There has been much talk lately about passing legislation to remain on daylight savings time. Orthodox groups have registered their objection to the bill, on the grounds that a lengthier period of darkness in the morning would make it exceedingly difficult to daven shacharis and go to work for large parts of the year.
When our sages decreed the earliest time to begin to daven in the morning, they used the barometer of Mi’sheyakir – from the time of recognition (Berachot 8b).
What, exactly, is being recognized? According to the Tanna Kamma, it is the time when it is light enough to distinguish between white and blue strings on one’s tzitzit; Rabbi Eliezer says that it is when one can distinguish between blue and green. Rabbi Meir and Rabbi Akiva agree that the operative concern is whether one can distinguish between certain animals, and debate which ones. “Others” say that the earliest time is when one can recognize his friend at a distance of four amot.
The underlying theme of this passage is the importance of discernment. Without being able to tell the difference between objects, without being able to distinguish between right and wrong, and without being able to perceive others around us, we are truly “in the dark.”