Using Abraham and David as examples, Rabbi Yehuda explains the difference between the righteousness and contrition. While the soul of a contrite person immediately enters the supernal realm, where it cleaves to the Holy One, merely righteous souls may take many years to acquire such a blessing. Even Abraham and David were unable to enter the world where the truly contrite are made welcome. Rabbi Yosi further adds that a contrite soul is closer to the Creator than all others, drawing down more Light from above, in proportion to its yearning and penitence.
The Zohar values a spiritual state of mind far above a religious, dogmatic one. Some people observe the Law, but at the expense of hurting those around them. Righteousness turns to self-righteousness and negative action, all in the name of God. Uninterrupted humbleness and repentance for our misdeeds protects us from this fate. This passage helps us raise our consciousness so we can differentiate our desire for righteousness from our need for penitence. Concentrating on penitence hastens us into the Light, rather than merely flattering our egotistical pride.