wins the day, the ups or the downs? In other words, is life a series of disappointments dotted by the occasional glimmer of hope, only to be crushed by another surge of gloominess? Or are we on a journey upwards, with challenges along the way to make us even stronger in our quest for enlightenment?
Does darkness extinguish light, or does light conquer darkness? Does night follow day or day follow night?
The Jewish view is clear. “And it was evening, and it was morning.” First the night, then the day. Darkness is a pathway to the sunrise hiding behind it. A challenge comes our way only to help us tap in to and reveal our inner powers that have until now remained unfathomed.
That’s Jewish time – the comfort in knowing that no matter how dark it may seem, it is light that will have the last word.

I don’t always get to give the kids the whole story, dinner needs to be prepped, floors need sweeping but I love that when I put the candlesticks on the table my young son Joshua gets excited and starts mimicking  the steps of lighting the candles, or when I go around to wash everyone’s hands and he puts his chubby little hands together and washes too. I think so often we get caught up in how to make G-d real to our kids when the how-to is right in front of us. Each daily activity where we bless G-d or say a prayer or eat a certain way brings G-d into our lives and makes Him real. But that is another topic altogether.


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