“And it was evening and it was morning, one day” (B’raishis 1:5). “And it was evening and it was morning, day two” (1:8). “And it was evening and it was morning, day three” (1:13). “And it was evening and it was morning, day four” (1:19). “And it was evening and it was morning, day five” (1:23). “And it was evening and it was morning, the sixth day” (1:31). Although (aside from which day it was) these words seem identical, there are some slight differences. One (pardon the pun) difference is that instead of the first day being referred to as “day one” (“yom rishon”), it is called “one day” (“yom echad”), as in “day of the One,” since G-d was the only Being (or being) that existed at that time (see Rashi; the angels are said to have been created on day two). Alternatively, until there was a second day, it was the only day, and not one in a series of days (see Ramban). Another difference is that day six is called “the sixth day” rather than just “day six,” with the most famous explanation being a reference to “the sixth day of Sivan” (in 2448), when the Torah was given, since the Torah is the purpose of creation (see Rashi). Another difference is that for three of the days (3, 4 and 5), these words constitute the entire verse, while for the other three (1, 2 and 6), they appear at the end of a verse, but are not a verse in and of themselves. Why do the closing words of some days get their own verse, while the others do not?
It can be suggested that only when what was created on a specific day was complete does the verse that completes the narrative of that day’s creation stand as its own verse, while if what was created was incomplete, and had to be completed on a different day, it was added to an already existing verse, as if to say “this day has ended, even if the task has not yet completed.” Let’s examine each of the three “incomplete” days to see what was missing, and what was needed at a later time to complete the job.
On the first day, light was created, and separated/distinguished from darkness, with light attributed to daytime and darkness to nighttime. This part of creation was not finished, though, as more was added on the fourth day, when the celestial lights were created. They provided light (1:15, 1:17), distinguished day from night (1:14) and light from darkness (1:14), with one “ruling” by day and the other “ruling” by night (1:16, 1:18). It can therefore be said that the fourth day of creation completed what was started on the first, thereby explaining (according to the theory presented above) why the “evening/morning” ending the first day was not given its own verse.
On the second day, the “firmament” that divided the upper waters from the lower waters was created. On this day, not only is the “evening/morning” ending not its own verse, but it is the only day of creation that is not described as “good.” Instead, the third day is described as “good” twice (1:10 and 1:12), because what was created on the second day was completed on the third (see Rashi on 1:7; see also Malbim on 1:8), when the lower waters that were separated from the upper waters regrouped to allow for the appearance of dry land. Since the third day of creation completed what was created on the second day, the “evening/morning” ending of the second day was also not given its own verse.
What about the sixth day? Wasn’t everything completed by the end of the sixth day, when the six days of creation were over? Was the anticipation for “the sixth day,” when the Torah was given almost two and a half thousand years away, enough to make what was created the first six days not really complete, or is there more to the story?
Although there were only six days of creation, after which creation was “complete” (2:1), we are told that the completion of creation didn’t occur until the seventh day (2:2), making it seem as if something was created on the seventh day. Chizkuni, based on B’chor Shor, explains that it could only be known that creation was finished after six days, with nothing more to be created, when nothing else was created on the seventh day. However, if the expression “and G-d finished His work on the seventh day” (2:2) refers to His cessation from doing any more work (which thereby allows us to know it was really finished after six days), the next words, “and G-d rested on the seventh day from all the work that He did,” seem superfluous. Weren’t we just told that He didn’t do any more creating, which is how we know that creation was complete after six days? [We are told again in 2:3 that G-d rested on the seventh day, so saying so in 2:2 can’t be how we know that G-d didn’t create anything new on the seventh day.] Additionally, if there no additional work was done after six days, it wasn’t only on the seventh day that He rested, but the eighth day, the ninth day, and every day after that as well. Why is it only the seventh day that is considered the day G-d rested?
Rashi (on 1:1) quotes the Midrash that says the world was created because of the Torah and because of [the Nation of] Israel, both of which are referred to as “firsts.” These two concepts are not mutually exclusive, and are dependant on each other (besides “the Torah, the Holy One — blessed is He — and Israel being one”), as the world’s purpose can only be fulfilled when G-d’s chosen nation fulfills the Torah. In other words, creation will not really be complete until we complete it by fulfilling G-d’s word. “On that day, G-d will be One and His Name will be One” (Z’charya 14:9). We were given the responsibility of completing G-d’s work. Until then, though, in the larger context, the world is incomplete.
G-d created the world so that we can finish the job, and become His partner in creation. After the six days of creation, the world was perfect in its imperfection, giving us all the tools we need to complete the job, while leaving just enough still to be done for us to be able to do it. G-d could have finished the job Himself, but then what would have been the point? He purposely left it incomplete, completing His part of the process in six days, and refrained from finishing it on the seventh so that we can do the rest.
It became apparent on the seventh day, when G-d didn’t do any more creating, that He had “completed His work.” But it was only because He rested on the seventh day despite the job not being finished (much as we cease from doing work on Shabbos even when we have more work to do) that we know He left it for us to complete. That He didn’t complete it on the eighth day, or ninth day, or any day after that, doesn’t mean that He “rested” on any of those days; it is only on the day after He finished His work, when He would have done more if He was going to, that His not doing any more work is considered “resting.”
“And G-d saw all that He had done, and behold it was very good” (1:31), perfect in its imperfection, ready for us to complete the job. But because it wasn’t really finished, the “evening/morning” ending is only part of a verse, not a verse in and of itself. Creation was not complete after six days; the part G-d didn’t complete was left for us to do.