Night and Day—Body and Soul
Rabbi Yehoishophot Oliver
“In the beginning, Hashem created the heavens and the earth. ... And there was evening, and there was morning, one day.”
There are many fundamental differences between the Torah and non-Torah approach to time, and this manifests itself on many levels. One of the most immediate is that although all agree that a period of a day consists of a period of daylight and nighttime, the non-Jewish world defines a period of a day by saying that night follows day, while Torah in general, and halachah in particular, rules that day follows night. On a practical level, this is most apparent on Shabbos (and Yom Tov), which begins at sundown and ends after three stars have emerged the following night.
But it applies to every day as well, and we must keep this in mind so that we can approach life with a mindset drawn from Torah, instead of the secular model with which we are surrounded.
This is also evident in the prayers, which are alluded to in the verse, “Night, morning, and noon, I will tell.” We relate Hashem’s praises starting in the evening, with the Ma’ariv prayer; then we continue in the morning, through Shacharis; and we conclude in the afternoon, through Minchah.
But on a deeper level, the Torah is telling us a lesson about our inner selves, of which the external world is a reflection:
- Darkness and night correspond to the body, which conceals the Neshamah and the absolute reality of Hashem, and pulls one down toward the physical and coarse.
- Light and day correspond to the soul, which illuminates spiritually, for it inspires the Jew with the reality of Hashem and a yearning to connect to Him; likewise, it grants him the ability to illuminate the surrounding world with awareness of Hashem and the desire to submit to Him.
The same goes for the way in which a Jew should approach self-refinement—refining the body must precede revealing the Neshamah:
Refining the body: This consists of rejecting coarseness and selfish materialism (“chumriyus”) from one’s life and refining the physicality of one’s body (“gashmiyus”—see here for explanation of the difference between chumriyus and gashmiyus) by humbling and subduing the body. This can be accomplished through Iskafya (see here) and through Teshuvah.
In particular, before prayer, one should contemplate the lowliness of the body for concealing the absolute reality of Hashem, which brings the person to humility and a broken heart. This is also the meaning of “One should not approach [Hashem] to pray unless one has due seriousness.”
Revealing the Neshamah: This is accomplished through prayer itself (see here), which consists of a series of stages in which the Jew reveals his Neshamah ever more in his body, until, with the help of Hashem, the Neshamah permeates the body completely. and then lights up the outside world as well through good deeds, devoted Torah study, and careful Mitzvah observance.
The main purpose of Tefillah is to grasp the greatness of Hashem and then become inspired with love for Hashem, thereby revealing the Neshamah. Here the focus is positive, and so Tefillah should be recited with joy.
However, this joy is only possible because it was preceded by the bitterness at one’s lowliness that preceded prayer, for only after bitterness can one feel true joy. (Note: This analogy parallels the analogy of ploughing being a necessary prerequisite to sowing discussed here.)
This is the meaning of “And there was evening, and there was morning, one day.” By serving Hashem through “evening”—subduing the body, and “morning”—revealing the Neshamah with joy, we reveal the reality of one—the unity of Hashem in the world. Thus, the Jewish people are called “one nation on earth,” for they reveal Hashem’s absolute oneness even in this lowly physical world.
This is also the meaning of the verse, “Days are formed, and if only [we could use to the fullest even] one of them.” Each person is given a limited number of days to live, and the purpose of this time is that we reveal “one in them”—the unity of Hashem in every aspect of life. Moreover, the Hebrew word for one, echad, has the numerical value of thirteen because our task is to reveal Hashem’s oneness in the world through illuminating the ten faculties (which, generally speaking, comprise the intellect and emotions) and thought, speech, and action with this awareness.
Based on the Previous Rebbe’s Sefer HaMa’amarim 5700, pp. 142-143.
 Bereishis 1:1,5.
 It should be noted that there are some exceptions to this rule; for instance, with regard to sacrifices the rule is that the night follows the day; hence, one who neglected to offer a sacrifice during the day may still do so until dawn of the following morning.
 Tehillim 55:18.
 Bereishis 2:7.
 Cf. Tanya ch. 29:
"וגם ירעים עליה בקול רעש ורוגז להשפילה כמאמר רז"ל לעולם ירגיז אדם יצ"ט על יצה"ר שנאמר רגזו וגו' דהיינו לרגוז על נפש הבהמית שהיא יצרו הרע בקול רעש ורוגז במחשבתו לומר לו אתה רע ורשע ומשוקץ ומתועב ומנוול וכו' ככל השמות שקראו לו חכמינו ז"ל באמת עד מתי תסתיר לפני אור א"ס ב"ה הממלא כל עלמין היה הוה ויהיה בשוה גם במקום זה שאני עליו כמו שהיה אור א"ס ב"ה לבדו קודם שנברא העולם בלי שום שינוי כמ"ש אני ה' לא שניתי כי הוא למעלה מהזמן וכו' ואתה מנוול וכו' מכחיש האמת הנראה לעינים דכולא קמיה כלא ממש באמת בבחי' ראייה חושיית."
 Berachos 5a.
 Cf. ibid. ch. 26.
 II Shmuel 7:23.
 Cf. Tanya 114a.
 Tehillim 139:16. Cf. Likkutei Torah, Shelach end; Hayom Yom, 18 Nissan.
Dedicated in honor of the birthday of my dear wife, Atoroh Arielle bas Sarah on 22 Menachem-Av. May you have a shenas berachah vehatzlachah begashmiyus uveruchniyus!
Dedicated in the merit of a speedy release for the captives Yonasan ben Malka (Jonathan Pollard), Sholom Mordechai Halevi ben Rivka (Sholom Rubashkin), Yaakov Yehuda ben Shaindel (Jacob Ostreicher), and Zeva Rochel bas Chaya (Wendy Weiner Runge).
Like what you read? The articles I write take a lot of time and effort. Please contact me to sponsor an article for (at least) $36 in honor of the birthday, wedding anniversary, or yarhtzeit of a loved one, or for a refuah shleimah or the like. Also, see here concerning the tremendous merit of supporting the dissemination of Chassidus, and the blessings that one receives for doing so.