The Birthday Of The World
We are rather obsessive timekeepers, us Jews. There are exact times when one can recite the various daily prayers and when the Sabbath and holidays begin and end. Our tradition has dates that celebrate particular moments of our collective memory, each with a different emotional charge: joyous, fearsome, triumphant, broken, liberating, majestic, playful and audacious.
While the first historians were Greek, sacred history was the invention of the Jews. There are surely holy places and objects in Jewish tradition but the first holy entity was time. When the heavens and the earth were finished God rested on the seventh day, blessed it and hallowed it. The Shabbat, what Abraham Joshua Heschel called “a palace in time,” was the beginning of kedushah, holiness.
So it should be no surprise that there is an old tradition, actually two traditions in conflict, about exactly when God created the world. This is not a question of what year, that’s another matter altogether. This conflict has nothing to do with how old the world is, but on what month Creation occurred. And this curiosity is not particularly about the beginning of the Creation but about its finishing stroke. Or more accurately put, curiosity about the Creation of all existence is portrayed in blatantly human terms as a question about the birth of human life and consciousness.