The narrative in which Hashem creates the universe is, superficially, straightforward and simple. After thousands of years of exposition and expounding, we know this not to be the case. The complexity and subtlety of the first section of the Torah and of the universe’s history have well been established.
While reading through the narrative of even the first day of creation, we find the most perplexing verses, as the first thing that Hashem creates, light, seems to have been superceded by darkness. While Hashem proclaims, “Let there be light,” there seems to be no indication that He proclaims the existence of darkness. Hence, in the very next verse, it appears as though Hashem is separating His creation, light, from that which seemingly He did not create, darkness, which preexisted!
One also discovers that the first day lacks the active participation of Hashem’s craftsmanship. On almost all of the other days of creation, the Pesukim explicitly state, ויעש, “He made,” or ויברא, “He created” (see 1:14, 16, 20, 21, etc.). On the first day, it is merely a passive participation, where Hashem wills it and it then comes into being. This implies that while Hashem ordered the creation of the light, the Almighty might not have fashioned it. This raises a second question: why does Hashem choose to record the creation of light and darkness in a manner that depicts Him as a passive participant? The first day is the ultimate demonstration of the Almighty’s power, the day in which he makes order from chaos; it seems most significant that Hashem is not recorded as decisively being the sole creator of all that is and all that is not. Why?
It is possible to suggest that because darkness was a part of the mess and undefined state of pre-creation – “Vehaaretz Haytah Tohu Vavohu Vechoshech Al Penei Hatehom” (Gen. 1:2) - it did not need to be created; but this only exacerbates our question - did not Hashem create this confusion, this "Tohu Vavohu Vechoshech?” Surely He had crafted this mayhem; it is impossible, unthinkable, and certainly untenable to suggest otherwise. So to reiterate, why does the Chumash present darkness as a lack of creation?
Allow us to turn to another of Hashem’s great volumes of wisdom given to mankind: science. The themes of light versus darkness echo throughout literature, but as proven by physics, darkness is merely the absence of light. While this piece of information may not startle the average educated individual, its application to the reading of this passage produces a remarkable insight. The absence of light, a void, a vacuum, nothingness is so extraordinary that it can only be part of the pre-creation world. It is unfathomable for the human mind to perceive a total void, bleak and empty to all meaning and organization. The Torah was created for the sake of human understanding. The active creation of darkness would undermine the significance of nothingness; nothingness as we perceive it is still a concept, an idea; in the world of pre-creation there could be no such notion. The fact that Hashem does not depict the creation of darkness does not present us with something that existed before creation, it instead serves to emphasize that nothing would or could even be if it was not for creation. The concept of “Tohu Vavohu Vechoshech Al Penei Hatehoam” is absolutely meaningless without creation. Nothingness is only known to exist because of the creation that contrasts it. It is therefore clear that the first day of creation truly did mark the beginning of existence; because there could be nothing before the act and will of Hashem that defined everything that is and that is not. So the Parsha continues: “Vayavdale Elokim Bein Haor Uvein Hachoshech” as we say in Havdala, Hashem provided us with the ability to discern the difference between light and darkness, therefore on the first day He created the very concept of darkness; which would have a completely different meaning if subject to an actual declaration or creation. That would only rob humanity of the truth, leaving us with the impression that darkness and void is an entity in itself, and that pre-creation had meaning and structure. Such a notion would defeat the entire significance of creation.
We see from here the complexity and subtlety that the narrative of the Torah presents to us. It is our obligation to scrutinize it until we find the answer to our questions, in which we will only find that the Torah is not in contradiction to what we know, nor is it proof, but that it is the source of all knowledge; as Mishlei 8:22-31 tells us, that Hashem looked into Torah and then created the universe.