1. Sequence and duration
Before we begin, an important observation must be made. Time can beviewed in a number of ways. It can be thought of, for instance, in terms of sequence – i.e. event A happened
event B – for example, the Torahwas created before the world. But it can also be viewed in terms of durationand passage – i.e. event C lasted
twenty minutes or alternatively, event Doccurred two hours
. For example, the Jewish People wandered in thedesert for forty years; the Torah was created two thousand years before theworld.It is this second way of looking at time that we have in mind when we treat itas an object of measurement, but we will have cause to refer to the firstaspect as well in the course of the following discussion. Therefore it isimportant to take note of which aspect we are speaking of at each juncture.
2. Measurement requires stability
One of the main points of this chapter will be that all current tools formeasuring the passage of time presume stability in the relationships betweennatural processes, similar to what we observe today. In fact, our entireoutlook on time reflects this presumption.Later on in this chapter we will cite the views of a number of
, aswell as those of certain non-Torah personalities, regarding the measuring of time during periods when these stable relationships did not exist. Clearly insuch periods the means by which time is measured must be very differentfrom those in use today. Nevertheless, we see that Torah sources continueapplying the same terms as they move seamlessly from one period toanother, making no mention of any disjuncture.
3. Dual conceptions of measurement
It is evident from this situation that these sources are employing two distinctconceptions of time measurement – one paralleling our own for use whencurrent relationships are operative and another completely differentconception to be used when they are not –
both expressed in the same terms
.In order for them to work complementarily, however, the existence of aunifying conception applicable in
epochs must be posited. It is this thatserves as the true measure of time.
I would like to thank Rabbi Dr. Dovid Gottleib for pointing this out to me.