PROF. M. M. NINAN
Short Version: Aryeh Kaplan translation
The Short Version of the Sefer Yetzirah
Appendix 5 The Saadia Version of
the Sefer Yetzirah
Sefer Yetzirah (ספר
one of the earliest books on Jewish esotericism.
"Yetzirah" is literally translated as "Formation"; whereas
the word "Briah" is used for "Creation".
The book is traditionally ascribed to the patriarch Abraham, some even
going as far back as Adam. According to Jewish
tradition, Abraham was born under the name Abram in the city of Ur in
Babylonia in the year 1948 from Creation which is around 1800
BCE. Chapter 6 of the book speaks about Abraham and his covenant
with God and the sign of Circumcision which forms the background of why
the book is ascribed to Abraham.
Hebrew belongs to the
Canaanite group of
In turn, the Canaanite
a branch of the Northwest Semitic family of
According to Avraham ben-Yosef, Hebrew flourished as a
the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah during about 1200 to 586 BCE.
Most Christian scholars consider Hebrew as the language spoken
the world all over before the dispersion at Babel. The historical
origin of the
Sefer Yetzirah was placed by
Reitzenstein (Poimandres, p. 291) in the 2nd
century BCE. According to Christopher P. Benton, the Hebrew
grammatical form places its origin closer to the period of the Mishna,
around the 2nd century CE.
Modern scholars haven't reached consensus on the question of its
origins. According to Rabbi Saadia Gaon, the objective of the book's
author was to convey in writing how the things of our universe came
into existence.although some early commentators treated it as a
treatise on mathematical and linguistic theory as opposed to Cabala.
The Sefer Yetzirah exists in multiple versions, including:
1) Wm Wynn Westcott translation
2) Aryeh Kaplan Translation
The Long Version,
4) The Saadia Version, and
5) The Gra Version, among others.
The differences among these versions tend to be minor.
I have given these as
appendix in case one wants to compare them for clarity.
The basic principle that
is enunciated in the book is that the whole cosmos was created by the
logos of God. Logos is a term in
western philosophy, psychology, rhetoric, and religion derived from a
Greek word meaning "ground", "plea", "opinion", "expectation", "word",
"speech", "account", "reason", "proportion", "discourse", but it became
a technical term in philosophy beginning with Heraclitus (c.
535–475 BCE), who used the term for a principle of order and
knowledge. Logos is the logic behind an argument. Logos tries to
persuade an audience using logical arguments and supportive evidence.
Logos is a persuasive technique often used in writing and rhetoric.
The Stoic philosophers
identified the term with the divine animating principle pervading the
Universe. Under Hellenistic Judaism, Philo (c. 20 BCE – 50 CE)
adopted the term into Jewish philosophy. The Gospel of John identifies
the Logos, through which all things are made, as divine (theos), and further identifies
Jesus Christ as the incarnate Logos. Trinitarian theologian Frank
Stagg writes: As the Logos, Jesus Christ is God in self-revelation
(Light) and redemption (Life). He is God to the extent that he can be
present to man and knowable to man. The Logos is God,[Jn 1:1] ... Yet
the Logos is in some sense distinguishable from God, for "the Logos was
with God".[Jn 1:1] God and the Logos are not two beings, and yet they
are also not simply identical. ... The Logos is God active in creation,
revelation, and redemption.
It is in this widest
sense the book of formation use the idea. It portrays the
creation simply as the word becoming flesh - the 22 letters and the
simple arithmetic of number and their logic as the basic ingredients of
creation. Sometimes it tend to suggest the Jungian dichotomy
of attempted masculine and feminine consciousness.
The logic even leads to
an apparent concept that the life forms are one within another ad
infinitum leading to a living person within God himself.
I present this book in my
attempt to make sense of the book claimed to be written by Abraham.
Evidently it is a very successful attempt to explain order within the
cosmos in terms of the science of the day and probably in terms of even
the modern day science.