I read here that in Kabbalistic tradition the four pronged shin (such as that on the tefillin) was once part of the Hebrew Alphabet but was lost, but I was not able to find a source for this tradition. Does anyone here know the source of this tradition?

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    I read somewhere that the 4 pronged shin is actually the outline of the stone. I.e., on the luchot, 4 prongs were etched into the stone leaving 4 holes. But, when looking at the stone, you have 3 solid parts of stone. If you believe that as the origin, you can understand that when the luchot were lost, so was the 4-pronged shin.
    – DanF
    Nov 13, 2017 at 22:24
  • I read about that too... but one is not connected to the other. I'm looking specifically for this kabbalistic tradition.
    – Bach
    Nov 14, 2017 at 1:22
  • related judaism.stackexchange.com/a/10304/759
    – Double AA
    Nov 14, 2017 at 1:32
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    Paulist Press, the publishers and perhaps the translators of the book you link to are a Catholic publishing house. Looking at the footnotes on the page and how they explain Da'at reveals that they don't know what they are talking about. Da'at is the union of two types of intellect. Emotion (Middot) has nothing to do with it. That means, at best, it is a pretty loose translation of the Tchernobler Rebbe's texts. More likely, it is not faithful at all. The footnotes are likely the opinion of the translator only. Nov 14, 2017 at 19:01
  • Worth taking a look at Orach Chaim 36, where the Beit Yosef and many other later commentaries go through the various letters. Not everyone agrees that a four-headed shin is posul, though most do.
    – MichoelR
    Feb 10, 2021 at 15:29

2 Answers 2


I found the source for this kabbalistic tradition in the Magen David of the Radbaz. Basically he's using the kabbalistic concept of שמיטין to explain the anomaly of the shin. The idea in short is, that in a previous shemitta (7,000 years) the shin had four prongs, but in the current shemitta it was lost and the shin only has three. According to him that is the reason were missing so many good things in our world.

I'm not sure though if there is an older source for this idea, or if its the Radbaz's own theory. If you know of anything please post as an answer.

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    Whoa, that is remarkable.
    – MichoelR
    Feb 10, 2021 at 15:34

The source for the kabbalistic understanding of the four pronged shin is Sefer ha-Temunah, written circa 1300 CE.

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    Hi! Could you please elaborate on this? Who wrote this book? Do you know a more precise location in it? Feb 10, 2021 at 11:36
  • In hebrewbooks page 16 of sefer hatmuna he says that shin has 3 in his form 3 midot. I didn't read all the book. Maybe interesting if you provide the page
    – kouty
    Feb 10, 2021 at 12:45
  • See Sefer ha-Temunah 3, 61b (Lemberg edition). As to the author, it is an anonymous work. encyclopedia.com/religion/… Feb 11, 2021 at 13:23
  • Sefer ha-Temunah 3, 61b (Lemberg edition): ש האות הזה היתה של ארבעה ראשים ועתה היא משלשה, והספר מספר בשנים בכחות ובפעולותיהן שי״ן זאת הצורה נורא מאוד ופאר והדר בלבושה אשר ממנה לבושים עליונים וכחות נוראות ועליונות ואצילות קדושות טהורות וזכות והויות ושמטות אשר במרכבה אחת כלולות בצורה אחת סתומות וחתומות אשר במקומה אורות אחת בסוד עיקר היחוד בה בד׳ צורות דבוקות מיוחדות לאחד בלי יתרון ושינוי דכתיב אני ה׳ לא שניתי מאצילות היחוד מיותר בלי חיבור ושינוי בעצמות פועל כח אלהות ויחודו באצילות באחד כלול האצילות ביחוד כח הצורה לאחד כי בכח זו הצורה נכלל האצילות והיחוד לאחד בתורה ובמצות וחוקים לצורך השמטה.... Feb 11, 2021 at 14:55

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