According to Jewish tradition, this Wednesday night, when Rosh Hashana begins, the world will be 5774 years old. This claim easily stirs up sharp debate. How, it is often asked, can one say that the world is only 5774 years old when carbon dating records certain fossils as being millions of years old? Science and religion often seem in conflict with one another, but only at first glance.
While Rosh Hashana is considered the first day of the year, it is actually only the beginning of the counting of the years of the world. The Bible recounts that it took "six days" to create the world, and on the sixth day God created Adam. According to the midrash, until Adam was formed, the world was static. Only after Adam was created and prayed for rain, did the world come to life.
Think of it like conception and birth. Six days before Rosh Hashana, the world was conceived...that was "Day One" of Creation. The next five days were a gestational period, when the world was formed and developed. Birth, the completion of the world, only occurred on the sixth day with the introduction of Adam.
More that just the world "came to life" with the creation of Adam, the world acquired time then as well. Prior to Adam, no one noted when the sun rose or set, or the moon waxed and waned or whether there were seasons. No one can say with certainty how long the days of creation were because there were no human beings to mark the beginning and end of a day.
This Treat was originally posted on September 11, 2012.
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