Why do Jewish holidays begin at nightfall?



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Question of the Month

By Aron Moss

Why do Jewish holidays begin at nightfall? For example, the Sabbath starts Friday night, and is over Saturday night, and that is considered one day.


According to the Jewish calendar, not only Jewish holidays begin at nightfall, but every day does. This system does not only effect the calendar, it effects our whole attitude to life.

In the biblical story of creation, 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". By mentioning evening before morning, the Torah defines a day as beginning with the nighttime, followed by the morning.

Behind this definition of the passage of time is a profound lesson in how to approach the days of our lives.

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. Then the bad times pass, and 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? What is the exception and what is the rule? Is life essentially a dark series of disappointments dotted by the occasional ray of hope, which is soon to be crushed by another surge of gloominess? Or is life an exhilarating journey upwards towards the light, and the challenges along the way are just temporary obstacles, only there 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 nothing but 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.

So if you are going through one of those inevitable dark times in your life, know that no matter how dark it may seem, at the end of the day, it is light that will have the last word.




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