By Rachel Shapiro
Twice a year, most homes in the United States reset their clocks – we “fall back” and “spring ahead” to participate in daylight savings time. Last night, we set our clocks back by one hour, giving us more hours of sunshine in the morning. Daylight savings helps us to recognize time and its significance, but why do we do it? And how is recognizing the changing of time Jewish? Let’s explore!
There are natural phenomena in this world – the sun rises, the moon moves in an almost-circle around the Earth, and the Earth moves in an ellipse around the sun. This would happen whether humans took note of it or not. The marking of time, specifically with a calendar system, is something that is uniquely human. We have the ability, using our clocks and devices, to mark very specific periods of time like hours and seconds in the day. The Jewish calendar is based on the lunar cycles. We celebrate each new month with a Rosh Chodesh service, giving sacred-ness to the mundane of a new moon. Our holidays mark significant points throughout our year, too. Passover marks the beginning of spring or the planting season. Sukkot marks the harvest, or the autumn. We celebrate these holidays and create meaning out of the seasons that would happen whether we noticed them or not.
Now you may be saying, “Okay, I get it. Marking time is Jewishly significant. But why care about daylight savings?” Great question! Daylight savings was originally created after World War I in an effort to save energy and reduce the burning of coal for energy – if the hours of the day shifted, we could use the sunlight instead of having to turn on lights and the heat. Since most energy is consumed in the morning hours before we head off to work or school, this made sense. In the spring, when we set our clocks an hour ahead, we gain an hour of sunlight in the evening after school for our activities. Being in the sun for more hours is associated with a decreased risk for heart disease, depression, and an increase in general mood. Shmirat HaGuf – caring for the body – is a Jewish value and daylight savings helps us to do just that.
Thus, our big take-away from daylight savings is that it can both increase our health and is inherently Jewish. This is similar to our relationship with all of science – scientific phenomena, like chemical reactions and plant growth, would happen whether we took note of it or not. The world turns and the sun rises, and it’s our job to create meaning out of this. We mark our calendars, we set the clocks, we create the significance.