Did god create darkness or just light? If he did create darkness, what is it? Is it a certain substance ? If god did create darkness then what would be if god took away light but didn't create darkness what would it be like?

  • 1
    Hmmm ... Interesting question. But the 2nd verse in the Torah seems to indicate that darkness was already there, so G-d created just light and then separated the two. I'd have to research what exactly this means, as from what I recall, the "light" meant there is not visible light. That was not possible until the sun, moon and stars were created. – DanF May 12 '16 at 17:21
  • @DanF very interesting remark. – kouty May 13 '16 at 9:25
  • If you link one of the answers consider marking it correct, if not consider critiquing them. – mevaqesh May 19 '16 at 16:16
  • Darkness is the absence of light. Before light existed, darkness did not either, at least, it was not known as darkness. When G-d created light, suddenly there became room for an idea of absence of that light - and that's darkness. Your question isn't about "taking away light" but about "de-creating light" which is something that is too big for to fathom, at least. – ezra Oct 11 at 1:01
up vote 5 down vote accepted

Rav Saadya Gaon writes in Emunot V'deot (1:3) that darkness is merely the absence of light:

החשך, אינו הפך האור, אבל הוא העדר האור. ואם יאמרו מאי זה טעם אתה אומר כי אין החשך הפך האור? אביא בזה ג' ראיות וכו

This is stated by the Ibn Ezra as well in his commentary to Isaiah (45:7), which speaks of God fashioning light and creating darkness:

וצר וגו', הזכיר דבר והפכו: ובורא חשך, מגזרת בריאה כטעם גזירה, כי החשך איננו כלום רק העדר האור

This is stated by Rambam as well in Moreh Nevuchim (3:10)

ואף על פי שהעדר אינו דבר נמצא, כי כמו שנאמר במי שכבה נר בלילה שהוא חדש החשך, כך נאמר במי שהפסיד הראות שעשה העורון, ואף על פי שהחשך והעורון העדרים ואינם צריכים לפועל, ולפי זה הפירוש יתבאר מאמר ישעיה יוצר אור ובורא חושך עושה שלום ובורא רע, מפני שהחשך והרע העדרים, והסתכל איך לא אמר עשה חושך ולא עושה רע מפני שאינם דברים נמצאים שתתלה בהם עשייה

This is stated by Radak in his commentary to Genesis (1:4) as well.

חשך אינו דבר שיאמר עליו טוב כי הסרת האור הוא החשך, והחשך כבר היה והאור התחדש עליו

Rabbenu Bachye too explains that this is the peshat in his commentary to Genesis (1:4):

ויבדל אלהים בין האור ובין החשך. ע"ד הפשט "החשך" הזה הוא העדר האור

This is also stated by Rabbenu Aharon of Narbonne in (Orechot Chaim: Laws of Barchu 2) who explains that the liturgy states that God fashioned light and created darkness, even though darkness is merely the absence of light, since God bring darkness anew each night via the system of rotation that He created:

ואמר ובורא חשך שאע"פי שאינו נופל בזה לשון בריאה שהרי החשך אינו אלא העדר האור עכ"ז אומרים כן דלישנא דקרא הוא. וי"א כי לפי' נופל בו לשון בריאה לפי שע"י התגלגל גלגל שמים למטה בא החשך לארץ

The Orchot Chaim's words are repeated in the Kol Bo (8).

This is also stated by Ran in his derashot (3):

אבל החשך שהוא העדר האור אינו נתלה בפועל רק בהעדר סיבת האור

This is also implicit in the commentary of the uncle and mentor of Rabbi Yosef Karo, Toledot Yitschak to Genesis (1:5) who asks how the verse can state that there was evening and then day if the very definition of night is the darkness of absence of light. Before light even existed, how can one meaningfully speak of darkness:

ויהי ערב ויהי בקר יום אחד, ערב הוא העדר האור, והוא החשך והנה לא קדם אור, ואיך אמר ויהי ערב בלא שקדם אור

Malbim writes this as well in explaining the verse in Isaiah (45:7) that speaks of God fashioning light and creating darkness:

ימצא החשך שהוא העדר האור מקום, עת ישנה האור מצבו ע"י התנועה שהוא מקרה קרה אל עצמו ומצד זה יאמר ג"כ שה' ברא את החשך, הגם שההעדר לא נברא

According to all of them, God created light in particular.

  • Other rabbis have written that darkness is a substance, but presumably they would revise their view in light of the evidence to the contrary. (pun intended) – mevaqesh May 12 '16 at 5:24
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    I wouldn't presume that. – msh210 May 12 '16 at 5:38
  • Also used by the Avudraham to explain the second half of the pasuq -- "oseh shalom uvorei es hara [makes peace and creates evil." (Although the berakhah eupemistically as "hakol -- the everything.") Ra is the vacuum, the absence of shalom. To answer the question, creating darkness is creating the space that doesn't yet have light. If G-d created neither, there would be no dark space. Just as creating ra means creating more moral opportunities than good solutions, leaving us problems to solve, ways to contribute to the good. – Micha Berger May 17 '16 at 17:52
  • @MichaBerger Thank you very much for the source. – mevaqesh May 17 '16 at 18:03

In terms of physical light then darkness is when the eye cannot see, i.e. when there is no light. this can be demonstrated by turning off a light source. no need for jewish sources for that.

But there is also a spiritual light and darkness.

Spiritual light is torah as the Ramchal writes in Derech Etz Chaim:

"And this is what the wise man said (King Solomon) "And torah is light" (Mishlei 6:23), literally light, and not just wisdom. And not that it is called "light" as a kind of metaphor rather it is literally "light". Because this is its existence above (in the higher worlds), and when it enters the soul, the light enters it just like the sun's rays enter inside a house"

Spiritual darkness according to the Orot Genuzim commentary to the mesilat Yesharim ch.3:

In parallel to the original light, perhaps even before it, the (spiritual) Darkness was created. This Darkness and the light we mentioned, are mentioned and well defined in the prophecy of Isaiah (45:6-7): "Who forms the light and creates darkness; making peace and creating evil. I G-d do all these things". The darkness G-d created in the first day is - the evil. Or in other words, it is the Malach (angel) appointed over death. He is appointed to entice from the just path, and he is appointed to prosecute the sinner after he himself caused him to stumble. The first Darkness is the opposite of the first Light. Likewise it is the opposite of Peace, i.e. shelemus (perfection).

likewise in the Midrash regarding the plague of darkness which had a component of spiritual darkness (Shemot Rabbah 14:2):

ויט משה את ידו על השמים ויהי חשך אפילה - מהיכן היה החשך ההוא? רבי יהודה ורבי נחמיה, רבי יהודה אומר: מחשך של מעלה, שנאמר (שם יח, יב): ישת חשך סתרו סביבותיו סכתו. רבי נחמיה אמר: מחשך של גיהנם, שנאמר (איוב י, כב): ארץ עפתה כמו אופל צלמות ולא סדרים וגו', אוי לו לבית, שחלונותיו פתוחין לתוך חשך, שנאמר (שם): ותופע כמו אפל אור שלח מתוך חשך. וכן הוא אומר (יחזקאל לא, טו): ביום רדתו שאולה האבלתי כסיתי עליו את תהום. הובלתי כתיב. רבי יהודה בר רבי אמר: במה הרשעים מתכסים בגיהנם? בחשך. חזקיה אמר: הגיגית הזו במה מכסין אותה? בכלי חרס, מינה ובה, כשם שהיא של חרס, כך מכסין אותה בכלי חרס. כך הרשעים, שנאמר (ישעיה כט, טו): והיה במחשך מעשיהם, לפיכך הקדוש ברוך הוא מכסה עליהם את התהום, שהוא חשך, שנאמר (בראשית א, ב): וחשך על פני תהום, זה גיהנם. הוי אומר: חשך, שבא על המצרים, מתוך גיהנם היה:

"from where came this darkness?.. from Gehinom..."

  • The positive existence of darkness is as existence of illness that trouble cognition – kouty May 13 '16 at 9:26
  • Granted that there are certain concepts or things which can spritually be referred to as darkness. What does this have to do with the OP's question? He seems to be bothered by the idea that although darkness is the absence of light it is treated as an independent creation. "Spiritual darkness" is not the opposite of physical light, so it is presumably not the topic of the question. – mevaqesh May 13 '16 at 15:49
  • @mevaqesh thought he's asking more than physical darkness. as it is manifestly obvious that this is a lack of light. turning off a lightbulb is enough proof. – ray May 14 '16 at 21:53

It's explained in the Hemshech Eter (Sefer Hamaamarim 5670), mainly in around the 2nd maamer and on (look it up) that the "light" and "darkness" refferred to in this verse are actually 2 different levels of LIGHT itself, and the lower level is considered mere "darkness" compared to the higher level of light, since the hgiher level of light is, well, on a much higher level.

He explains that the "Light" light is the Or Ayn Sof -- infinite energy of G-d that preceded all of created, and in the beginning, only it existed and it was so intense that nothign else was able to exist. And the "Dark" light is the lower-level of "light"/energy that is used to give life to every individual creature. Since it interacts with each creation individually, it must be on a must lower level, so they can handle it.

He explains (again, starting from the 2nd maamer in the middle and onwards) that even though this "Dark" light is what gives life to every creation -- after creation started, but originally, this "Dark" light / energy which is used (nowadays) to give life to each creature, was actually mixed in with the "Light" light (Ohr Ayn Sof -- completely infinite energy), like the analogy of a acndle shining in the middle of the day. Both the candle light and the sun light are both light, but when the candle light is shining in the middle of the day, it's has no self-identity; it doesn't accomplish anything.

Similarly, in the beginning, this "Dark" light that's now used for creating each individual creature, was mixed together with the more intense, "Light" light, in such a way that it was completely absorbed in it, and it had no self identity.

So therefore, in order for Hashem to begin making the worlds, he first had to separate the "Dark" light from the "Light" light, so that it wouldn't be totally absorbed and without any identity at all, and after the separation (which he explains a lot there, mainly that he "separated" the Ohr Ayn Sof to his inner self, so that it would be completely hidden, so that the darker light could have it's own identity, and there's a few other explanations also; note there (middle of 2nd maamer and on).

That's the basic idea, although the entire book pretty much elaborates on that.

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