Today’s question is regarding creation and just how long it took.
Do Jew believe G-d created the universe in 6 literal days as it is written or are they figurative days?
Sadly like many questions regarding the Torah you will find some will say yes, others will say no and very few are wrong based on the text within the Torah. How I am going to answer this is based on our modern understanding of science and further information we can find out within the Tanakh.
While it is true that it is written that it took six days for creation and we can confirm this via the word יום or yom. The word yom is understood to mean “day” such as twenty four hours but it can also be read as a defined amount of time such as a year, seasons, eons and much longer defined time.
With this word alone we could make the debate that creation happened over six unknown amount of time and I would agree with this but what else is there to support this?
The next reason it is meaning an undefined amount of time is the order of creation itself suggest that an Earth’s day didn’t yet exist.
And G’d called the light day, and the darkness He called night, and it was evening and it was morning, one day.Genesis 1:5
וַיִּקְרָ֨א אֱלֹהִ֤ים | לָאוֹר֙ י֔וֹם וְלַח֖שֶׁךְ קָ֣רָא לָ֑יְלָה וַֽיְהִי־עֶ֥רֶב וַֽיְהִי־בֹ֖קֶר י֥וֹם אֶחָֽד:
This suggests that HaShem created the Earth first, then the Sun and then the Moon. Based on this alone it would be impossible for a twenty-hour cycle to have started yet.
I could go into a few more quotes about how time isn’t the same for ourselves and HaShem but I will leave it there to go back to the actual question – is it meant to be taken exactly as written?
Well, the answer there really is it’s up to you. There are two schools of understanding and evidence both ways that the first part of the Torah is meant to be understood as a moral lesson and that is why it is done like that while others debate it is written exactly like that so it should be understood exactly like that.
Just like the old saying goes – for every two Jews there will be three opinions. I hope it answers at least why you could see why it can be debated it took longer than six actual literal days.
Kyle ben Avraham Avinu (קייל בן אברהם אבינו) (2020) How long did it really take to make everything. [online] Ask a Jew. Available at: https://askajew.co.uk/question/how-long-did-it-really-take-to-make-everything/ [Accessed 06 Dec 2023]