Vayeshev: Chapter 14
Zion and Jerusalem

Here, Rabbi Yehuda discusses the creation of the universal structure that issued from Zion, the central point of faith and perfection. While Zion and Jerusalem are one, they represent the two grades of judgment and mercy. Through Binah, which correlates to understanding, the attributes of mercy and judgment are commingled and reconciled in the world.


Throughout life, our actions disrupt and misalign the supernal forces that embody the attributes of judgment and mercy. This occurs on both a personal and universal level, in line with individual and collective actions of humanity. Consequently, judgment may occur in place of mercy, and the world may seem especially hard and judgmental toward us. In response, we may find ourselves overreacting to situations where we would normally respond with restraint and patience. Balancing these two attributes in our behavior is vital.

An example of judgment and mercy is illustrated by the following parent-child situation. A child misbehaves badly. The parent becomes extremely upset and immediately spanks the youngster. The parent reacted to the situation, and the act of judgment was rooted in selfish frustration. The child might attempt to change his behavior, but he does so only out of fear. Kabbalistically, the parent needs to balance judgment with mercy. That is, sharing and care for the child must be the intent behind any disciplinary action. The parent might still gently spank the child, but out of love and concern, rather than anger and frustration. The child's motivation for change will now be rooted in love and respect, not fear.

If a soul descends into a human being from the lineage of Abraham [Right Column], it is said that the person's nature will be shaped and influenced by the quality of mercy. If a soul descends from the lineage of Isaac [Left Column], the individual is imbued with a greater proportion of judgment in his nature, and behavior is influenced in that direction.

Reading this section helps balance the forces of judgment and mercy in our interactions with the world. Moreover, these verses open us to the Light so that we ourselves can be worthy of mercy, rather than judgment, when the time comes for them to appear in our lives.