By Chaim Barzel
This week we start reading the Torah over again from the beginning. At the end of each day of creation, the Bible counts the day: ‘one day’, ‘second day’, ‘third day’, ‘fourth day’…
In Psalm 90, Moses says, ‘Teach us to count our days correctly so that we may obtain a wise heart.’ But in the Torah itself, there seems to be a problem with the counting of the days of creation!
It would make sense if the Bible had called the first day ‘first day.’ Instead, it says yom echad which literally means ‘one day!’ Why would the Bible use a different formulation for the first day of creation?
Like many words in Hebrew, the phrase Yom Echad has multiple meanings. This is the beauty and depth of the holy language of Hebrew. The first day of Creation, called ‘one day,’ could also mean the ‘day of One.’
The famous Bible commentator Rashi shares a tradition that on the first day of creation, God had not yet created any other spiritual beings (like the angels). He was still the only being in existence, the only One. That’s why the first day was ‘day of One.’
But is there something more we can learn from the expression ‘one day’ as opposed to ‘first day’?
There are three dimensions to time – past, present, and future. Most of us have tens of thousands of days behind us, and hopefully tens of thousands of days ahead of us. But right now, today, we only have one day.
This one day is the only day that’s real at the moment. It’s the day that God has given us today. Once it’s done, it’s gone forever.
By calling the first day ‘one day’, or a singular day, the Bible is teaching us to recognize the uniqueness of each and every day. We should experience today, live today, and recognize the importance of today.
Today is the day we can fulfill our purpose here in this world – to strengthen our relationships with God, with others, and with ourselves.
If it doesn’t depress you to think that today could be the last day of your life, the thought can be very empowering. How would you behave if you knew this was your only day in this world? How would you relate to others? What would you try to accomplish? Imagine maximizing each day of your life with quality thoughts, speech, and action. That’s real living!
When the Bible says ‘one day,’ it is not counting the first day of creation. It is teaching us to live and appreciate each and every day that we are blessed to live.