The evening prayer (Ma'ariv) may be viewed as the conclusion of the day's service, or as its beginning. The latter view is borne out by the Tractate Berachos (2a), which comments on the Mishnah's words, "From what time may one recite the Shema in the evening." The Talmud asks, "Why does the Tanna (author of the Mishnah) deal first with the evening? Let him begin with the morning! [But the Tanna] learns [the precedence of the evening] from the account of the creation of the world, where it is written, 'And there was evening and there was morning, one day.'" We infer from this that the Ma'ariv prayer is the beginning of the day.
On the other hand, our sages have said, "The prayers were instituted corresponding to the daily sacrifices": the morning prayer corresponds to the morning daily sacrifice; the Minchah prayer to the daily sacrifice offered toward evening; and the evening prayer to the limbs of the sacrifices which were offered and consumed all night. Just as the offering of the limbs at night was the conclusion of the sacrificial service of the day, so the Ma'ariv prayer is the conclusion and completion of the day's service.
These two views may be reconciled. The view that the Ma'ariv prayer is the beginning of the day is connected with the creation of the world, since it says "There was evening" before "there was morning." The view that the Ma'ariv prayer is the conclusion of the day is connected with kodshim (holy offerings).
"Kodshim" is the concept of light, and the service associated with it is to add to light. Thus the beginning of this service is the morning prayers, progressing to loftier levels of light, until we reach the level of "darkness is as light" -- the evening prayers. For this reason, the night follows the day in matters of kodshim -- for the night is the highest level of light.
The creation of the world, however, is the concept of darkness, for the purpose of its creation is that G-d desired to have a dwelling place in the lowest regions -- that "the light of the L-rd should illumine in the place of darkness." Thus from this perspective, the day's service begins with darkness -- the Ma'ariv prayer. It is for this reason that the day follows the night -- to illuminate the darkness.
In short, then, from the viewpoint of the world, where the beginning point is the night, day follows night -- to illumine the darkness. From the viewpoint of kodshim, the beginning point is light, and the service associated with it is to increase in light, to the highest level of "darkness is as light"; thus the night follows the day.
These two views are present also in a person's daily service. A person's service is in the area of 1) kodshim -- which in general means service within oneself, to illumine himself with light; 2) worldly matters -- to make the world a dwelling place for G-d by transforming the darkness of the world into light.
Accordingly, there are two ways in which to begin service. In matters of kodshim, holy things, the service of the "holy people" -- whose holiness is drawn from above since their souls are "verily a part of G-d above" -- begins with light and holiness. And the Jew's task is to increase in that light and holiness. In worldly matters, the start of service is to deal with the lowest things, darkness, for the purpose of the world's creation is to make a dwelling place for G-d in the lowest regions. The Jew's task is to illumine that darkness, to the extent that the place of darkness itself becomes an abode for G-d.
The ultimate goal in the creation of the world -- that light should reign in the place of darkness -- is achieved through the service of Jews, for it is their service which generates light loftier even than that before there was darkness in the first place -- i.e., before the creation of the world. It is a revelation of G-d's Essence. Thus, although the strength for Jew's service stems from above, it is specifically Jew's service below which fulfills the ultimate goal of making the lowest regions an abode for G-d.
In Jewry itself, this corresponds to the advantage women have over men, for man and woman correspond to G-d and Jewry. Our sages, explaining what it means that a woman is a "help" to a man, say (Yevomos 63a): "If a man brings wheat, does he chew the wheat? If flax, does he put on the flax?" In other words, although it is the man who provides the raw materials, the superiority of the woman lies in the fact that it is she who makes them fit for human use.
The distinction of women is associated with Rosh HaShanah, for on this day, G-d requests each Jew to crown Him as king. Thus it is Jewry (woman) who effects that G-d (man) should be king.
In this context, it follows that there should be an increase in the aspects of service associated with women: the lighting of the Shabbos and Yom-Tov candles, kashrus, and family purity. This is particularly applicable today, the sixth of Tishrei, the yartzeit of my mother -- for the beginning letters of the above three things associated with women form the word "Chana," my mother's name: Challah (i.e., kashrus), Niddah (i.e. family purity), and Hadlokas Haneros (i.e., lighting the Shabbos and Yom-Tov candles).
This day, therefore, in the presence of many Jews, in a holy place -- a synagogue and study hall -- is an auspicious time to resolve to increase in the above three things.
Because this year marks the twentieth year since the passing of my mother, the above increase should be connected with the number twenty.
During the year, twenty mikvahs should be built in places which have no mikvah.
Twenty special funds should be established to give financial aid to those who undertake to keep kashrus -- aid to buy new utensils or buy kosher food.
Twenty funds should be established with the goal of publicizing and disseminating observance of lighting the Shabbos and Yom-Tov candles -- by giving prizes and similar things to those girls and women who undertake to keep this mitzvah. They will be persuaded to light the Shabbos candles when it is explained to them that G-d has given them lofty powers, enabling them to illuminate the whole house with the light of the Shabbos candles.
May it be G-d's will that through the service of Jewry (woman), especially in those aspects pertaining to women, we speedily merit the marriage of G-d and Jewry (man and woman) in the future era. In the words of Scripture (Yermiyahu 33:10-11): "There will yet be heard ... in the cities of Yehudah and in the streets of Yerushalayim ... the sound of joy and the sound of happiness, the sound of a groom and the sound of a bride" -- which in its inner meaning refers to the marriage between G-d (the groom) and Israel (the bride).