Last week we read Bereshit and towards the end of the sedra in verses 5:29-32 we are told of the birth of Noach and his sons. Sedra Bereshit ends with the first eight verses of chapter 6 and in that short section it is made clear that G-d doesn’t like the way that mankind is behaving and that he is going to destroy the world through a flood. “I will dissolve Man” (Verse 6:7) is confirmed by Rashi to mean that there was a flood. Noach’s ok though. “But Noach found grace in the eyes of Hashem” Verse (6:8). In these verses G-d is called by the Tetragrammaton (Hashem).
We then start this week’s Sedra by repeating the same episode, told in a slightly different way. In these version G-d is called Elokim.
Elokim is seen as a name indicating authority, justice and, perhaps, objectivity whilst Hashem is a more personal name of G-d and evokes the attribute of mercy, a sense of emotion and, maybe, subjectivity. The first mention of Noah says he found favour in Hashem’s eyes. The second says he was a righteous man who walked with Elokim. Hashem, in verse 7:1 asks Noach and his family to come into the ark. Elokim tells Noach to build an ark and gives him precise instructions in a much more practical way.
There is only one verse in the sedra (7:16) which has both Hashem and Elokim in it. “Those that came [into the ark], they came male and female of all flesh, as Elokim commanded him, and Hashem shut him in.”
Elokim could give all the instructions to Noach to prepare himself for the survival of him, his family and all the animals but Noach could not complete the job. Once he was inside the ark there was no way for him to close the door and cover the outside with pitch. Without that final act the whole exercise of building the ark would have been worthless.
That’s where Noach needed real help, perhaps even a miracle, from Hashem acting as a personal guardian.
These two facets seem to work for my relationship with G-d and Judaism. Elokim provides the structure; kashrut, formal services and how I deal with others. Hashem is the G-d I turn to when I need a bit of guidance.
As I write this, Tevye the milkman is singing in my head!
The idea comes from an excellent, much longer, D’var Torah written by Rav Yoel Bin-Nun