The Kabbalah Jewish Mysticism and the "Sefer Yetzirah"

Compiled by Robert Zucker (c) All rights reserved.

The history of the Qabbalah (Kabbalah) and the mystical Book of Creation ("Sefer Yetzirah") are Intertwined.

Kabbalah is the ancient oral tradition. The Sefer Yetzirah is one of the earliest, and most important, book written about the Kabbalah.

Over the centuries, the principles found in the Book of Creation became the tools of the Kabbalist. The Sephiroth (spheres), the elements, the Tetragrammaton, all derive from concepts found the Book of Creation.

The history and origins of the manuscript "Sefer Yetzirah" is unknown prior to the beginning of the 1st Century AD. Most authors over the centuries have numerous speculations about how the book on creation actually was created.

Qabalah, the "Oral Law," was passed from mouth to ear generation after generation until it was finally written down by Abraham, the patriarch of the Jewish religion.

Abraham is considered the original author of the "Sefer Yetzirah" who wrote the book upon his conversion from idol worshipper to the religion of the True G-d.

Another tradition is that "Sefer Yetzirah" was part of the "Oral Law" which the Lord gave to Moses on Mt. Sinai. Moses was said to have received the Oral Law along with the Written Law, according to Jewish tradition.

It is possible that the original concepts were conceived by Abraham, and the again revealed to Moses. No record exists of who actually started the Tradition.

In several manuscripts the Sefer Yetzirah is called "Otiyyot de-Avraham Avinu" which means the Letters of Abraham Avinu in Hebrew, or abeena Ibraheem in Arabic.

The attribution of the Sefer Yetzirah to Rabbi Akiba appears in the 13th century onward. This is derived from the late Midrash "Otiyyot de-Rabbi Akiva" (Scholem," Kabbalah," p. 28).

R. Akiba is attributed to be the author of the first written version of the Sefer Yetzirah in the first century AD. He took the concepts passed down from generation to generation, the commentaries, and put it into the format we use today.



The Letters of Abraham the Patriarch

According to a statement in "Rokeah (Hasidut Zakuyyut 'Arum)," at age 48, Abraham was moved by the deeds of the generation of the Tower of Babel to reflect on Gd and the universe.

He first contemplated the original concepts of the Sefer Yetzirah for three years by himself. Afterwards, by the command of Gd, he was taught by Shem, until he became so wise he composed the "Sefer Yetzirah." Read more about Abraham from wikipedia.

Then G-d appeared to him, took him unto Himself, kissed him, called him His friend, and made a covenant with him and his descendants forever. ("Legend of Jews", Ginsburg, 210 from "Sefer Yetzirah" 6.)

The "oral tradition" (Qabala) was then passed down by word of mouth to his sons, then to:

  • Jeremiah, who passed it on to
  • Joseph b. Uziel, who passed it to his son,
  • Ben Sira who passed it to his son, Uziel.
  • It was transmitted until the sages of Jerusalem put it to writing at a time when the Jews were at a period of destruction, sometime in the first or second century AD possibly by Rabbi Akiba.
  • The first printed edition of the Sefer Yetzirah was in the middle ages.

The golem and Kabalah

The Sefer Yetzirah is deeply rooted into the theory of the creation of a golem. The first mention of the creation of a golem, or an artificial being, is found in the Babylonian First Talmud passages of Sanhedrin 65b, Sanhedrin 66b, treatise Erubin, p. 63.

"But, alas, your iniquities have separated between you and your Gd." Sandhedrin 65b, in reference to Isaiah 59:2, LIX.2. This section is preceded by a discussion on ba'al ob and conjuring the dead to foretell the future.

"Raba said: If the righteousness desired it, they could [by living a life of absolute purity], be creators, for it is written, 'But your iniquities have distinguished between, etc.' (ed. ibid to above quote. Raba understands mabadilim in the sense of "draw a distinction." Read more about golem.

Follow the time line year by year of the development of the Kabbalah:

TIME LINE: 1-900AD | 1000-1500AD | 1600-2007AD

Sefer Yetzirah | Kabbalah Home Page



© 2007-2011 Bob Zucker. EMOL.org All rights reserved. . No part may be copied, reproduced, republished or
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Most popular and reliable books about "Sefer Yetzirah"

These are the most popular books on Sefer Yetzirah, the Book of Creation (Book of Formation). All of them can be purchased through these links at Amazon.com. Check for free shipping eligibility on some books.

Sefer Yetzirah: The Book of Creation
in Theory and Practice

By Aryeh Kaplan

This is the most authoritative text on the study of the "Sefer Yetzirah" or Book of Formation (Book of Creation). Kaplan's explanations are easy to understand and make common sense. A must have manual for anyone ready to decipher this ancient manuscript. Paperback: 398 pages. Publisher: Weiser Books; Rev Sub edition (May 1997). Language: English.

Book of Formation or Sepher Yetzirah:
Attributed to Rabbi Akiba Ben Joseph

by R. A. Gilbert (Foreword),
Arthur Edward Waite (Editor, Introduction), Knut Stenring (Translator)

Stenring has made a word-for-word translation from several texts, choosing only those parts which he believed to be authentic. He reveals the text’s secrets in his diagrams, tables, and extensive notes. His "Master Key to the Theoretical and Practical Kabala" is a diagram of the correspondences between the English and Hebrew alphabets and is not found in other translations of the Sepher Yetzirah. The introduction by Waite surveys the historical background of the Sepher Yetzirah translations and the import of this foundational Kabbalistic text. Knut Stenring was a Swedish Hebrew scholar. He published this work in 1923.

A selection from INTRODUCTION: The "Sepher Yetzirah," or "Book of Formation," is perhaps the oldest Rabbinical treatise of Kabalistic philosophy which is still extant. The great interest which has been evinced of 1ate years in the Hebrew Kabalah, and the modes of thought and doctrine allied to it, has induced me to translate this tractate from the original Hebrew texts, and to collate with them the Latin versions of mediaeval authorities; and I have also published An Introduction to the Kabalah which may be found useful to students. Three important books of the "Zohar," or "Book of Splendour," which is a great storehouse of Kabalistic teaching, have been translated into English by S. L. MacGregor Mathers, and the "Sepher Yetzirah" in an English translation is almost a necessary companion to these abstruse disquisitions: the two books indeed mutually explain each other.

Sepher Yetzirah (Paperback: 48 pages). Publisher: Kessinger Publishing (December 30, 2005). Language: English

Sepher Yetzirah (Kindle) (Format: Kindle Edition). File Size: 226 KB. Print Length: 112 pages. Publisher: Oak Grove (March 20, 2008). Sold by: Amazon Digital Services

The Sepher Yetzirah or Book of Creation

by Charles F. Horne (Editor)

Paperback: 48 pages
Publisher: Kessinger Publishing (December 30, 2005). Language: English