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The Jewish Day

The Jewish Day

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"And it was evening and it was morning, one day" (Genesis 1:5).

Jewish Calendar Date

When G‑d created time, He first created night and then day. Therefore, a Jewish calendar date begins with the night beforehand. While a day in the secular calendar begins and ends at midnight, a Jewish day goes from nightfall to nightfall. Shabbat begins on Friday night, and a yahrtzeit lamp is kindled the evening before the yahrtzeit (anniversary of a person's passing), before nightfall. If the 10th of Iyar falls on a Wednesday, and a child is born Wednesday night after dark, the child's birthday is the 11th of Iyar.

On those dates wherein certain activities are restricted -- such as working on Shabbat or major holidays -- the restrictions go into effect the night beforehand.

[Most fast days begin at dawn ("alot hashachar"), and as such are an exception to this rule. Yom Kippur and Tisha b'Av, however, do begin at nightfall of the previous night.]

Though the day and its restrictions begin the night beforehand, many obligations associated with specific calendar dates -- such as hearing the shofar on Rosh Hashanah, taking the Four Species on Sukkot, or hearing the daytime reading of the Megillah on Purim -- must be performed during daylight hours only.1

Definition of Nightfall

While a day starts and ends at nightfall, the exact moment when night -- and the next calendar date -- begins is not clear.

The twilight period, from sunset ("shkiah") until three stars are visible in the sky ("tzeit hakochavim"), is an "iffy" time period, known as "bein hashmashot." Shabbat and all the holidays begin at sunset, the earliest possible definition of nightfall, and end when three stars appear in the sky the next evening, the latest definition of nightfall.

A rabbi should be consulted if a boy is born during bein hashmashot (to determine when the circumcision should be scheduled), or if a person passes away during this time (to determine the date when the yahrtzeit should be observed).

See also Why do Jewish holidays begin at nightfall?

Footnotes
1.

According to biblical law, dawn marks the beginning of the day, and all mitzvot associated with daytime hours can then be performed. For various reasons, however, the Sages instituted that the observance of many of these mitzvot should be delayed until sunrise ("netz hachamah"), or the moment when "one can recognize a familiar acquaintance."

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Discussion (18)
February 9, 2017
There are two meanings to the word "Yom" - day. One meaning is the entire 24 hour period made up of night (first), then day. Another meaning is of Yom is day vs. night - i.e. daytime. In a day that begins at 6 AM and concludes at 6 PM - 9 AM would be the end of the 3rd "Halachic hour" of the day - see here for more about these "hours".

Simcha Bart for Chabad.org
February 9, 2017
If a new day begins at nightfall, then how would the 3rd hour of that day be 9 a.m.?
shaun
Washington
December 25, 2016
To Jon
The first day begins Saturday night at nightfall end ends Sunday at Sundown.
Chabad.org Staff
chabadone.org
December 25, 2016
1st day of the week
So, when does the 1st day of the week begin and end?
Jon
October 15, 2016
Manna fell every day except the day before Shabbat, where twice as much was gathered early (two Ephehs per family) so that there would be no gathering on Shabbat and nothing gathered on the other days could be left over or worms would spoil it
Yochanan Heimeyer
Bradenton
March 22, 2016
The first day
The light that was created was the daybreak of creation and with the rotation of the earth that daylight became evening then night then morning the end of the first day. Logically it was 23 hours 56 minutes, 4.09 seconds like it is today
Robert D Quist
Daytona Beach Fl
May 15, 2015
Day and night are caused by earth's rotation. How fast did the earth rotate? Couldn't it have taken thousands of our currant years, to make one rotation in the beginning?
Anonymous
nebraska
November 15, 2014
Genesis 1:5 says "it was evening and it was morning, one day".
My question is ; what is the difference between evening and night ?
Because the scripture says:the evening and the morning makes a day!..meaning the night is not part of the day.....advice.
Solomon
Accra,Ghana
June 4, 2014
Rythm of the Jewish Day
Is there a rhythm to the traditional Jewish day? Do they follow a certain schedule as the day goes?
Jeanine
West Jordan
December 22, 2013
to Theodore
The days do not have names, except The Sabbath, which is the seventh day. All the others are day one, day two, etc.
Similarly, Portuguese calls the days first day, second day, etc.
I hope that helps.
rudy
Since Biblical times the months and years of the Jewish calendar have been established by the cycles of the moon and the sun. Torah law prescribes that the months follow closely the course of the moon, from its birth each month to the next New Moon.
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