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Rabbi Menachem Greenblatt (St. Louis, Missouri) mentioned at s'uda sh'lishis (Shabas parashas "Ki Setze" 5772) that the correct name for Sunday is echad b(a?)shabas, as is written in k'suvos and gitin (see Shulchan Aruch, Even Haezer 126:3), even though the other days are referred to with ordinals (sheni et al.), and wondered aloud in passing why we say in the introduction to the shir shel yom "hayom yom rishon" and not "echad". Anyone have a reason (preferably sourced)?

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Sefardim say "echad" (they also say "*ha*shishi" on Friday). (This seems also to be Ramban's minhag.) –  b a Sep 2 '12 at 7:15
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3 Answers

אֶחָד — "Echad" means "the only one" or "alone", not "one". Shema Israel: YHVH our God! YHVH is the only one! Or "Shema Israel! YHVH is our God! YHVH alone!". You cannot count God. As well as we cannot count water, fire, air, light. So He created light in the first and "only day" (Yom Echad) of creation. This is why today we say "Yom Rishon", because it is no longer Yom Echad "the only day of creation", is the first of the week.

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so what about gittin? –  Shmuel Brin Jan 23 at 20:11
    
I actually see how this answers the question. The substance is surrounded by random exclamation marks and gratuitous use of a Romanized spelling of G-d's name, as well as flippant quotes without explanation, but those unexplained quotes are relevant to the answer, which is actually, at its difficult-to-find core, not bad. I'm not sure how to treat this. It's been downvoted, and I'd downvote it as well based on quality, but it's not a terrible answer in sum. I think I'd like to advocate a re-write. –  Seth J Jan 24 at 4:04
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On day one, day one was not the first in a series of days, it was the one and only:

Each day of creation is numbered. Yet there is discontinuity in the way the days are numbered. The verse says: "There is evening and morning, Day One." But the second day doesn't say "evening and morning, Day Two." Rather, it says "evening and morning, a second day." And the Torah continues with this pattern: "Evening and morning, a third day... a fourth day... a fifth day... the sixth day." Only on the first day does the text use a different form: not "first day," but "Day One" ("Yom Echad"). Many English translations make the mistake of writing "a first day." That's because editors want things to be nice and consistent. But they throw out the cosmic message in the text! Because there is a qualitative difference, as Nachmanides says, between "one" and "first." One is absolute; first is comparative.Nachmanides explains that on Day One, time was created. That's a phenomenal insight. Time was created. You can't grab time. You don't even see it. You can see space, you can see matter, you can feel energy, you can see light energy. I understand a creation there. But the creation of time? Eight hundred years ago, Nachmanides attained this insight from the Torah's use of the phrase, "Day One." And that's exactly what Einstein taught us in the Laws of Relativity: that there was a creation, not just of space and matter, but of time itself . . . Now if the Torah were seeing time from the days of Moses and Mount Sinai ― long after Adam ― the text would not have written Day One. Because by Sinai, hundreds of thousands of days already passed. There was a lot of time with which to compare Day One. Torah would have said "A First Day." By the second day of Genesis, the Bible says "a second day," because there was already the First Day with which to compare it. You could say on the second day, "what happened on the first day." But as Nahmanides pointed out, you could not say on the first day, "what happened on the first day" because "first" implies comparison ― an existing series. And there was no existing series. Day One was all there was.

See: How old is the world?—Aish

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I don't see how this answers the question above. –  msh210 Jun 14 '13 at 19:31
    
@msh210 edited. –  Kinnard Hockenhull Jun 20 '13 at 3:34
    
@kinnard I still don't see how this answers the question. –  Double AA Jun 20 '13 at 8:09
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Echad, Shtayim, Shalosh (Cardinal numbers)

Rishon, Sheni, Shlishi (Ordinal numbers)

Ordinal makes more sense to me: You are ranking (enumerating) the days, not counting how many there are.

But Bereishis mixes the two types - which is explained here: http://www.ou.org/torah/tt/5769/bereishit69/aliya.htm

"The day is called YOM ECHAD (cardinal number) rather than RISHON (ordinal number), because RISHON has meaning only if there is a SHENI, which there wasn't yet."

When you are davening, the second day does already exist, so you use ordinal numbers (as would be expected).

A get is different because you say "On day one of the week", which sounds OK. In contrast with davening the translation would be "Today is one day of the week", which could mean any of them, and really only makes sense when there is just one day.

So it seems to me that when the grammar allows it you copy the Torah, but when it sounds awkward you change it, (since it's anyway not a direct quote).

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But then why do we use Echad for Gittin? –  Double AA Sep 2 '12 at 8:06
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I don't know, but it's seems grammatical to me. In a get you say "On day one of the week", which sounds OK, But in davening the translation would be "today is one day of the week", which could mean any of them, and really only makes sense when there is just one day. So I guess when the grammar allows it you copy the Torah, when it sounds awkward you change it (since it's anyway not a direct quote). This is totally a guess. –  Ariel Sep 2 '12 at 8:14
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Shouldn't that ^^^ be in your answer? –  Double AA Sep 2 '12 at 13:09
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@DoubleAA It is now. Thanks for inspiring it. –  Ariel Sep 3 '12 at 1:20
    
The reason it sounds okay to say "On day One of the week" is because the deep structure of the sentence allows us to understand that it means "On day Number One of the week," which is the same as saying "On the first day of the week." Amazing how syntax can convert a cardinal number into a functionally ordinal number. Similarly with the phrase, "Today is Day [Number] One of the week..." –  Shemmy Sep 4 '12 at 1:57
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