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Leo Baeck

Sefer Yetzirah
[Translated from: Aus Drei Jahrtausenden, Tübingen, J.C.B. Mohr (Paul Siebeck), 1958, pp. 256-271; Part One originally appeared in Monatsschrift für die Geschichte und Wissenschaft des Judentums (MGWJ) LXX (1926), 371 ff. and Part Two appeared in MGWJ, LXXVIII (1934), 448-455]

Translated by Scott J. Thompson Translator's Preface I. Basic Concepts of the Book Yetzirah II. The Ten Sefirot in the Sefer Yetzirah Notes

Translator's Preface: I
Leo Baeck (1873-1956) was one of the outstanding German-Jewish scholars of the 20th
Century and a leader of Progressive Judaism. Born in Lezno, Poland, Baeck began his studies near Warsaw in Breslau, Germany at the Conservative Jewish Theological Seminary in 1894. During this period he also studied philosophy in Berlin with Wilhelm Dilthey. From 1897 to 1912 and on, Baeck served as a rabbi in Oppeln, Duesseldorf and Berlin. During WWI he was an army chaplain. A scholar and a lecturer, Baeck published numerous articles in the leading German-Jewish journals of his time, such as Der Morgen and Jüdische Rundschau. When the Nazis seized power in Germany in 1933, Baeck devoted himself to defending the Jewish community as president of the Reichvertretung. In 1943 he was deported to Theresienstadt concentration camp where he was named honorary president of the Ältestenrat. Surviving the holocaust, Baeck moved to London and eventually became Chairman of the World Union for Progressive Judaism. Between 1948 and 1956, Baeck visted and lectured at Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. The The Leo Baeck Institute was created in 1954 as an institute for the study of the history of German-Judaism. Baeck was an historian of religion and a philosopher, as well as a rabbi. His most famous work, Wesen des Judentums (Essence of Judaism), was published in 1905 and went through many editions in different languages. Its originally rationalist bent was

But his reasoning is not convincing. p. Jerusalem. although his thesis looks fascinating enough.' classical scholar Philip Merlan called attention to Scholem's ambiguity vis-avis Baeck regarding the Greek influences on Sefer Yetzirah: Immerhim gibt Scholem zu. according to Baeck. Vol. vol. Scholem's dismissal of Baeck has been tempered with second thoughts. and it is clear that Scholem has been carefully considering Baeck's ideas: Leo Baeck's hypothesis that the author wished to reproduce in Hebrew garb Proclus's doctrine of Henads. seems unsubstantiated.subsequently revised to incorporate a place for 'mystery' and the mystical. This urgent context of world-historical conflagration and holocaust (Baeck's second essay on "The Ten Sefirot in the Sefer Yetzirah" was written the same year as the Röhm putsch) makes Baeck's penetrating analysis of this mystical-magical text all the more poignant and intriguing. E. 1971.. Pointing to the lack of detail in the arguments put forth against Baeck by unspecified 'Hebräisten. testimony to the importance this work had for him. Origins of the Kabbalah. p. Nevertheless.. concerning which Leo Baeck devoted two concise and challenging essays written between 1926-1934. however. which imposes a required and fixed way of life. 1974. do not necessarily form a system of commandments like the established halakhah. cf. [Scholem. The Hebrew style. Baeck has tried to show that the Book of Creation is a Jewish adaptation of certain basic ideas of Proclus. 26].376.29. Allan Arkush. New York Times Book Company. 1938) containing Baeck's essays on Sefer Yetzirah was thrown into the fire by the Nazis. Princeton. k'mareh ha-bazaq) is a central concept in Sefer Yetzirah (Book of Creation). 1987. Gershom Scholem dismissed Leo Baeck's work on Sefer Yetzirah as unconvincing: L. rather. and its author has to resort to forced interpretations. points to an earlier period. MGWJ vol. 78 (1934) p. Schocken Books (5th printing). note #46]. 371 . 1987). II In his seminal work Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism (1941). New York. trans. In his entry on Leo Baeck in the Encyclopaedia Judaica (1974).' [Encyclopaedia Judaica. Kabbalah. In his Origins of the Kabbalah (1962. however. 1971. 77-78]. 368] Scholem's Kabbalah (1974) was even briefer in dismissing Baeck's analysis: Leo Baeck tried to prove that Sefer Yetzirah was written under the Neoplatonic influence of Proclus. 4. 448 . Keter Publishing House. '[L]ike flashes of lightning' (Heb. on some points of detail Baeck's interpretations appear plausible and valuable. dass Sefer Yezira von griechischen Quellen beeinflusst ist . [Scholem. Simon calls Baeck's view of Judaism essentially "a dialectical polarity between 'mystery' and 'command'": The commands.455. creator of modern Kabbalah scholarship. New York. A. 70 (1926) p. much as the books of Dionysius the pseudo-Areopagite are a Christian one. p. Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism. possibly in the sixth century. [Scholem. English trans. Baeck's volume of essays Aus drei Jahrtausende (From Three Millenia. they appear from time to time like flashes of lightning that break through the cloud covering divine 'mystery.

" so scheint die These Baecks im wesentlichen richtig zu sein. to name some of the most frequent. 1965. It also has an equally important place in the history of the Hebrew language. Sepher Jetzira. To put the text on-line." Philip Merlan. 2. Whether Baeck's thesis is correct or not concerning Proclus and his school as the historical origin of Sefer Yetzirah." op. It marks the first attempt to form a system of mystical natural philosophy.. can also be written as Aleph.. The first letter of the Hebrew alphabet. ----SJT I. 181]. cit.. for as Scholem himself has noted. and the essay deserves to be read by those for whom the German remains inaccessible. The present transliteration is entirely provisional and will no doubt be frequently revised. The very title of our book in question here has appeared in a very wide array of variations: Sefer Yetsira. Scholem admits that Sefer Yetzirah has been influenced by Greek sources. Alef.["Nonetheless. Book of Creation. 167-179]. Sepher Yetzirah. I have temporarily resorted to transliteration. Readers familiar with Scholem's work will find it particularly valuable as a contribution toward the clarification of what may be Greek terms dressed in biblical imagery. Basic Concepts of the Book Yetzirah The Sefer Yetzirah has a peculiar place in the history of Jewish mysticism. The vividness characterizing mystical speech in general and allowing it to creatively regenerate the language also proves itself in this book. including some curious neologisms which find no natural explanation in Hebrew phraseology. Bet can be written Bayt or Beit." Journal of the History of Philosophy. For the first time. concepts from Greek philosophy were independently fashioned and expressed through the medium of the Hebrew tongue. "Zur Zahlenlehre im Platonismus (Neuplatonismus) und im Sefer Yezira. Book of Formation. Hebrew transliteration has yet to be successfully standardized. The Book Yetzirah. Vol. suggest a paraphrase of Greek terms.' Baeck's thesis would seem to be essentially correct. III. however." On the transliteration of the Hebrew: The Greek and Hebrew characters were kept in the original version of this translation and are essential to understanding the text. . ["If we were to replace 'Proclus' with 'Proclus and his like-minded compatriots in Neoplatonism. the value and plausibility of his detailed analysis has been acknowledged by both Merlan and Scholem. Merlan's own analysis of Sefer Yetzirah in the context of Neoplatonic number theory leads him to the conclusion that: Ersetzen wir das Wort "Proclus" durch "Proclus und seine Gesinnungsgenossen im Neuplatonismus. "Various peculiarities of the terminology employed in the book.

is dependent upon the teaching of Proclus.7] [9] to render this concept fully accords with the style of the rest of the book. for which the following example can also serve as evidence. . and many of the paragraphs in this first chapter begin emphatically with the words "ten Sefirot b'limah". As the peculiar word.14]. the decisive passages of the Sefer Yetzirah are none other than the transference of this Greek scholastic's system into Jewish thought and biblical language. ten Sefirot b'limah are named with the twenty-two letters." [3] The neologism Sefirah. [4] We can infer that this term is meant to render a special concept. in its thought as well as in its terminology. which replaces the customary mispar (number). the last great Neoplatonist. Proclus himself speaks of the "miraculous numbers.[6] When the epithet b'limah [7] is attached to the word Sefirot it is evidently intended to render the attributes of absolute simplicity which Proclus uses in his attempt to elucidate the essence of these henáds: autoteleis amigeis. our author constructed the term Sefirot. which appear as something already familiar in Midrash Bemidbar Rabba [VII. The henáds depict the mediating transition from the original unity to multiplicity. Furthermore. It is all the more likely. it names a very particular kind of number. The identity of the concept transferred to this new word comes into view when we focus on the meaning of the ten Sefirot in our book. [8] The word b'limah corresponds quite literally to amigeis [pure or unmixed]. indicates that the numbers mentioned here are not the numbers of mathematics. What are these ten Sefirot." [überwesentlichen Zahlen] which are a determining part of his system. and which became a permanent concept of Jewish mysticism? In his edition of Sefer Yetzirah. purely for themselves alone. which together trace the paths [n'tivot] [1] through which the Creation comes to fulfillment. He locates them between the primal essence [Urwesen] and the Intelligible and gives them the special term autoteleis henádes. autaì kath' eautás. that to render these henáds in a definite expression. SEFIROT B'LIMAH In the first chapter of the book.A few examples ought to illustrate and at the same time explain that Sefer Yetzirah. They are depicted here as the highest principles manifesting the Godhead's activity in the world." [2] Bloch translates it as: "Numbers closed in themselves" and elucidates this as: "without anything and thus abstract. like the ten Sefirot in our book. then. The selection of a biblical term [Job XXVI. Lazarus Goldschmidt explains them as "the abstract numbers which are both a Nothing and a Something at the same time. Sefirah [5].

the emergence from the cause. and they prostrate themselves before His throne. With a penchant for pictorial synonyms. All cognition is a cognition of this triad.the Being of the utterance in the utterer. their appearance is like a lightning flash.' Neither translation is able to explain what is being expressed by this sentence. Bloch adds the remark that u'dvaro ["and His word"--SJT] is derived from the Aramaic dabar [to lead]. too. the return to the cause. which is a hallmark of our book. He leads them in a circular path and they pursue His word like the storm. and the epistrophé. His word is with them in their running and returning and they hurry after His command like a whirlwind. our author is trying to express a particular concept from the philosophy of Proclus through the words taken from the Merkabah [chariot] chapter of Ezekiel [I. The próodos and the epistrophé appear here as ratsoh va-shov.[12] Proclus's system is modelled upon the doctrine of triadic development which had already been prefigured in the philosophy of Plotinus. because the cause has imparted itself to the utterance. their destination is endless."[10] Bloch translates this paragraph in the following manner: "Ten numbers closed in themselves --their appearance like the occurrence of a lightning flash and their destination has no limit. All formation of things from the first principle occurs in this triadic law of the moné. Its meaning will be grasped only when it is realized that here. on the other hand it 'emerges' from it.[13] On the one hand it 'remains' in its cause. This. and nothing more. is what is being said in our sentence of the Sefer Yetzirah. the epistrophé.14]: ratsoh va-shov. According to this triadic development.RATSOH VA-SHOV The sixth paragraph of the first chapter contains one of the most important statements: eser Sefirot b'limah tsviyatan k'mareh ha-bazak v'takhlitan ain l'hen qetz u'dvaro va'hen b'ratsoh va-shov ulma-amarov k'sufah irdofu v'lifneh kiso hem mishtahavim. growth] is in this circular movement of the emergence from the cause and the return to it. The words d'varo v'hen ["His word is with them"] designate the selfimparting in which the moné is given. Goldschmidt translates: "Ten numbers without something. the próodos." or in other words as an expression for 'circular. It is a characteristic of this system that all formation [Werden. the utterance [Hervorgebrachte] is just as much connected to as it is differentiated from the one who utters it [Hervorbringenden]. and yet again. and that ratsoh va-shov is to be understoood as "outward and return. and before His throne they prostrate themselves. The utterer imparts himself to the utterance. the most important concept of the triadic system. has been reformulated in the biblical phrase and once more brought to expression in the poetic sentence: "His creative word they . his creative power is in it."[11] To bolster his interpretation. the utterance 'turns toward' its cause.

And if the word of your mouth runs to speak and the thought of your heart to ponder. above what he calls this 'truth'.e. that it not ponder. i."[14] and then with the other image which says the same thing. Above this knowledge. to the 'place' [22]. faith. all development comes to pass. it emerges from the originating cause and yet abides in it and returns to it again." SHUV L'MAQOM Understanding our paragraph in the preceding discussion will also clarify the meaning of the one that follows it: [19] "Ten numbers. To represent the continuity of this motion more definitively. [23] which is a silence. it is thus based on the fact that the understanding which issues forth into the manifold always returns again [21] to the first origin. maqom ratsoh va'shov. It is the circular motion of the triad in which. "and before His throne they bow themselves." [15] All that is now in need of explanation are the words v'takhlitan ain l'hen qetz ["Their destination is to them no end. the pistis. which was supplied by the Merkabah passage in Ezekiel [I."]. a ."[16] Once again it is the image of a circle which emanates from God and returns to Him. that it leads the manifold back to the unity and thus comprehends the 'covenant'. however. then return to the 'place'. that is closed and to you means: close your mouth." Just as the law of growth was the subject of the preceding discussion. that it not speak. all dialectical cognition is a cognition of the triadic movement. the union with the One. [17] At this stage the translation of our sentence that now emerges is the following: "The ten unmixed [unvermischten] numbers are to be looked upon [18] as the appearance of the lightning flash: their destination is to them no end. is presented by the flash of lightning. For Proclus. 14]. The image for this. our book directly adds the other likeness drawn from the Merkabah chapter: "Their end is infused in their beginning and their beginning in their end like a flame attached to a glowing ember. His creative word they strive after like the whirlwind and before His throne they bow themselves. unmixed. these sentences represent the law of knowledge. God's creative thought remains in them so that they emerge from it and return to it. there is for Proclus something even higher. A motion whose destination means no end is circular motion.' and concerning this [20] the covenant was made. for Proclus. for the biblical sentence has said: 'the hayyot ran and returned.pursue like a whirlwind. and your heart.

that it is mekhuvenet b'emtsa ["to be determined in the center"]. the meaning of the words brit yahid mekhuvenet b'emtsa must first be understood. To solve it. Just as the macrocosmic decad finds its microcosmic analogue in the human body with its ten fingers above and ten toes below. If you are not yet capable of it and would seek the 'truth'. [32] A connection with the primordial One is therefore a connection to the central point. connection). BRIT YAHID The third paragraph of the first chapter has always given the interpretors particular difficulty. Both of these are also designated by the word brit (covenant. chose the word yahid to refer to the primordial one or autóen [28] of Proclus. Proclus had referred to the primordial essence as the kéntron. our author. Our author wants to exhibit it in the form of a symbol. and the last chapter of the book which glorifies Abraham is a reference to them. especially when a parallel passage is referred to which speaks of the six extensions and the holy temple in the center which carries them all. the center below. what has been declared concerning brit yahid.mystical quietude within the ineffable. [29] In addition. and this is the subject of our sentence. also becomes clearer. that Abraham had this faith and that he acquired creative power through it. [33] . following a phrase from the Haggadah [27]. This faith is signified by the words blom pikha ["close your mouth"]. you will find it by leading everything back to its origin. the center above. just who is referred to by yahid ['sole' or 'single'] is shown in the comparison with parallel phrases in our book: v'Adon yahid El Melekh n'eman moshel b'khulam Mimon Qadsho ("And the sole Master and lofty King faithfully governs them all from His holy dwelling"---SJT) as well as sh'Adon yahid v'ain lo sheni [25]("And the Master is solitary. for it is through faith that the soul is placed in God. [30] Following the example of Plotinus on this point.e. The phrase brit yahid accordingly refers to the union with the primordial one. and the organ of the circumcision. i. by the same token this determining central point has its analogue in the organ of the word. First of all. and without a second"---SJT). the central point [31] which rules and determines the entire circle of that which exists. have faith in silence. [24] What our paragraph is thus trying to say clearly emerges as the following: if you would possess the highest knowledge. The comparison indicates that it is God who is denominated by these words. To indicate the absolute unity of God. in contrast to the unity of the first number [26].

The Ten Sephirot in the Sefer Yetzirah It has been shown how the fundamental teachings of the Sefer Yetzirah." [34] The sense to which the basic concepts of our book lead thus demonstrate how the Sefer Yetzirah has been influenced in a decisive manner by the philosophy of Proclus. the path of knowledge and the central point. [36] This bifurcation of the spirit cannot be derived from a chain of reasoning within Judaism. whether the sources be Haggadic or mystical. which being firmly fixed by the central point corresponds to the word of the tongue and the circumcision of the nakedness. [35] This dependence of our book is also significant in terms of intellectual history. By comparison. the fifth century C. i.. can make .e. This also proves to be approximately the same epoch in which Zunz had placed it on the basis of its linguistic characteristics. such as those regarding the Sefirah. The Sefirah 'One' is called 'Spirit of the Living God'(Ruach Elohim Hayyim) and 'Holy Spirit' (Ruach ha-Qodesh). then the time when our book originated has been answered. and the connection with the primordial one.E. The terminus ad quem is firmly established since Aaron ben Asher used it and Sa'adia had already written a commentary on it. however. By way of the writings of Dionysius the Areopagite. the ninth and tenth paragraphs of the first chapter concern the first two Sefirot. The furthest terminus a quo would therefore be the time of Proclus. In the Jewish Middle Ages. It is the last rather than the first of these two time periods which will allow us to draw closer to the book. RUACH Speaking in an emphatic-liturgical style so characteristic of our book. and casting his shadow far into the distance. In the following exposition this argument is resumed with the individual Sefirot as its focus. Sefirah 'Two' is called 'Spirit of Spirit'(Ruach m'Ruach). the philosophy of Proclus. and it alone. stands the figure of Proclus. If this evidence has been adduced.Our sentence is therefore to be translated as follows: "The ten unmixed numbers correspond to the number of the ten fingers. II. five against five. Proclus had an influence on the Christian Middle Ages. At the waning of the ancient world. the influence of Proclus was felt in Sefer Yetzirah. the law of the triad. have been decisively influenced by the philosophy of Proclus.

according to the wellknown principle of Empedocles. seven doubles and twelve simples. it alone mediates the union with the primordial One. what amounts to the same thing.' a phrase from the so-called Chaldean Oracles. Proclus gives this undivided aspect a vivid name. which represent the connecting link between unitary. leads back to Proclus. it can only present itself to a particularly undivided aspect of the soul. Sometimes it is called the 'flower of the intellect. That he should refer to this first 'summit of the Spirit' as the 'Holy Spirit. In it He ordained twenty-two primeval signs [42] [to] be inscribed and decisively engraved: [43] three mothers. One aspect of Proclus's teaching particularly characterizes his philosophy. too. intelligible and . Only by virtue of 'what is undivided in our nature' ["Einheitliche unseres Wesens"].' the 'Spirit of the Living God' is in accord with his unique task of translating concepts of Greek philosophy into biblical thought and language.Two is Spirit from Spirit. the highest revelatory knowledge. The consideration which led to this idea is the following.' other times it is called 'summit of the soul.the significance of these two concepts and the reason for distinguishing between them clearly identifiable. a plurality first emerges from the oneness within the nous. God. in which the One. According to the system of Proclus. Since like can only be known by like. The Jewish tradition was accommodating to this nomenclature. of the intelligible ideas or. but only by a power which exceeds thought. This is the world of the paradigms. Now since the first Divinity is equivalent to the highest Unity. [40] Regarding this intellect it is said: [41] "Ten numbers closed in themselves. of the intelligible numbers. It is a plurality encircled by unity." This sentence.' akrotes tes psyches [37]. 'anthos tou nou. that which in the Divinity [Göttliche] is highest cannot be grasped by the actual powers of thought. was revealed to man. 'to en tes ousias emon. in the 'Holy Spirit' of both the Bible and the Targum was contained the power of prophecy. transcendent [überwesentlich] --. [38] It is to this conceptual separation of a higher intelligence from the actual intellect that our author's work corresponds here when he separates a higher Spirit from the Spirit which emerges from it. and this term fits well with the principle in Proclus that the second always takes part in (participates) the first. and in this he diverges from his predecessors: he posits above reason still another special faculty of the soul.' do we reach up to the Divine. this actual intellect which is a thinking of the first. [39] RUACH M'RUACH Actual intellect is called 'Spirit from Spirit' (Ruach m'Ruach) by our author.

[54] the same Numenius for whom his master Plato had been "an Attic-speaking Moses. this can be referred back to Proclus also. At the same time. which he equates with Thought.' Our author calls it by the name Autiot. When he gives the name 'mothers' to the first three of this Autiot. The triadic order of his system. mud and clay to be hewed and engraved. Proclus divides into three spheres: the Intelligible. and the Intellectual. [49] Concerning Life.e. the noetón ama kaì noerón. i. which for Proclus is the basis for the order of the intellectual gods who mediate the transition of the Intelligible to divided Being. Proclus himself could have found support in the predecessor whose words he occasionally cites. [46] Likewise. nous."[48] The philosophy of Proclus is the first to lead to an understanding of this sentence." tò próion apò ton archon [50]. the maternal forces. Following his customary practice of positing metaphysical suppositions and religious representations in one another."Three is Water from Spirit. He ordained them be engraved like a garden bed. He ordained a Tohu and Bohu. [51] Our author's phrase 'Water from Spirit' could have been selected to correspond to the Intelligible Life which follows from Intelligible Being. Plotinus. he could have been following a haggadic sentence. spirit and fire were created before the world." Mouses attikízon. the noetón. he says that its symbol is water. Proclus refers to those primordial numbers [Urzahlen] for which the próodos [45] [the bringing forth] is decisive (in contrast to the abiding center and the return to it) as three goddesses. who once cited the same verse of Genesis mentioned above. [47] MAIM M'RUACH It is said of the following Sefirah that. considered the one Intellect. positioned like a wall and covered like a kind of fortification. which he equates with Being. [52] He also concurs with Haggadic interpretations of the Genesis verse on "the Spirit that hovered upon the water. according to which water. according to which numbers are at the same time gods. Numenius of Apamea. which can be defined as numbers and paradigms as well as letters and ciphers. [44] This is precisely what our sentence says as well: a first plurality comprised of the intelligible number-ideas was inscribed in the 'Spirit from Spirit."[53] By the same token. our author could have modelled the seven doubles of the Hebrew alphabet on the planetary hebdomad. the Intellectual-Intelligible. What his predecessor. which he also refers to as Life.intellectual worlds. is also introduced into the totality of the thought process. which for Proclus is "that which is brought forth. [55] . which proceeds uninterruptedly to the point of monotony.

It refers to what is the first actual thing [das erste Wirkliche]. What was a reference to the uppermost Intelligible in the preceding sentences. which may therefore be called ousia." As such it is clear that the point of comparison here should be something which is mingled (mixed). [58] What Proclus calls the 'mingled' appears in our sentence as "Tohu and Bohu. has now had correspondingly categorized in the 'Water'. now refers in this sentence to the uppermost heights of the Intellectual-Intelligible. [60] This could be connected to an idea found in Proclus. which was capable of penetrating everything. It is the result of bound and infinity [limit .The philosophy of Proclus also makes it possible to comprehend what our author. . . is something else: the division of the Sefirot is once again consistent with the system in Proclus. .. and associated with the old Stoic teaching about fire. seraphim and ophanim. the first which is [das zuerst Seiende]. the region above the heavens [63] which was called the 'Throne of Glory' by the Jews. substance [Wesen] [56] . . Our sentence calls it "Tohu and Bohu. the higher substance was thought to have been fire according to an ancient perception. He ordained to be engraved and hewed from it a Throne of Glory."[59] A Haggadic tradition has something to say about this first of all. It is now unmistakable what this simile signifies. as the mingled. tò prótos ón. Seven---He sealed the east and He caused to ." and 'garden bed. mud and clay. Proclus's teaching makes it perfectly clear what is intended here.' and 'building' are presented as similes for the product of boundary and infinity. Six---He sealed the depth and He caused to issue below. [62] The decisive factor here.' 'wall.unlimited] [57] . following the primordial signs in the Spirit. tò miktón.. HATAM The last six Sefirot are referred to in the thirteenth paragraph: "Five---He sealed the height and He caused to issue above. mud and clay. hayyot and angels His ministry. that the bodies of the gods are to have been taken from the finest immaterial light [61] . however. ESH M'MAIM The twelfth sentence refers to the following Sefirah: "Four is Fire from Water. and it belongs with both of these to the first intelligible triad. for whom the first triad pertained to the intellectual-intelligible gods (and here he believed that he was following in the footsteps of Plato's Phaedrus).

which the Sefer Yetzirah introduced to Judaism. However much the content and nomenclature of the Sefirot changed in later ages.. . The ideas are what is sealing [das Siegelnde]. [71] Through clear and constant emphasis upon this idea of 'the . . [66] The image in our book is used in precisely the same way. one feature and defining characteristic of our book has remained a constant in the tradition of Jewish mysticism: its thought has adhered unswervingly to the one sole God. the Creator. as our book concludes. the problem of how the One. [68] This is exactly what space is for our author: it is from Fire. the spherically-shaped. Because of this adherence. Regarding this problem. he makes use of that image which Philo and Plotinus had already been fond of using. ph'neh. The basis of the conception of space in this passage likewise refers back to Proclus. Another idea to which our book testifies was later firmly adhered to within the totality of Jewish mysticism: the idea of Israel as chosen. they are its seals which have been imprinted by the Creator so that "His word is in them. To begin with.. the problem was always the same. released from Himself the opposites and differences. It is Abraham who was called to mystical knowledge. allpervading and undivided body of light of the cosmos. All mysticism emphasizes the individual in isolation from the community. [65] the seal. and this applies equally to the problem in the present case. and this can easily lead to an antagonistic relationship. a finest light. It is with him and his descendents that God made a covenant. . .' extend." as was said in an earlier passage. In addition to having recourse to the old platonic image of the mirror. The Sefirot are the transcendent unities of spacial extension. the participation in the higher realms by which means something is filled with the idea. the idea of sealing. [67] They are not equivalent to space itself in its six extensions. namely. the Sefirot. they give 'a trace and impression of themselves. as He has been proclaimed in the Bible."[64] Everything in this paragraph acquires its definite character from the teaching of Proclus. a danger of mysticism was averted.' íchnos ti eauton kaì typon. the dangers of pantheism and pancosmism have remained distant ones. Eight---He sealed the West and He caused to issue backwards. Ten---He sealed the north and He caused to issue to the left. Nine---He sealed the south and He caused to issue to the right. .issue forwards. That which in earlier sentences had been designated as 'inscribe' and 'engrave' is referred to here by the word for extension.. In so doing. a problem entered Jewish mysticism which has remained a perennial one ever since. for whom space was something divine and animated. or cause to issue. . 'turn towards. He is the one to whom the Sefirot were revealed and who reached the point in the center. [70] With the teaching of the Sefirot. . [69] issuing from the transcendent unities. but as its transcendent unities they are simply its seals. . It is Proclus's intention to explain in an image the méthexis.

Scholem writes: "According to some views. rein für sich allein. Compare this to Sefer Yetzirah I. judging from the literal meaning. p. the otherwise nearly incomprehensible threefold formulation of the root word sephar. 5: eser sh'ain l'hen ("ten without [limit] to them"). G. 81.e. Origins of the Kabbalah.. It can be found in the earliest extant Commentary on Sefer Yetzirah from Saadiah Gaon in the 10th Century. III. or "to advance in a row. 1974]. which depicts the Urprinzipien [primary or first principles] as well as the letters and the signs of the zodiac. [3] "Zahlen. beli mah-without anything. [The Greek can be translated as "teleologically autonomous. is simply a composite." Phillip Bloch. NOTES [1] Sefer Yetzirah I. 862. Philosophie der Griechen 2. see Gershom Scholem. and compare with Sefer Yetzirah I.]. in sich geschlossen.]. [8] Zeller has collected a large number of examples. The root word of stoicheion. Das Buch der Schöpfung. closed within itself. ideal.chosen." Lazarus Goldschmidt. [2] "die abstrakten Zahlen." This idea is not original with either Scholem or P.--[S. without actuality.5. [4] It is possible that the shloshah sefarim. was dismissed because this name of the one God with respect to God's spirit obliged the book's author to preserve it unconditionally.). The word Sefirot is the feminine plural form with the ending [Vav-Tav]. n. [5] Sefirah is the root sapir with the feminine singular ending [of the Hebrew letter Heh]. [7] This is a construction of b'li [without] and mah [what]. Arkush. See op.traced")." "ohne irgend etwas. stoichos or "line" and its verb form stoichein.T.7 and I. In his book Kabbalah [Jerusalem. which would have been the perfect analogue to the expression henads. [6] A reconstruction of the word ehad ["one"]. Press. die ein Nichts und zugleich ein Etwas sind. 1987. "Die jüdische Mystik und Kabbala" in Winter und Wünsche.--[S. It is possible that the word n'tivot ("paths") is a translation of the Greek stoicheion . (p. 245..9. trans. also abstrakt. Princeton Univ. the obscure word belimah. absolutely in and by themselves. .7. n.."--SJT]. see Zeller. Lord of Hosts. which always accompanies the word Sefirot. Bloch. 853ff. i. pure or unmixed. Die jüdische Litteratur. A.cit. p. are meant to designate the three classes of number distinguished by Proclus.T. On the connection between Sefirot and "sapphire" in the book Bahir. However.' the individual was made aware of his place within the community and his intimate connection to it. 80. p." could have meant the same to the Greek and Hebrew initiates as the word n'tivot.1: "In thirty-two marvelous paths of wisdom Yah. it would seem that it should be understood as signifying 'closed'.

'radaf' has the meaning which is occasionally given to it in Talmudic speech: "to strive after. see Isaiah V..' ed. A Jewish Bible According to the Masoretic Text.. p. sein Wort ist in ihnen in Hin." The Holy Scriptures. er führt sie in kreisförmigen Lauf und auf sein Wort jagen sie dahin wie der Sturm. It would therefore be possible that the verb refers instead to davar ["word"] and ma'amar ["saying"]." Our sentence has been used by Samuel ibn Motot in his translation of the 'pictorial circle' which comprises a part of his commentary on Sefer Yetzirah.50): "Zehn Zahlen ohne etwas. [15] What is especially noteworthy is the masculine plural form hem mishtahavim ["they prostrate themselves"] which is separated by a long sentence from "Sefirot" [fem.' i. 28.' 'the engendered' or 'the (word) uttered.1131. 244." [12]Ezekiel I." [v'ha-hayyot ratsoh va-shov k'mareh ha-bazak]. [10]Goldschmidt (p.' see Bloch (op. note #1). 2b: 'dumah l'agullot makhashavit shanautz sufah b'takhlitah." "pursue." "throng. however. LXVI. there appearance was like burning coals of fire. 15. Sinai Publishing House.e. cit. cit.' . plural]. p." Regarding the phrase k'sufah ["like a whirlwind"]. that ts'fiyah has the neoplatonic meaning here of 'flowing' or 'streaming forth.---SJT] [17] Sefer Yetzirah I. 1977. and they turn back towards Him.13]: ud'mut ha-hayyot mareihem k'ga'halei esh ["As for the likeness of the living creatures. [13]"Das Hervorgebrachte" is literally 'that which is brought forth' and can refer to 'the begotten. in sich geschlossen--ihr Anblick wie die Erscheinung des Blitzes und ihr Ziel hat keine Grenze. ihr Aussehen wie die Erscheinung des Blitzes. the object of the Hervorbringenden [lit. Meshovev Netivot: 'sefer ha-agullot ha-ra'yoniyyot.und Herlaufen und auf sein Befehl eilen sie wie ein Sturmwind. Kaufmann. the creative word emerges from God and returns to Him. und vor seinem throne verneigen sie sich. The creative word abides in the henáds. [16] Ezekiel [I." [11] Bloch (op. 'that which brings forth']---SJT] [14] The phrase ma'amaro ['His saying"] corresponds to d'varo ["His word"] as its synonym. Tel Aviv.7: eser Sefirot b'limah na-utz sofan b'tilatan u'tilatan b'sofan k'shalhevet q'shurah b'galhelet ["Ten Sefirot b'limah: their end infused with their beginning and their beginning with their end like a flame attached to a glowing ember. p.7: "He stretcheth out the north over the empty place and hangeth the earth upon nothing" [noteh tsarphan al-Tohu. 14: "And the living creatures ran and returned as the appearance of a flash of lightning. It is also possible." or "flock towards. ihr Ziel ist endlos. The self-propelling round wheel is compared to the whirlwind. und vor seinen Thron werfen sie sich nieder.[9] Job XXVI.' [18] Regarding the meaning of the word ts'fiyah which is to be found in the book Hekhalot Rabbati as 'view' or 'appearance. p.246): "Zehn Zahlen. toleh eretz al-b'limah].

On-line English Translation] [24] Sefer Yetzirah VI. [28] Proclus. [27] "yahidu shel olam": Bereshit Rabba XXI. and the Holy Palace stands in the center"---SJT) In itself it would be possible to interpret the word m'khuvenet in the sense of 'analogous' [or 'respective']. [30] Sefer Yetzirah IV. 230) and especially IV. Just how conversant with our book Judah Halevi was can be seen in Kusari III. ("above and below. compare this also with VI. 'and the creatures ran and returned. 7: "eser Sefirot b'limah blom pikhah mildaber v'libkhah milharher v'im rahts pikhah l'daber v'libkhah milharher shuv l'maqom shelkakh n'emar v'ha-hayyot ratsoh va-shov v'al davar zeh nikhrat brit" ["Ten closed Sefirot: stop your mouth from speaking and your heart from thinking.2: melekh yahid b'olamo ("solitary King in His universe"). p. It is worth noting that the predicate applied to Abraham in this passage. 25. The meaning expressed through the words shuv l'maqom is expressed in I.5 and I. his explanation of b'limah is certainly a citation from our book. I. 'point of departure' and on the other 'the omnipresent'.1 is perhaps reminiscent of our book.' and concerning this the covenant was made. hatsav v'haqaq [hewed and engraved]. 33:27. east and west. Theologia Platonis: 2. Strophe 4): v'ya'aritsu shuv v'ratsoh. return to a place of which it was said. [The Theology of Plato. Compare I.7." (ed.14 (ed. 4: ma'alah u'matah mizrakh u'ma'arav tsorphan v'darom v'heikhal ha-qodesh m'khuvan b'emtsah. 406) as well. See also Arukh sub voce balam [Bet-Lamed-Mem] as well as Bahya ben Asher ben Hlava regarding Deut.5: moshel b'khulam mimon kadsho ["governs them all from His holy dwelling"] with I."---SJT] [20] The wordplay between b'limah and blom is derived from the Haggadah Hullin 89a. 24ff. the authenticity of which has been disputed. 5 to 3:22.1 and many other passages of our book.15. [21] Our sentence also explains a passage in a poem by Judah Halevi: "Divan. On-line English Translation] [29] The term brit yahid in Abraham ibn Ezra's commentary on Lev. [23] Proclus.4. This should be compred to V.4 through the words: v'hoshev yotser al-mekhono ("let the creator be seated upon his foundation"). as it is used in . and if your mouth runs to speak and your heart to think.[19] Sefer Yetzirah I.14: ehat Ruach Elohim Hayyim ("One: Spirit-breath of the living Elohim"---SJT). Theologia Platonis. [25] Sefer Yetzirah I. [26] Sefer YetzirahI. is the same as that which is applied to God the Creator in I. Brody III 231. [The Theology of Plato.6: v'lifneh kiso hem mishtahavim["and before His throne they bow themselves"]. [22] Wordplay is involved in the meanings of maqom: on the one hand it signifies 'place'. Cassel. north and south.9 and I. 17 (ed. I.Cassel. God. Pessikta de-Rav Kahana 29b and elsewhere. but in his commentary it is given a stylistic sense.

This is the covenant of the tongue.3: tèn dè akróteta tou nou kaì ós phasi.III]. I (Books I .sc. note 7.. therefore. But the use of the same word in this other passage of our book [IV. are synonyms. while all circles around it.S. 570. m'on qadsho in I.' demands this same meaning here.8. maqon in I. p. Selene Books (Reprint). 1985..4. note 5.os arrétous kaì agnóstous móno to ánthei tou nou theorein kataleípei. [36] Sefer Yetzirah: "eser Sefirot b'limah ehat Ruach Elohim Hayyim barukh shmo hu Ruach ha-Qodesh shtaim Ruach m'Ruach" [37] Platonis Theologia I. Regarding mekhuvenet b'emtsa. S. the English Platonist. flower of intellect and hyparxis.cit. 24: fiat igitur unum. This was the time during which the Hebrew language was revived as a literary language. op. p. and this is the circumcision.Page.cit. Compare this to Bloch." [31] See the passages cited in Zeller. as a circumference around a centre from which all the radii proceed. and through these. 70: to gar ánthei tou nou kai te hyparxei tes ousías emon autois synáptesthai pephykamen. videns enim intellectuale videbit et non supra intellectum et quoddam unum intelliget et non to autounum. where the meaning is undoubtedly 'erected. too: "The connection with the primordial One. 165f. 387.--SJT] [The Theology of Plato.5: moshel b'khulan Mimon Qadsho and IV. and Heikhal ha-Qodesh in IV. note 3 and p. is conjoined wit the unities of beings. kiso in I. NY. 51: tàs gàr ousías auton ---. Kew Gardens. p. ut non videat tounum.. 7:1 dei oun ménein autò (tagathón). Chicago. On-line English Translation] [38] In Cratylum. Ibid. This kéntron (= emtsa) is analogous to m'khono in I. [32] Compare this to Sefer Yetzirah I.6. Vol. [35] See Zunz. compare Plotinus. 554. and. tò ánthos kaì tèn hyparxin synáptesthai pròs tàs hénadas ton ónton kaì dià toúton pròs autèn tèn pason ton theíon henádon apókryphon hénosin.MacKenna and B. p.26]. with the occult union of all the divine unities." trans. Enneads I.Jer Berahat 8c in the sentence bayt qodesh ha-qodeshim shel matah mekhuvan k'negid bayt qodesh ha-qodeshim shel ma'alah. 244.4.4]. p. ton theon . . and among the ten toes of his feet.. p. magis autem.5. op. has translated this passage in the following way: "the summit. cp.") [34] Compare p. et fato.15: v'kharat lo vrit ben eser etsba'ot yadav v'hu vrit ha-lashon u'ven eser etsba'ot raglav v'hu ha-milah ("And He made a covenant with him between the ten fingers of his hands. De prov. pròs autò d' episréphein pánta ósper kúklon prós kentron aph' ou pasai grammaí ["It must be unmoved. as they say. [33] See VI. [Thomas Taylor. which is established in the central point.1952. established." The Platonic Theology. Gottesdienstliche Vorträge.4: v'hu noseh et khulan. All of these expressions. Inc. Encyclopaedia Britannica. ut videat to unum.

e. the term yesod refers to what is paradigmatic. Theol.' see Moore. See Spr. IV. Compare with Zeller. that from which subsequent being [das Folgende] issues. 83ff. [44] Plat. 237f. (p. carve. or to express it in other words. engrave and to determine. cit.' 'curved. [41] Sefer Yetzirah I.. movement is threefold. The word sakhekhen in this passage has its own ambiguity as well: to interweave and to effect as well as to cover and to protect. but also 'surrounded. 858. the spiral-shape of the turning back. transcendent and b'limah = taciturnity and mysticism (I. and ph'shutot would therefore mean not only 'simple' but also straight-lined. and finally the straight line of the abiding. Judaism I. the absolutely simple unities which. The word k'phulot thus designates not only 'double' and 'twofold' [see Sefer Yetzirah IV. op. in accordance with the triadic process of growth: the circular. being differentiated according to qualities and powers. the primordial principle and its revelation. spiral-shaped. V. For Proclus. 857f. connect the One which is above existence with what exists. 382f. 1f. op. Compare with Hugo Koch. Ps. speech] and milah [circumcision] (I. 28. Theol. [49] Compare with Zeller. 2 (5). Theol. III. sufficient unto itself.. and 151f.10: shtaim: Ruach m'Ruach haqaq v'hatsav bah esrim u'shtaim Autiot yesod shalosh imot v'sheva k'phulot u'shtem esreh ph'shutot. the world of the paradigms. 11: shalosh: maim m'Ruach haqaq v'khatsav bahem Tohu va-Vohu rephesh v'tit haqeqon k'min arugah khitsivan k'min khomah sakhekhen k'min ma'azivah. and hatsav=to hew. op.p. 14/ IV. 52: katà tàs eauton akrótetas kaì henoteas enthoustiosi perì to hen kaì eisi theiai psychaí. [The Theology of Plato. [46] Plat. On-line English Translation] . Philosophie der Griechen III. which befits the uppermost of what emerges. [43] In addition to the plays on words like milah [word.--It is also possible that the terms k'phulot and ph'shutot are ambiguously connected to the thought of Proclus in a manner characteristic of our author.cit. [The Theology of Plato. 863. p. In this case haqaq= engrave and the giving of laws. double entendres are also one of our author's characteristic loves. 27f. p. [50] Plat.8). [42] In our book. Regarding the 'Holy Spirit.[39] Compare with In Parmenidem VI. Theol. III.1f.3) or beli mah = closed in itself. the Sephirot are the transcendent numbers.384f. p. As shown above.). 8.cit. On-line English Translation] [47] Plat.' i.[The Theology of Plato. p. 2]. [48] I. The Autiot yesod are the ideas. [40] See Zeller. 9. Dionysius Areopagita. On-line English Translation] [45] See above.

22.7.]: qashar lo kheter ["He placed a crown upon it"]. Jer Hagigah 77a and c." [63] Plat.1. 15: oí leimones tes zoogonías phérousi tò hydor symbolon. empyrioi schematismoi --Ep. Plato) to hydati tàs psychàs theopnóo ónti. De antro Nymph. that this refers to the boundary (limit). Mem. p. katar = surround.--SJT] [55] Clemens Al. p. [53] Bereshit Rabba II. II Baruch 59. It is possible that in connection with what is said about the three mothers. IV.. 9. Jer. I.11.cit.. Shin [III. miktón. op. which was 'god-inspired' as Numenius says. From this point on. Theol. see the aforementioned. 2--. R. whose philosophy derives from Proclus.. tesha: hatam darom u'phana limino v'hotmo b' Vav-Yod-He. 9. Notes 1. Hagigah 12a and 14b. his ministry. Barrytown. that cannot be held fast. 'The Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters. 27. regarding this point. circumscribe. ton noeton é protíste triás. [62] Zeller. IV. eser: hatam zorphan u'phana lishmolo v'hotmo b'Vav-He- . . saw God and the angels in images of fire and represented as fire forms. cit. 37. Theol. Alef. 383. dià touto kaì tòn prophéten eirékena emphéresthai epáno tou hydatos theou pneuma. and 2. Theol. He engraved and hewed a throne of glory from it: seraphim and ophanim. Station Hill Press. Theol. Beginning. III. op. 12: toiaute mèn oun .. On-line English Translation] [57] Plat. On the Cave of the Nymphs. 1983. Strom.. ápeiron. Rosh ha-Shanna 58a. [61] See Zeller. [59] Sefer Yetzirah: arba: esh m'maim haqaq v'hatsav bah kiseh ha-kavod seraphim v'ophanim v'hayyot ha-qodesh u'malakhei ha-shuret ("Four: fire from water.. Lamberton. [The Theology of Plato. trans. On-line English Translation] [64] Sefer Yetzirah: hamesh hatam rum u'phana l'ma'alah v'hotmo b' Yod-He-Vav.'" Porphyry. shesh: hatam takhat u'phana l'matah v'hotmo b' Yod-Vav-He. Theol. living creatures (hayyot) and angels. 872." ---SJT). NY. . p. [58] Plat. péras. the words of Sefer Yetzirah II. the world soul) tes hóles zoogonías. 342C. III. Compare with II Enoch 29.[51] In Timeum 318 A: zoes gàr tò hygròn symbolon diò kaì libáda kalousin autèn (sc. Shmot Rabba 15. Plat. 8ff. Compare this with the Stoic krasis di' ólon. [60] Bereshit Rabba 78. verb. [56] Plat. 5f. shmona: hatam ma'arav u'phana l'aharav v'hotmo b' He-Vav-Yod. [54] Numenius cited in Porphyry. Over the miktón stands the amigeis. adding that is for this reason that the prophet said. [52 ] Shmot Rabba XV.6: avir she'enu nitpas are interpreted to refer to "air. 9. Dionysius Areopagita. 855 note. 10: prosíxanen (sc. p. ["They believed that souls settled upon the water. Compare with Zeller op.cit. shiva: hatam mizrach u'phana l'phanav v'hotmo b'He-Yod-Vav. [The Theology of Plato. III.

71ff. 14: elu eser Sefirot b'limah Ruach Elohim Hayyim. legum allegoriarum. [68] In Rem publicam II. I. op. In our book.Yod. 17. Compare with Sefer Yetzirah III. exchange. [69] The derivation of the Sefirot --summarized in I.e.. [66] In Parmenidem V. p. These six permutations of the Tetragrammaton embody the idea that a different seal of God is in the extensions of space. III. Der jüdische Gottesdienst.4 and IV. maim m'Ruach. 6. see IV. 451 and 466. 197f. combine. [67] See above. 71f. the terms for combination with respect to permutability and variation with respect to variability are: tsaraph.7. p.9. shaqal= balance. Enneads I.4. 1. 107 (Mangey). see II. Paragraph 44. i. [70] The Autiot of space are differentiated from the Sefirot of space. adjust. but it is not the entire power of God. 385. [65] Philo.6.cit. supplement to the editorial remarks of the 2nd Edition. Esh m'maim. Plotinus. Ruach m'Ruach. 5ff Return to top Back to the Walter Benjamin Research Syndicate Homepage . hamir = interchange. a different power issues from God. rum v'takhat mizrakh u'ma'arav tsaphon v'darom--corresponds to the system of Proclus when the fifth Sefirah and all the others following it are derived from the fourth = rum m'esh ["height from fire"]. [71] See Elbogen. de migratione Abrahami I.2: v'hatum b'shesh taba'ot ("sealed in six rings"). Compare with Zeller. de Mundi opificio I..