Illuminating the Darkness

After five interviews you actually get the dream job offer. Now you head over to HR and inform them that for religious reasons you will need to take off for Shabbat and Jewish holidays. You prepare a calendar for the HR team members, who are befuddled when it says that in the winter you will need to leave at 3:00 pm on Fridays in order to be home for Shabbat. The HR director asks, “You celebrate the Sabbath on the Seventh Day, Saturday, correct? Then why must you be home so early on Friday?” You respond, “Oh, because the Jewish day begins at night.” The HR director requests verification of this because common knowledge dictates that days begin in the morning when the sun rises.

You say, “Sure, I’ll be happy to provide verification.” Then, you quickly email your rabbi to help provide a source for the Jewish day beginning at night.

The rabbi responds from our Parsha with the 5th verse in the Torah:

וַֽיְהִי־עֶ֥רֶב וַֽיְהִי־בֹ֖קֶר י֥וֹם אֶחָֽד׃

And there was evening and there was morning, a first day.

In the story of when G-d created the world, at the conclusion of each day of creation it stated, “There was evening, and there was morning," demonstrating that the days begin with evening and conclude with morning. That is why Shabbat and all holidays begin at night.

OK, so be it. But why should the night have been created before the day? Is there a lesson we can learn from the way the world was fashioned?

Of course!

The lesson is that all beginnings are unclear and yet to be developed (like standing in the dark); and then as time marches forward, we achieve resolution, more clarity, and our goals crystalize and materialize.

Isn’t this the way every new project, relationship, and new situation develops?

וַֽיְהִי־עֶ֥רֶב וַֽיְהִי־בֹ֖קֶר

And there was evening and there was morning.

In fact, Nachmanidies (1194–1270) Spain, points out that the word for evening, Erev, also means mixture; and the word for morning, Boker, means to clarify, choose, and discern. Therefore, we are reminded every day that our achievements come only after beginning with darkness and discovering the light.

This is the way G-d created our world. However, in heaven there is no need for darkness before light. Therefore, in the Temple in Jerusalem, which reflected G-d’s kingdom in heaven (may it be rebuilt in our day), the day began in the morning and concluded at night – fascinating!

As we begin the year anew, let’s aim to illuminate the world around us with as much light as possible. However, it will take time to unfold. Our task is to faithfully advance through the darkness, and in due time, find the light. As it says:

וַֽיְהִי־עֶ֥רֶב וַֽיְהִי־בֹ֖קֶר

And there was evening and there was morning.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Epstein
Community Scholar in Residence