I remember Chazal saying somewhere that the world could not survive, had it been created with din/harsh judgement/strictness. However, in Bereshis, at the very beginning, it says:

בְּרֵאשִׁית בָּרָא אֱ־לֹהִים אֵת הַשָּׁמַיִם וְאֵת הָאָרֶץ

So how was it created? By Elokim (ie din) or by Hashem (ie rachamim)? I've read the Rashi here, but I'm not sure what exactly it means by saying that it was G-d's intention to create the world with din, but then He decided otherwise, as it were. If this was so, it would make sense to have a remes in the text alluding to it, but this is straight p'shat, it looks like the world was, in fact created with din in mind.

Can someone clarify this for me?

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    Considering that the four answers so far explain the rabbis' statement about the creation but not the wording of Gen. 1:1, I suggest that if (as I suspect) you intended to ask primarily about the latter then you edit the question....
    – msh210
    Commented Dec 18, 2011 at 20:40
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    @msh210 I'm interested in both, but unfortunately, no one has addressed the wording directly yet, as far as I can tell. Commented Dec 19, 2011 at 16:59
  • I think Alex's answer addresses that, no?
    – HodofHod
    Commented Dec 19, 2011 at 19:46
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    @HodofHod Yes, you're right. Commented Dec 19, 2011 at 19:53
  • The Arvei Nachal gives a very full and amazing explanation of this topic. See shlomokluger.com/Other-Books/Arvei-Nachal/Bereishis.html#1
    – user4523
    Commented Nov 19, 2013 at 23:08

5 Answers 5


R. Schneur Zalman of Liadi (in Tanya, Shaar Hayichud Vehaemunah ch. 4) explains that the name Elokim "shields" the name Havayah, and makes it possible for finite and (seemingly) independent creatures to exist in the first place. Thus, Elokim represents (and is the source of) the tzimtzum, the "contraction" of Divine energy that made "room" for the various spiritual worlds and our physical one.

In ch. 5 he then goes on to relate this to the Midrash that you quoted. An excerpt from the commentary there:

In order for created beings to believe that they possess independent existence there must be the process of tzimtzum, which is an expression of the stern attribute of Gevurah. Without it, all of creation would be completely nullified within its source.

G‑d, however, desired that created beings maintain that they possess independent existence, in order for them to be able to serve Him and ultimately be rewarded for their service. Thus, it is specifically Gevurah and tzimtzum that enable them to realize the ultimate purpose of creation.

So basically, that state of affairs still exists: our world fundamentally gets its energy through the Name Elokim. The "joining" of the Name Havayah to this, R. Schneur Zalman goes on to say, is the fact that our world is capable of being the stage for G-d's miracles. (This distinction between Elokim and Havayah seems to reflect the distinction drawn by Abarbanel, in jake's answer.)


Abarbanel (Bereshis 1) quotes this midrash and gives his interpretation (with my own translation):

אבל ענין דבריהם אצלי הוא שאלהים הוא מדת הדין ורצה לומר שרצה הקב״ה לברא העולם במדת הדין הגוזרת שכן יהיה תמיד כמו שנברא ולא ישתנה בשום צד כי זה היה דינו הראוי לו כפי קיום הפועל יתברך וכן אמרו פעמים רבות מדת הדין על המנהג הטבעי המתמיד כפי סדרו. אמנם מדת רחמים יאמרו על שנוי הטבעים ומעשה הפלאות בבטול המנהג הטבעי אשר יעשה השם ברחמיו על עמו ועל חסידיו. והנה מאמרם ז״ל שרצה הקב״ה לברא את העולם במדת הדין שיתמיד כמו שנברא ולא ישתנה דבר מהטבע שסדר בו. אבל לפי שראה שאינו מתקיים בכך כי לפעמים יצטרך לברא חדשה בארץ בשנוי הטבע סביב ליראיו ויחלצם לכך שתף בה מדת רחמים והוא במה שהתנה במעשה בראשית לשנותם בעת הצורך ושעליו נאמר ביום עשות ה׳ אלהים ארץ ושמים הנה בראם על מנת לשנותם כשיצטרכו אליו חסידיו ובזה ינהג אליו מנהג הדין תמיד ויפעל מדת הרחמים בעת הצורך

However, my understanding of their [Chazal's] words is that "Elokim" represents the attribute of "din", meaning that the Holy One wished to create the world with this attribute of din which rules that the universe should remain constantly the way it was created, without changing in any way, for this is its proper din [i.e. "nature"] with which to be upkept by its Blessed creator. And in fact, many times they [Chazal] used the term "midat hadin" to mean the "natural order" that continues according to the way it was set up. "Midat Rachamim", though, is how they referred to the changing of nature, the supernatural, breaking the laws of nature, which God does in His compassion toward His people and His devoted ones. Thus, their statement is that God wanted to create the world with midat hadin, so that it continue as it was created, without any alteration to its natural laws. But, since he saw that it would not survive like this, for certain times call for novel creations and violations of nature 'surrounding those who fear Him to deliver their safety', therefore he combined with this the midat harachamim, in that he stipulated in the creation to be able to change it when needed. And referring to this, it says, "On the day that Hashem Elokim made the Earth and the Heavens" (Bereshis 2:4); He created them with the stipulation that He may change them whenever His devoted ones are in need. And thus, He leads the universe with midat hadin regularly, and employs midat harachamim when it is necessary.


Bereishis Rabbah Perek 12, brings an analogy (that I have paraphrased),

of a King who had fragile cups. He said: "If I fill them with hot water, they will crack. But if I fill them with cold water, it will congeal(?)". So what did he do? He mixed the cold water with the hot water and filled the cups.

The same with Hashem, He saw that if he created the world with midas harachamim, there would be no deterrent to sin. If He created it with midas hadin, it wouldn't survive (I suppose the world would have been destroyed many times over, for its sins). So He mixed them together and created the world with both.

In short, G-d created the world with both, and therefore Torah used both names of G-d.


One of the first Rashis in the Parasha says that H' wanted to make the world with Din, and then He Kibiyachol "changed His mind" because he saw the world couldn't stand with din, so He created it with Rahamim. I think I remember reading a Zohar that said something similar.

  • But why the use of Elokim as opposed to Hashem as the name used? Commented Dec 18, 2011 at 17:04
  • Well, in the beginning it says Elokim, because I think that is the way the world started off, but then later it says (2:4) "on the day Hashem Elokim made the world." See Rashi on Bara Elokim, and for a deeper explanation not meant for this site see the Gur Arye. Commented Dec 18, 2011 at 17:11
  • So the world was created in din, then was changed? Commented Dec 18, 2011 at 17:31
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    These concepts of Din and Hesed are very Kabbalistic actaully. See Likute Moharan 1:64. Commented Dec 18, 2011 at 20:29

I think that the "remez" is quoted by Rashi, i.e. ב ד) ביום עשות ה' אלוקים ארץ ושמים) on the first posuk "Divrei HaMaschil" ברא אלוקים

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