This section of the Zohar looks at an aspect of the portion dealing with laws governing interactions between people and the way judges and courts reflect the order of the spiritual worlds. The "Faithful Shepherd" is the soul of Moses that would come and teach Rebbe Shimon the hidden aspects of the commandments.

[Rebbe Shimon said:] "Stand Faithful Shepherd, arouse yourself and explain the [secrets behind civil] laws". The Faithful Shepherd opened his discourse by quoting the verse "O Lord, open my lips; and my mouth shall declare your praise." (Ps. 51:17)

By opening with this verse he was requesting assistance from G‑d to help him explain the four categories of civil liability according to their secret meanings. Before doing this however, he explains the way the letters of the holy names reflect the level of judgment in the physical world. Note that the above verse also starts the Standing Prayer and shows that one should be conscious that even the "easiest" of movements - opening one's mouth - is dependent on the mercy of G‑d. The spiritual source of all…is revealed in the letters of the Hebrew alphabet…

The word Ado-nai ["Lord" in the quoted verse] is spelt with the same letters [aleph, dalet, nun and yud] as the word "dina", arranged in the opposite order. ["dina" is Aramaic meaning "judgment"]. This is why the Masters of the Mishna taught, "The law of the land is the law." (Gittin 10b)

The plain meaning of the Mishna is that a Jew should obey the law of the land. The Zohar now comes to throw light on the inner meaning of the verse. The spiritual source of all that appears in this world is revealed in the letters of the Hebrew alphabet. The order of these letters also reflects their source above, as do their proximity one to the other. Rabbi Moshe Cordevero explains the difference between the Divine law and the law of the land as follows:

1) Yud


great kindness








lesser kindness

Zeir Anpin





2) Aleph




3) Dalet




4) Hei




In the boxes of the table above:

The first row shows the holy name of G‑d spelt yud, hei, vav, hei [known as Havayah]. Each letter corresponds to the spiritual qualities of a particular sefira as well as a partzuf, as shown. The sequence begins with the quality of kindness. Only afterward do the letters representing judgment follow. Yet even after being superceded by the first kindness, they are further tempered by the letter vav, which also represents kindness. The result in reality is completely merciful.

The second row is the name Ado-nai, and each letter is assigned to a corresponding letter in row 1 above it;

The third row shows the letters of the word dina.

The fourth row shows the letters of the name Havayah, as they correspond to the letters of the name Ado-nai, and in the sequence of the letters of the word Dina.

The result in row 4 is that the name Havayah,instead of starting with chesed and interspersing din with chesed, is spelt with the two letters of din [judgment] first. This results in the harsh judgment of this world, where "the law of the land is law" - unmitigated with mercy.

All judgments are passed in that name [Ado-nai] in hei, in three and in four.

The name Ado-nai is contained in the last letter hei of the Ineffable Name [Havayah], representing the sefira of malchut, as shown in row 1 of the table above. This is actually how the Name appears in most Sephardi prayer books. The judgment is made in a Religious Court, or Beit Din, by a panel of three judges who represent the three sefirot of chesed, gevura and tiferet. The judgment is executed in the sefira of kingdom/malchut, represented by the letter dalet. Note that in English the word "kingdom" has two syllables, "king-" and "-dom". The word "dom" represents din, or judgment, in Hebrew, where the letters nun and mem interchange to give the same concept in different circumstances. Thus din causes dom ["blood", in Hebrew, from the execution of the criminal murderer] or dammim ["money" in Hebrew] by way of compensation for civil liability. The very word "kingdom" therefore stands for the area where the King has judicial jurisdiction. The middle column is the judge of Truth…

The Religious Court of three is the Courthouse of the Divine Presence, comprised of three Judges who represent the three Patriarchs [Abraham/Loving-kindness, Isaac/Judgment and Jacob/Truth]. The middle column is the judge of Truth. [The third judge has the determining opinion, so judgment depends on him].

He is the judge [in Hebrew, "dayan"] who judges from the side of Ado-nai [malchut], because there he is called the judge of Truth. But [in the High Court] from the side of Elo-him he is called shofet.

Here we are told that the Religious Court system had two levels of judges. Those in the tribunal of three were called "dayanim". This name is associated with the word "din" - judgment. In the higher court of appeal, the aspect of judgment is removed from the name and the judge is called "shofet".

This is as written, For Elo-him is the judge [in Hebrew, " shofet"]; He puts one down and raises the other up. (Ps. 75:8)

The name Elo-him is identified with the sefira of bina. This sefira is represented by the first hei in the name Havayah in the table above, and, being closer to the source of mercy [the yud of the Name], is sweetened in comparison to the lower level of judgment. This is reflected in the name of the judge as well because "shofet" shares the letters shin, pei and tet of the word "mishpat", meaning "justice", which is related to mercy and not strict judgment.

Zohar, Parashat Mishpatim, pg. 118a; translation and commentary by Simcha-Shmuel Treister

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