Clouds of Chesed, Rain of Din1
Now all the trees of the field were not yet upon the earth, and all the
herb of the field had not yet sprouted. Hashem Elokim had not sent rain upon
the earth, and there was no man to work the soil.
Beer Mayim Chaim: How should we look at rainfall? Should we attribute it to
din, the attribute of judgment within G-d, or to chesed, to His attribute of
We may not have to look any further than our pasuk, and its puzzling use of
two of G-d’s Names: Hashem and Elokim. The pasuk may be hinting to us that
rain should be appreciated as a combination of both attributes – of chesed
and of din.
Without our pasuk, we could make the argument on behalf of either attribute.
On the one hand, rain is so vital to life, that we would place it squarely
in the chesed column. We depend on what we grow for our nutrition. The
success of agricultural endeavors depends on adequate rainfall. If life
begins as chesed, rainfall sustains it.
Chazal, on the other hand, apparently link rain to din. They call the
berachah in Shemonah Esrei that speaks of precipitation gevuros
geshamim;2 gevurah, of course, is practically synonymous with
din. They point to the phenomenon of rain sometimes falling with great –
even destructive – force as the reason for linking rain with din. The
Zohar3 speaks explicitly of rain originating in chesed, but
handing it off, as it were, to din, which becomes an active agent in its
delivery. (Think, says the Zohar, of the way we perform netilas yodayim. We
hold the vessel in our right hand – which is associated with the primary
attribute of chesed – in order to fill it. We then pass it to the left – or
din. It is the left that pours the water, but those waters were obtained
through the right!)
It seems, then, that both chesed and din are important. We can offer a
simple reason why. Chesed, as we experience it, comes about as a kind of
partnership with din – a mixture we sometimes call rachamim. The pure form
of chesed is so powerful that it would overwhelm us. This world cannot deal
with the intensity of its power. In effect, pure chesed must be tempered by
the limitations of din to be available and useful to us. Rain, an offshoot
of Hashem’s chesed, reaches us in a cooperative venture between chesed and din.
This amalgam is expressed in the Name Hashem Elokim, combining both
attributes. Seen this way, our pasuk says that this combination did not
result in rain falling upon the earth, because Man had not yet been created
to perform the work, the avodah, that was necessary. That avodah is Man’s
occupying himself with Torah and with prayer at all times. Hashem made His
responsiveness to the needs of the earth contingent upon Man living up to
Hashem’s expectations of him.
How does Man’s spiritual output relate to this special Name: Hashem Elokim?
We need look only so far as another pasuk4 that uses this Name.
“You shall know this day and take to your heart that Hashem, He is Elokim.”
The word for “your heart” is levavcha, which is a plural form. Chazal take
that plural to suggest that Man need serve His Creator with two hearts, as
it were. He need serve Hashem with the two opposing tendencies he finds in
his heart: the yetzer tov, and the yetzer hora. Now, the very existence of a
yetzer hora and Man’s capacity to make poor choices are sourced in din. Din,
which limits the illumination of Hashem’s chesed, allows Man to look away
from it, or not notice it at all, and thus leaves room for finding evil
attractive. Man often, however, summons up the determination to tame and
even break the powers of evil within him. He finds that strength through
joyously attaching himself to the yetzer tov, which is sourced in the
goodness of Hashe m’s chesed.
In other words, Man is the constant platform upon which two Names of G-d –
Hashem and Elokim – contrast with each other through their outgrowths: the
yetzer tov, and the yetzer hora. By resisting the message of pure yetzer
hora, Man “sweetens” din by forcibly combining it with the chesed of the
The unusual implication of our pasuk turns out to be understandable. Our
pasuk uses a full, compound Name to relate how Hashem did not make it rain
in the Garden of Eden. Why would the Torah such a full Name to convey not
what Hashem does, but what He did not do? We now understand. The blessing of
rainfall, containing aspects of both chesed and din, requires that the two
midos be merged. This could only happen through the avodah of Man.
Only Man, by virtue of the exercise of his free-will and suppressing his
yetzer hora, can make a contribution to the cosmic drama of producing a
gentler, kinder form of din.
1. Based on Beer Mayim Chaim, Bereishis 2:5
2. Taanis 2A
3. Zohar Terumah 154B
4. Devarim 4:39