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Why do Jewish holidays begin at nightfall?

Why do Jewish holidays begin at nightfall?

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Question:

Why do Jewish holidays begin at nightfall? For example, Purim starts this Monday night, and is over Tuesday night, and that is considered one day.

Answer:

Your question touches upon a fascinating concept - the passage of time.

According to the Jewish calendar, not only Jewish holidays begin at nightfall, but every day does.

This is based on the story of creation in Genesis, where at the end of each day it says, "And it was evening, and it was morning; day one", "And it was evening, and it was morning; the second day" etc. By mentioning evening before morning, the Torah defines a day as beginning with the evening, followed by the morning.

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.

Aron Moss is rabbi of the Nefesh Community in Sydney, Australia, and is a frequent contributor to Chabad.org.
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Discussion (3)
January 22, 2015
How beautiful the explanation of day and night. Everything I read about Judaism is so peaceful and comforting.
Anonymous
Phil
chabadmainline.org
June 24, 2013
אמש is not yesterday... it is part of the same day. For yesterday we say אתמול
The time that follows the first morning is the the second night that belongs to the second day.
The Torah uses very rightly the word בוקר (morning) and not יום (day) to say daylight.
Freddy Maier
Israel
October 26, 2012
Beginning of day
The Torah makes it clear, first there was dark, then there was light, meaning it was first night, and then day. Day did not exist until Hashem created light. It was only after the creation of day/light that there was an evening, and a morning. If this is the case, and this is also logical, the first day was the time prior to the first morning (which included the time when He created both dark and light, day and night, and there was possibility of evening and morning). The time which followed the first morning then belongs to day two, which obviously began when the light returned, the light was called day. Every day after this begins in the morning, not the evening, as all the events of the various days belong to the time previous to morning.
This is also the same as מחר (the next day) which begins in the בוקר (morning) and not the ערב (evening) , the אמש (yesterday) always belongs to the time before מחר in the Tenakh.
Jacob Metz
Lexington, SC