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Bereshit 1:5 says:

וַיִּקְרָ֨א אֱלֹהִ֤ים ׀ לָאוֹר֙ י֔וֹם וְלַחֹ֖שֶׁךְ קָ֣רָא לָ֑יְלָה וַֽיְהִי־עֶ֥רֶב וַֽיְהִי־בֹ֖קֶר י֥וֹם אֶחָֽד׃ (פ
And God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day.

The Haamek Davar commentary explains this pasuk as follows:

And to the darkness, He called night: The Sages, of blessed memory, explained in the beginning of Tractate Pesachim, that the Holy One, blessed be He, called to darkness and appointed it over the night. [By this,] our Rabbis taught us that we should not say that darkness is only the absence of light, like when - in the middle of the day - we close the windows, it becomes dark. For, if so, it would not be a creation. But in truth, darkness is a creation, on its own as well, as it is written (Isaiah 45:7), "and created the darkness." And it is great distortion to say that darkness is only the absence of light. But rather, God makes both of them, just as He concerns Himself over holiness and impurity.

This explanation states that darkness is a creation on it's own rather than just the absence of light, and it even quotes Isaiah as direct evidence. However, the creation of light is explicitly narrated in Bereshit 1:3 :

וַיֹּ֥אמֶר אֱלֹהִ֖ים יְהִ֣י א֑וֹר וַֽיְהִי־אֽוֹר׃

and it's separation from darkness is recounted in Bereshit 1:4 :

וַיַּ֧רְא אֱלֹהִ֛ים אֶת־הָא֖וֹר כִּי־ט֑וֹב וַיַּבְדֵּ֣ל אֱלֹהִ֔ים בֵּ֥ין הָא֖וֹר וּבֵ֥ין הַחֹֽשֶׁךְ׃

But darkness (as well as the deep/תְה֑וֹם) is named on Bereshit 1:2 without a narration of its creation earlier:

וְהָאָ֗רֶץ הָיְתָ֥ה תֹ֙הוּ֙ וָבֹ֔הוּ וְחֹ֖שֶׁךְ עַל־פְּנֵ֣י תְה֑וֹם וְר֣וּחַ אֱלֹהִ֔ים מְרַחֶ֖פֶת עַל־פְּנֵ֥י הַמָּֽיִם׃

I understand that the account of Creation of Bereshit contains really deep meanings and may not be as literal as I may be taking it according to the sages' interpretations. However, I believe it is a valid question to ask: When did G-d create darkness?

I suspect darkness (and the deep) may've been in some way part of the creation of the heavens and the earth in Bereshit 1:1, but this is just a thought.


Edit:

The answers I've received are wonderful and really well researched, however I will not be choosing one as the correct answer for the following reason: Menachem's answer explains the perspective of the Ohr HaChaim and the Talmud, which states that darkness was created in the first day, with a solid reasoning. While Mevaqesh's answer argues that darkness is in fact just the absence of light (and not a creation), and he justifies this point by quoting many different rabbinical authorities from different backgrounds and centuries who all agree with this interpretation.

I don't feel I'm entitled to choose which answer is the most correct based on my subjective opinion and I encourage the readers to check both of this great answers to get an understanding of both conflicting yet fascinating interpretations.

  • related judaism.stackexchange.com/q/71200/759 – Double AA Dec 30 '16 at 2:35
  • related: christianity.stackexchange.com/q/1453. – mevaqesh Dec 30 '16 at 2:43
  • What do you seek as an answer? An explanation of the opinion you cite? Or a variant opinion that disagrees with him? – user6591 Dec 30 '16 at 14:20
  • I have an answer, but as it is unsourced it's only really acceptable as a comment... Scientifically, the "mixing of light and dark" and later separation describes well the period immediately following the big bang in which the universe was "opaque" to the photonic radiation from the BB, much like how the light from the interior of a star, due to the density of the matter, never makes it "out" - we only see the light from the surface. When the universe cooled (re-ionization), it became transparent once again as matter and energy separated. By this understanding, "darkness" is matter - tzimtzum! – Isaac Kotlicky Dec 30 '16 at 14:51
  • @Isaac I think Nathan Aviezer wrote something along those lines. Problem is that might be choshech, but how is that Layla? – user6591 Dec 30 '16 at 14:56
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The Ohr hachaim on the beginning of bereshit quotes the Talmud Chagigah 12a. There it lists 10 things were created in the first day, and one of them is Choshech.

ואמר רב יהודה אמר רב עשרה דברים נבראו ביום ראשון ואלו הן שמים וארץ תהו ובהו אור וחשך רוח ומים מדת יום ומדת לילה שמים וארץ דכתיב בראשית ברא אלהים את השמים ואת הארץ תהו ובהו דכתיב והארץ היתה תהו ובהו אור וחשך חשך דכתיב וחשך על פני תהום אור דכתיב ויאמר אלהים יהי אור רוח ומים דכתיב ורוח אלהים מרחפת על פני המים מדת יום ומדת לילה דכתיב ויהי ערב ויהי בקר יום אחד

Rav Yehuda said in the name of Rav, "Ten things were created on the first day...darkness..."

The premise of the Talmud is that if they are mentioned in the creation process of the first day this implies that they were created then, because if not, how could they exist.

For example, Bereishit 1:2 (which talks about the first day of creation) says:

וְהָאָרֶץ הָיְתָה תֹהוּ וָבֹהוּ וְחשֶׁךְ עַל פְּנֵי תְהוֹם וְרוּחַ אֱלֹהִים מְרַחֶפֶת עַל פְּנֵי הַמָּיִם:

Now the earth was astonishingly empty, and darkness was on the face of the deep, and the spirit of God was hovering over the face of the water.

Since there was nothing before the begining of creation, where did darkness come from. This proves that darkness was also created on the first day. (this verse is also used to prove that Tohu, Vohu, Ruach, and Mayim were also created on the first day).

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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

Darkness is not the opposite if light, but the absence of light. If they ask 'why is it that you say that darkness isnt the opposite of light', I will bring three proofs...

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

Darkness isn't a thing, which could be described as good, for the absence of light is darkness, and the darkness was preexistent, and the light was introduced in its place.

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

And God separated between the light and the darkness: According to peshat, this darkness is the lack of light.

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

And it said 'And creates darkness' for although the term 'creates' isnt appropriate for this, for darkness is just the absence of light, nevertheless we say this for it is a scriptural expression. And some say that the term is appropriate since through the rotation of the heavens downwards, the darkness comes to Earth.

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 stated by the interestingly titled Ma'or Ha'afelah (14th century Yemen) who writes (as per R. Qafih's translation) (Parashat B'reshit p. 8):

והחשך הוא העדר מן ההעדרים ולא תחול השגחת ה' על ההעדר ולפיכך לא היה החשך נברא אלא החשך הוא העדר האור

Darkness is one of the things which are the absence of something else, and God's influence does not affect the absence of something. Therefore, darkness was not created, but is the absence of light.

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

And there was evening and there was morning, one day: 'evening' is the lack of light, and this is the 'darkness', and note that the light didn't precede it, so how can it state "there was evening", without light having preceded it?

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

In summary, many many traditional rabbinic authorities from a broad range of backgrounds, living over more than a millennium, agree that darkness is just the absence of light. God's creation of darkness refers to the newly significant lack of light, or in some contexts can refer to the created cycle which triggers both the light of day and the darkness of night.

  • Thanks for the answer! Could you please add translations? I, as well as many on this site, am not at such an advanced level in hebrew. Thank you. – Gabriel12 Dec 30 '16 at 3:25
  • I am with you on wishing my Hebrew were on a higher level. Although I can usually understand the gist, providing an accurate word for word translation, can often be difficult. Let's see what we can do... – mevaqesh Dec 30 '16 at 3:29
  • @mevaquesh I understand, thank you for the answer nevertheless. – Gabriel12 Dec 30 '16 at 3:39
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    I don't see how this answers this question, which was explicitly asking according to the opposing view. – msh210 Jan 1 '17 at 10:13
  • @msh210 I understood the question to have been motivated by that view, but not limited to it. The comments of the OP seem to corroborate my understanding. – mevaqesh Jan 1 '17 at 15:21
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According to the plain meaning of the words from Bereshit 1:1-2, it states what the order of creation was.

בראשית ברא אלקים את השמים ואת הארץ. והארץ היתה תהו ובהו וחשך על-פני תהום כו׳

In the beginning, G-d created the Heavens and the Earth.

Or as Rashi points out from Midrash, בראשית means, For the sake of Israel and the Torah, G-d created the Heavens and the Earth.

There were two distinct categories or aspects to the process of creation. The first is the upper category of the Heavens and the second is the lower category of the Earth. The creation proceeds from Above to Below.

And the Earth was Tohu and Vohu and Darkness over the face of Tehom, etc.

And that lower category, which is called the Earth, is comprised of four sub-categories which are called Tohu and Vohu and Darkness over the face of the Tehom. All these details are discussed at length in the commentaries of Ramban, Rabbeinu Bechai and the Abarbanel to Bereshit 1:1-2.

This is defining the four categories or types of Kelippot of Tumah (Shells or Degrees of Unfitness). The three more severe categories are called Tohu, Vohu and Darkness. They are completely unclean and prohibited. They are the most external and pertain to those things which are absolutely prohibited and cannot be refined via the mitzvot, like orlah for example as is explained in detail in Likuttei Amarim, Tanya, 1:6. Like is explained there, this is also based upon the same idea with the nomenclature of the Prophets as found in Yechezkel 1:4.

The fourth category is called Kelipat Nogah which is a mixture of Tov and Ra. It is the innermost aspect of the four sub-categories and is thus referred to with the expression, "על-פני תהום". The three more severe kelippot cover over the inner, refinable aspect of Nogah, like a shell or skin like is found in Likkutei Amarim, Tanya 1:7.

This concept of Tehom being related to the aspect of Kelipat Nogah is also brought up in Sefer Kol HaTor, Chapter 5, Part 2, Paragraph 2 citing the Zohar, parshat Vayeira, 117a, which is based upon the Chumash, parshat Noach 7:11 which states:

בִּשְׁנַ֨ת שֵׁשׁ־מֵא֤וֹת שָׁנָה֙ לְחַיֵּי־נֹ֔חַ בַּחֹ֙דֶשׁ֙ הַשֵּׁנִ֔י בְּשִׁבְעָֽה־עָשָׂ֥ר י֖וֹם לַחֹ֑דֶשׁ בַּיּ֣וֹם הַזֶּ֗ה נִבְקְעוּ֙ כָּֽל־מַעְיְנֹת֙ תְּה֣וֹם רַבָּ֔ה וַאֲרֻבֹּ֥ת הַשָּׁמַ֖יִם נִפְתָּֽחוּ׃

It is Kelipat Nogah which the Jewish people work with when performing mitzvot, meaning those aspects of creation which are permitted to us.

So, to answer your question in brief, the Darkness is included in the general creation of that lower category called the Earth which is prior even to the first utterance for light.

  • Let us continue this discussion in chat. – Yaacov Deane Dec 30 '16 at 15:58
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    In the beginning, G-d created the Heavens and the Earth. Note that Rashi is of the opinion that 'B'reshit' doesn't mean in the beginning. There were two distinct categories or aspects... Source? | Much of the rest of the answer seems rambling, and does not clearly explain when darkness was created. For more issues with the post, see the comments in the chat room linked in the previous comment. – mevaqesh Dec 30 '16 at 18:37
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    I'm not sure I get what the answer here is. You seem to spend a lot of time defining what darkness means metaphorically (which seems irrelevant here), and no time discussing when it was created. Is the answer you're suggesting simply: "darkness" is part of "land" which was created "in the beginning"? – Double AA Dec 30 '16 at 21:36
  • The OP is asking two things. 1) When was חשך created? And 2) He is trying to understand the nature of חשך as it is meant in Bereshit. The 'when' is prior to the utterance for light. Like is found in the commentaries cited, these terms aren't being used in the way we normally perceive them in the context of physical material existence. It is speaking in the language of nistar. – Yaacov Deane Jan 1 '17 at 22:50
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A source for the idea you suggested. Rabbi Yaakov Emden discusses the wording in the bracha יוצר אור ובורא חושך in his siddur. He writes that חושך, darkness was part of the creation יש מאין, creatio ex nihilo, and therefore has the word בורא applied to it. This is unlike אור, light, which was formed out of what already existed and therefore has the word יוצר applied to it.

His proof that חושך was part of the original creation יש מאין is the fact that it is mentioned immediately afterwards וחושך על פני תהום.

As seen there, he was also of the opinion that חושך was an actual creation, and not simply the result of a removal.

  • So when was darkness created? – mevaqesh Jan 1 '17 at 5:17
  • Seriously mevaqesh? He writes that חושך, darkness was part of the creation יש מאין – user6591 Jan 1 '17 at 5:25
  • As with judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/78583/…, there may be an answer, but it is ensconced in largely irrelevant info. The question wasn't whether darkness was a creation. It assumed it was, and asked when. (Of course if it isn't, the issue of when, is answered implicitly). Furthermore, merely telling me in passing that it was created ex nihilo fails to tell me when; creation was a process... – mevaqesh Jan 1 '17 at 5:28
  • Anything past the initial creation is not ex nihilo. That is called forming. As per the piece I linked. – user6591 Jan 1 '17 at 5:30
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    I fail to see how that resolves the issue I raised, but regardless, essential info. should be edited into the answer. – mevaqesh Jan 1 '17 at 5:32

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