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Sefer Yetzirah
the Book of Creation

The version below is based very closely on Aryeh Kaplan's 'Short Version' translation, included as Appendix 1 of his Sefer Yetzirah: the Book of Creation (rev. ed., Samuel Weiser, 1997). A highly recommended translation and commentary.

 

Chapter 1


Comments

1:1

With thirty-two wondrous paths of Wisdom engrave Yah, the Lord of Hosts, with three books, with text (Sepher), with number (Sephar), and with communication (Sippur).

"BL" (32) opens and closes the Torah.

Three 'books': letter form or image; ordinal and cardinal value; sound.

1:2

Ten Sefirot of Nothingness plus twenty two letters: Three Mothers, Seven Doubles, and Twelve Elementals.

 

1:3

Ten Sefirot of Nothingness: The number of the ten fingers, five opposite five, with a single covenant precisely in the middle, like the circumcision of the tongue and the circumcision of the membrum.

Pairings occurs in the body, as do single central functions.

That which is precisely in the middle of the ten fingers and unifies them is the covenant of the heart.

1:4

Ten Sefirot of Nothingness: Ten and not nine; ten and not eleven. Understand with Wisdom, and be wise with Understanding. Examine with them and probe from them, make a thing stand on its essence, and make the Creator sit on His base.

The outflowing of the heart into the work of the fingers.

1:5

Ten Sefirot of Nothingness: Their measure is ten which have no end. A depth of beginning, a depth of end; a depth of good, a depth of evil; a depth above, a depth below; a depth east, a depth west; a depth north, a depth south. The singular Master, God faithful King, dominates them all from His holy dwelling until eternity of eternities.

 

1:6

Ten Sefirot of Nothingness: Their vision is like the appearance of lightning, their limit has no end. His Word in them is running and returning. They rush to his saying like a whirlwind, and before His throne they prostrate themselves.

 

1:7

Ten Sefirot of Nothingness: Their end is imbedded in their beginning, and their beginning in their end, like a flame in a burning coal. For the Master is singular, He has no second. And before One, what do you count?

 

1:8

Ten Sefirot of Nothingness: Bridle your mouth from speaking and your heart from thinking. And if your heart runs, return to the place, as it is written, "The Chayot running and returning" (Ezekiel 1:14). Regarding this a covenant was made.

 

1:9

Ten Sefirot of Nothingness:

One is the Breath of the Living God, blessed and benedicted be the Name of the Life of worlds. Voice, Breath and Speech. This is the Holy Breath (Ruach HaKodesh).

 

1:10

Two: Breath from Breath. With it engrave and carve twenty-two foundation letters — three Mothers, seven Doubles, and twelve Elementals — and one Breath is from them.

 

1:11

Three: Water from Breath. With it engrave and carve chaos and void, mire and clay. Engrave them like a garden plot, carve them like a wall, cover them like a ceiling.

 

1:12

Four: Fire from water. With it engrave and carve the Throne of Glory, Seraphim, Ophanim, holy Chayot, and Ministering Angels. From the three establish His dwelling, as it is written, "He makes His angels of breaths, His ministers from flaming fire" (Psalms 104:4).

 

1:13

Five: With three of the simple letters seal above. Choose three and place them in His great Name: YHV. With them seal the six extremities. Face upward and seal it with YHV.

Six: Seal below. Face downward and seal it with YVH.

Seven: Seal east. Face straight ahead and seal it with HYV.

Eight: Seal west. Face backward and seal it with HVY

Nine: Seal south. Face to the right and seal it with VYH.

Ten: Seal north. Face to the left and seal it with VHY.

 

1:14

These are the Ten Sefirot of Nothingness. One is the Breath of the Living God. Breath, Water, Fire, up, down, east, west, north and south.

 

 

Chapter 2


Comments

2:1

Twenty-two foundation letters: three Mothers, seven Doubles, and twelve Elementals. The three Mothers, AMSh, their foundation is the pan of merit, the pan of liability, and the tongue of decree deciding between them.

 

2:2

Twenty-two letters: Engrave them, carve them, weigh them, permute them, and transform them, and with them depict the soul of all that was formed and all that will be formed in the future.

 

2:3

Twenty-two letters: They are engraved with voice, carved with breath, and placed in the mouth in five places: AChHO, BVMP, GYKQ, DTLNTh, ZSShRTz.

Standard phonetic mouth location analysis of letters, that are here grouped to assist understanding.

2:4

Twenty-two foundation letters: They are set in a circle as 231 Gates. The circle rotates back and forth. And this is a sign: There is no good higher than delight (ONG), and there is no evil lower than plague (NGO).

21+20+19+…+3+2+1=231

2:5

How? Weigh them and transpose them, Alef with each one, and each one with Alef; Bet with each one, and each one with Bet. They repeat in a cycle. Therefore, everything formed and everything spoken emanates in one name.

 

2:6

Form substance out of chaos and make nonexistence into existence. Carve great pillars out of air that cannot be grasped. This is the sign: One foresees, transposes, and makes all creation and all words with one Name. And a sign of this: Twenty-two objects in a single body.

The act of speaking is creative.

 

Chapter 3


Comments

3:1

Three Mothers, AMSh: Their foundation is the pan of liability, the pan of merit, and the tongue of decree deciding between them.

 

3:2

Three Mothers, AMSh: A great, mystical, concealed secret, sealed with six rings. And from it emanate fire and water, separating themselves as male and female. Three Mothers, AMSh, are their foundation, and from them are born the Fathers, from which everything was created.

 

3:3

Three Mothers, AMSh, in the Universe are air, water, and fire. Heaven was created from fire, earth was created from water, and the air decides between the fire and the water.

The two principles of heat and moisture give rise to, respectively, the heights of the heavens and the descent of the earth, while mixing Fire and Water produces Air.

3:4

Three Mothers AMSh, in the Year are fire, water, and breath. The hot is created from fire, the cold is created from water, and the temperate from breath decides between them.

Three Mothers, AMSh, in the Soul are fire, water, and breath. The head is created from fire, the belly is created from water, and the chest, created from breath, decides between them.

 

3:5

Three Mothers, AMSh: Engrave them, carve them, permute them, and with them seal three Mothers in the Universe, three Mothers in the Year, and three Mothers in the Soul, male and female.

 

3:6

Make Alef king over breath, bind a crown to it, and combine one with another. And with them seal air in the Universe, the temperate in the Year, and the chest in the Soul, the male with AMSh, and the female with AShM.

3:7

Make Mem king over water, bind a crown to it, and combine one with another. And with them seal earth in the Universe, the cold in the Year, and the belly in the Soul, the male with MASh, and the female with MShA.

3:8

Make Shin king over fire, bind a crown to it, and combine one with another. And with them seal heaven in the Universe, the hot in the Year, and the head in the Soul, the male with ShAM, and the female with ShMA.

 

Chapter 4


Comments

4:1

Seven Doubles, BGD KPRT: Their foundation is life, peace, wisdom, wealth, grace, seed, dominance. Each has two sounds: B-Bh, G-Gh, D-Dh, K-Kh, P-Ph, R-Rh, T-Th. Soft and hard, strong and weak, double because they are transposes. The transpose of life is death, the transpose of peace is evil, the transpose of wisdom is folly, the transpose of wealth is poverty, the transpose of grace is ugliness, the transpose of seed is desolation, the transpose of dominance is subjugation.

The 'soft' fricative is contrasted to the 'hard' plosive.

4:2

Seven Doubles, BGD KPRT: Seven and not six, seven and not eight. Examine with them and probe from them, make each thing stand on its own essence, and mke the Creator sit on His base.

 

4:3

Seven Doubles, BGD KPRT, parallel the seven extremities. These are the six extremities: up, down, east, west, north, south. And the Holy Palace precisely in the middle upholds them all.

 

4:4

Seven Doubles, BGD KPRT: Engrave them, carve them, combine them, as planets in the Universe, days in the Year, and gates in the Soul. From them engrave seven firmaments, seven earths, seven weeks. Seven is therefore beloved under all heavens.

  • How? Make Bet king over life, bind a crown to it, and with it depict Saturn in the universe, Sunday in the Year, and the right eye in the Soul.

  • Make Gimel king, bind a crown to it, and with it depict Jupiter in the Universe, Monday in the Year, and the left eye in the Soul.

  • Make Dalet king, bind a crown to it, and with it depict Mars in the Universe, Tuesday in the Year, and the right ear in the Soul.

  • Make Kaf king, bind a crown to it, and with it depict the Sun in the Universe, Wednesday in the Year, and the left ear in the Soul.

  • Make Peh king, bind a crown to it, and with it depict Venus in the Universe, Thursday in the Year, and the right nostril in the Soul.

  • Make Resh king, bind a crown to it, and with it depict Mercury in the Universe, Friday in the Year, and the left nostril in the Soul.

  • Make Tav king, bind a crown to it, and with it depict the Moon in the Universe, the Sabbath in the Year, and the mouth in the Soul.

 

4:5

The Seven Doubles, how does one permute them? Two stones build two houses, three build six houses, four build 24 houses, five build 120 houses, six build 720 houses, and seven build 5040 houses. From there on go out and calculate that which the mouth cannot speak and the ear cannot hear.

These are the seven planets in the Universe: The Sun, Venus, Mercury, the Moon, Saturn, Jupiter, Mars. These are the seven days in the Year: the seven days of creation. And the seven gates in the Soul are the two eyes, the two ears, the two nostrils, and the mouth. And with them were engraved the seven firmaments, the seven earths, the seven hours. Seven is therefore beloved for every desire under heaven.

7! = 5040, so here the principle of multiplication, and hence also permutation, is further introduced.

 

Chapter 5


Comments

5:1

Twelve Elementals: HV ZCh TY LN SO TzQ. Their foundation is sight, hearing, smell, speech, taste, coïtion, action, motion, anger, laughter, thought, and sleep. Their measure is the twelve diagonal boundaries: the north-east boundary, the south-east boundary, the upper-east boundary, the lower-east boundary, the upper-north boundary, the lower-north boundary, the south-west boundary, the north-west boundary, the upper-west boundary, the lower-west boundary, the upper-south boundary, the lower-south boundary. They continually spread for ever and ever. They are the Arms of the Universe.

The 'boundaries' as the edges of a cube which, however, as they spread infinitely, also become an infinite sphere.

5:2

Twelve Elementals: HV ZCh TY LN SO TzQ. Engrave them, carve them, weigh them, permute them, transpose them, and with them depict the twelve constellations in the Universe: Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius, and Pisces; the twelve months in the Year: Nissan, Iyar, Sivan, Tamuz, Av, Elul, Tishrei, Mar-cheshvan, Kislev, Tevet, Shevat, Adar; and the twelve directors in the Soul: two hands, two feet, two kidneys, the spleen, the liver, the gall bladder, the hemsess, the kiva, and the korkeban.

  • How does one permute them? Make Heh king, bind a crown to it, and with it depict Aries in the Universe, Nissan in the Year, and the right hand in the Soul, male and female.

  • Make Vav king, bind a crown to it, and with it depict Taurus in the Universe, Iyar in the Year, and the left hand in the Soul.

  • Make Zayin king, bind a crown to it, and with it depict Gemini in the Universe, Sivan in the Year, and the right foot in the Soul.

  • Make Chet king, bind a crown to it, and with it depict Cancer in the Universe, Tamuz in the Year, and the left foot in the Soul.

  • Make Tet king, bind a crown to it, and with it depict Leo in the Universe, Av in the Year and the right kidney in the Soul.

  • Make Yud king, bind a crown to it, and with it depict Virgo in the Universe, Elul in the Year, and the left kidney in the Soul.

  • Make Lamed king, bind a crown to it, and with it depict Libra in the Universe, Tishrei in the Year, and the liver in the Soul.

  • Make Nun king, bind a crown to it, and with it depict Scorpio in the Universe, Mar-cheshvan in the Year, and the spleen in the Soul.

  • Make Samekh king, bind a crown to it, and with it depict Sagittarius in the Universe, Kislev in the Year, and the gall bladder in the Soul.

  • Make Eyin king, bind a crown to it, and with it depict Capricorn in the Universe, Tevet in the Year, and the hemsess in the Soul.

  • Make Tzadi king, bind a crown to it, and with it depict Aquarius in the Universe, Shevat in the Year, and the kivah in the Soul.

  • Make Kuf king, bind a crown to it, and with it depict Pisces in the Universe, Adar in the Year, and the korkeban in the Soul.

 

 

 

 


 Given the above description of the manner of permutating the seven doubles is described above, the implicit suggestion is that the 12 elementals are similarly multiplied, hence:

12! = 479 001 600

5:3

Three Mothers which are three Fathers, from which emanate fire, breath and water. Three Mothers, seven Doubles, and twelve Elementals.

 

5:4

These are the twenty-two letters which were founded by the Blessed Holy One dwelling in eternity, whose name is Holy.

 

 

Chapter 6


Comments

6:1

Three are the fathers and their offspring, seven are the planets and their host, and twelve are the diagonal boundaries. And the proof of this, true witnesses, are the Universe, the Year, and the Soul. He decreed Twelve, Seven and Three, and He appointed them in the Teli, the Cycle, and the Heart. The three are fire, water, and breath; fire above, water below, and breath, the decree that decides between them. A sign of this is that fire upholds water.

Mem hums, Shin hisses, and Alef is the decree that decides between them.

 

6:2

The Teli in the Universe is like a king on his throne, the Cycle in the Year is like a king in the province, the Heart in the Soul is like a king in battle.

"Also every desire, one opposite the other was made by God". Good opposite evil, good from good, evil from evil. Good makes evil recognizable, and evil makes good recognizable. Good is kept for the good, and evil is kept for the wicked.

Ecclesiastes 7:14

6:3

Three: Each one stands alone. Seven are divided, three opposite three, with a decree deciding between them. Twelve stand in war: three who love, three who hate, three who give life, and three who kill. The three who love are the heart, the ears and the mouth; the three who hate are the liver, the gall bladder, and the tongue. And God, the faithful King dominates them all. One over three, three over seven, seven over twelve, and all of them are bound, one to another.

 

6:4

And when Abraham our father gazed, he looked, saw, delved, understood, engraved, carved, permuted and depicted, and he was successful. And the Master of all, Blessed be He, revealed Himself to him, and took him in His bosom. He made a covenant with him between the ten toes of his feet - this is the covenant of circumcision - and between the ten fingers of his hands - this is the covenant of the tongue. He bound the twenty-two letters to his tongue and revealed their foundation. He drew them in water, burned them in fire, agitated them with breath. He ignited them with the seven planets, and directed them with twelve constellations.

 

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