1) Our author maintains that there is a first intelligent, self-existing, almighty, eternal ruling cause of all things, and that an everlasting entity produced nonentities by a progression of effects. The divine knowledge, he adds, differs from the human knowledge in such a degree, that it gives existence to all that is. חקק יח ח״ צבאות is a talmudical expression. (See Treatise Bava Bathra p. 93.) It seems to me, that the author not only wanted to contradict Plato's assertion that the Supreme Being had need of a plan, like the human architect, to conduct the great design, when he made the fabric of the Universe, but also the common belief that God reasons and acts by ideas like a human being. As the prophet Isaiah exclaimed: "Behold! God has no ideas like you, and his ways of acting are not like yours." (Isaiah 55, 8-9.)
2) The number thirty-two is not only the fifth power of two, and the sum of ten units and twenty-two letters, but is also the sum of the first and last letter of the Hebrew Pentateuch, namely: בּ 2 and 30, equal thirty-two. (See Kusari p. 343, translated into German by Dr. David Cassel.)
3) Paths denote powers, effects, kinds, forms, degrees or stages.
4) These Sepharim or three words of similar expression signify: first, number, calculation or idea; second, the word; third, the writing of the *word. The idea, word and writing (of the word), are signs to man for a thing, and is not the thing itself, to the Creator, however, idea, word and writing (of the word) are the thing itself, or as some ancient Rabbis remarked: ",מחשבח דביר ימעשה הכל הרא דבו אחד בהק״ב״ה״ Idea, word and work are one and the same to God." There is an ideal world in the divine intellect, according to which this sensible world was made. The difference between the human and divine manner of thinking admits no comparison.
5) This means to say, that there has not been any matter or hyle existing from all eternity, containing different kinds of primitive atoms or molecules etc., as the Greek philosopher, Anaxagoras, taught, but that all things are the gradual emanations of one everlasting being. This idea is then symbolically explained in the next paragraph.
6) The design of the author is evidently to deduce the proof of the decade from the phenomena in the nature of man, who is generally considered the crown or the final cause of the terrestrial creation, and upon whom God vouchsafed two most precious gifts, namely: the articulated word, and the
religious element (spiritual purity). This passage is explained by Isaac Satanow in his Hebrew Dictionary entitled Sephath Emeth, p. 44, b:
דחנח הלשין הוא עט סופר לתולדות חשכלים ואבר המוליד
לתולדות החמריים ובל אחד הוּא ברית עולם לקיים את האדם
לפליטה נצחרת על שתי צלעותיו חמרו וצורתו האי כדאיתיח
והאי כדאיתיה זה בחמרו וזה בצורתו.
The tongue is, as it were, the descriptive pen of all the spiritual issues, and the genital parts are the originators of the corporeal substances. Every one of them is an eternal covenant in order to preserve the human race for ever, according to its two-fold being: body and spirit. Each working after its own way, physically and spiritually.
7) Like Pythagoras, who taught that the digits inclusive number ten which are typified in Tetraktys, (Τετρακτὺς) namely: 1 plus 2 plus 3 plus 4 equal 10, and which comprise the whole arithmetical system of nature, etc. Our author endeavors to show the gradual emanation of all things from God, which were completely finished in ten spheres.
8) My Hebrew reading is: והושב יוצר על There are various readings; therefore Postellus rendered it: "restitue figmentum in locum suum;" Rittangel, "restitue formatorem in throno suo;" Pistorius, "fac sedere creatorem in throno suo." The author seems to ridicule here the Gnosticians who maintained that Demiurg was the creator of man and the sensual world.
9) In God is the beginning and he is the boundary of the Universe. Compare also the Talmud treatise Chagigah p. 12.
10) Here is contradicted the system of ditheism, consisting of an eternal God, the Author of all good and of "Hyle" or "Satan," the co-eternal and co-equal principle of evil, maintaining that an all-perfect God alone is the author of all good and evil, and has in his infinite wisdom so wonderfully contrived the nature of things, that physical and moral evil may produce good, and hence contribute to carry out the great design of the Supreme Being. Compare also Chap. 6 §5.
11) As the infinite series of numbers starts from one unit, so was the whole Universe formed a unity, that centres in the Godhead.
12) The meaning is, that as the living creatures which the prophet saw in his vision were stricken with such an awe, that they could not go any further to see the divine glory, and had to return, so is the decade an eternal secret to us and we are not permitted to understand it. We find this very idea in the Pythagorean system. The disciples of Pythagoras looked upon the decade as a holy number, and swore by it and by the Tetraktys which contain the number ten,
13) See above Note 1, God, idea and word are indivisible.
14) I adopted here the reading of Judah Halevi, namely:
חקק וחצב בהו
בהו רפש וטיט וגו,
with the exception of the word תהו because it is obvious from "Yezirah," Chap. II, that the author signifies by the word "Tohu," nothing, and not something, as Judah Halevi erroneously thought. Moses Butarel and others tell us that they had before them a correct copy of "Sepher Yezirah," where it reads:
תהו זה קו ירוק וכו׳ בהו אלו אבנים
The same passage is mentioned in the Talmud treatise Chagigah, p. 12, a, with the addition of
המשוקעות בתהום שמהן יוצאין
The word חמפולמות is translated by Rashi, moist. Some say it is a compound word of מפול מות; others of פלוני אלמוני, etc. But the word is not of Semitic origin; it is, according to my opinion, borrowed from the Greek as the word סימן, etc., Πλημη flood. אבנים מפלמות flood-stones. The same word is used treatise Beza, p. 24, b, דגים המפולמין fish that are caught from out of the flood.
15) According to the author, the space and six dimensions emanated from the ether.
16) Judah Halevi in his book entitled "Kusari," p. 456, illustrates it thus: The Creator is one, and the space has in the figurative expression six dimensions. The book "Yezirah," having ascribed to the Creator some names in the spiritual language, chooses now in the human language the finest sounds which are, as it were, the spirits of the other sounds, namely: "הוי" and says, that when the divine will was expressed by such a sublime name, it became that which the Exalted by praise wished to call forth according to the combination of ".הוי" Hence it follows, that the material world was created in such a way and manner which corresponds with the material, namely, by the sublime spiritual name, which corresponds with the material name, יהו, יוה, הוי, היו, ויה, והי, and out of each of them became one dimension of the world, the sphere.
17) The author shows here by the symbol of a scale and the phonetic character of the fundamental letters ,א״מ״ש that the opposite forces and the struggle which prevail in the smallest as well as in the largest circles of creation are appeased and calmed.
18) Meaning outlets, outgates of the creative power, formations.
19) The word ענג signifies joy, and when transposed, forming the word נגע it signifies just the contrary, trouble, plague. He means to say, that the letters of the words ענג and נגע are the same, but they signify nevertheless, opposite ideas on account of transposition. Just as the sphere remains the same during the rotation on its axis in its setting and in its rising; yet it appears to us as if it had undergone a great change on account of its different position.
20) My reading is עָרְפָן שָׁקְלָן וְחֵמִיוָן.
21) The combination of the twenty-two letters without permutation is represented in the following table:
22) The number of combinations of twenty-two letters two and two without any permutation is according to the mathematical formula
23) The ancient philosophers maintained that if God is the first cause, and He is necessarily, He, the immediate effect of Him, as an absolute unity,
can only be again a unity. Hence from a being that is in every respect a unique being, there can only emanate one being; because would two essentially and truly different things issue conjointly from one being, they can only proceed from two different things of substance, that would consequently admit a division that is inconceivable. They then put the question, how came so many various beings into existence? Our author is therefore endeavoring to show that the whole universe emanated gradually from the spirit of the one living God.
24) The reading of Von Jo. Meyer and others is as follows:
ממש ועשח אינו ישנו והצב עמודימ גדולימ מאויר שאינו נתפס
ויח סימן צופח ומימר עושח כל הּיצור ואת כל הדברים בשמ אחר
וסימן לדבר עשרים ושתים מניינם דגוף אחג׃
My reading according to a manuscript of Rabbi Isaac Luria, which I have preferred to all others, is thus:
יצר ממש מתוהו ועשה את אינו ישנו וחצב עמודים גדולים
מאדיר שאינו נתפס וזח סימן אות א עם כולן וכולן עם א צופה
ומימר ועשח את כל היצור ואת כל חדבור שם אחד וסימן לדבר
עשרומ ושתים חפצים בגוף א׃
25) It has been already mentioned above Chap. i, §1, that God, his idea and his word are a unity; hence the author signifies by the letter Aleph the air from which emanated the creative speech, etc.
26) Here is meant: ethereal air, ethereal water, ethereal fire, the macrocosm, the courses of time and microcosm. Many offspring or derivations came from the latter three, as their progenitors, as it is explained afterwards in the chapter.
27) The author endeavors to show how the creative divine word became more condensed and how a new series of productions came out of three elements.
28) In ancient times coldness was considered to be a substance. [See Psalm 147, 17.]
29) Id est, made it the reigning power.
30) Namely, with the two other elements.
31 That is to say a different combination of the elements.
32) According to the opinion of the author, it may be arranged as follows:
Heaven or Atmosphere.
33) The aspirating pronunciation of ρ in the Greek, was adopted by the ancient Jews in Palestine for the Hebrew letter ר. They pronounced it partly aspirated and partly unaspirated. [See Dr. Geiger's Lehr-und Lese-buch der Mischnah, p. 22, and Dr. Graetz's Gnosticismus, p. 117.]
34) According to the idea of our author, there emanated from the unity of God three ethereal elements: primitive air from the spirit, from the air, primitive water, and from the water, primitive fire or ether, out of which came other spheres of existence in the significant and highly important number, seven, from which descended smaller spheres and which produced again others. He endeavors to show how the ideal became, after numerous emanations, more condensed, palpable and concrete. The whole creation is thus contemplated as a pyramid, terminating in a point at the top with a broad basis. [See Dr. Graetz's Gnosticismus, p. 224.]
35) Compare Chapter I, Section 3, Note, 8.
36) The order of the planets (including the Sun) is stated here according to the Ptolemaic system which was in vogue even among the learned men till the middle of the fifteenth century, namely: Moon, Mercury, Venus, Sun, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. But this arrangement is undoubtedly an interpolation of a later time, as the author of the book "Yezirah" lived many years before Ptolemy. And indeed Prof. Jo. Friedrich Von Meyer and others of reliable authority had in their copies of "Yezirah" the following order: .חמח ניגח כוכב לבנה שבתי צדק מאדינ Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Sun.
37) Philo (Allegor 1, 42,) after having called attention to the fact that the heptade is to be found in many biblical laws, in the vowels of the Greek language, in the gamut and in the organs of the human body, exclaims, similar to our author: "The whole nature exults in the heptade!"
38) The rule for permutation is as follows: (n--1) n. 1 x 2 x 3 x 4 x 5 x 6 x 7=5040. In our edition it reads: חמשת אלפים וארבע בתימ Five thousand and four houses, which is obviously a mistake, it should read: 5040 houses. .חמשת אלפים וארבעם בתים
39) I read גרגרת instead of קורקובן for two reasons. In the first place, the same thing is mentioned afterwards, and in the second place, it is proved by the expression לעיטה that the author meant גרגרת and not קורקובן.
40) Some maintain that by the expression Tali is understood the constellation Draco or Dragon, which is a very large constellation extending for a great length from East to West; beginning at the tail which lies half way between the Pointers and the Pole Star, and winding round between the Great and Little Bear by a continued succession of bright stars from 5 to 10 degrees asunder, it coils round under the feet of the Little Bear, sweeps round the pole of the ecliptic, and terminates in a trapezium formed by four conspicuous stars from 30 to 35 degrees from North Pole. Dr. Steinshneider (see Magazin fuer Literatur des Auslandes, 1845) and Dr. Cassel (in his commentary to the book entitled Kusari,) maintain that the ancient Jewish
astronomers signified by the word Tali, not the constellation Draco, but the line which joins together the two points in which the orbit of the moon intercepts the ecliptic (Dragon's head and tail). Dr. Cassel is of the opinion that our author meant here, probably the invisible, celestial or universal axis that carries the whole Universe.
41) Our author means to say that the water has a great disposition to unite itself with the caloric, thus for instance is the fire latent in steam, but the air equipoises them.
42) The meaning is, as God is the centre of the Universe, so have the macrocosm, the seasons and temperature and the microcosm, their centres receiving power from the principal centre to regulate and rule.
43) The substance of this Mishnah is mentioned in the Talmud treatise Berachoth, p. 55, a. It reads there:
אמר רב יחידח אמר רב יודע חיה
בצלעל לצרף אותיות שנבראו בהן שמיס וארץ׃
"Rab Jehudah stated in the name of Rab, that Bezalel understood to combine letters by which heaven and earth were created." To this the commentator Rashi adds: "as it is taught in the book Yezirah." It is undoubtedly certain that the book Yezirah, or a cosmogony as it is represented there, was known to Rab, who was a disciple of Jehudah Hanasi, during the second part of the second century. (C. E.) See treatise Berachoth, p. 55 a, where the commentator Rashi referred to the book Yezirah.
44) This whole paragraph is an interpolation of an unknown hand, as it can be easily proved.
45) I have translated according to the reading of Rabbi Judah Halevi. The reading of Rabbi Luria is as follows:
וקשר עשרים ושתים אותיות
בלשונו וגילח לו את סודו משכן במים דלקן באש רעשן בויח בערן
בשבעח נהגין בשנים עשר
"He fastened twenty-two letters on his tongue and revealed to him His mystery, He drew them by water, kindled them by fire and thundered them by the wind, He lighted them by seven, and rules them by twelve constellations." Pistor. renders it: "Tranat per aquam, accendit in igne grandine signavit in äere. Disposuit cum septem et gubernavit cum duodecim." Postellus' version is: "Attraxit eam in aqua, accendit in spiritu, inflammavit in septem aptatum cum duodecim signis." Meyer translates it: "Er zog sie mit Wasser, zündet sie an mit Feuer, erregte sie mit Geist, vebrannte sie mit sieben, goes sie aus mit den swoelf Gestirnen."