Book of Formation - Sefer Yetzirah

Chapter I

Mishnah 1, part 4

Mishnah 2 >> 
By the grace of G-d 
Copyright  2013, 2016 Nathaniel Segal 

Mishnah * I.1.4. (continued)  and [with] twenty-two letters [consonants of the Hebrew alphabet]

a foundation.


Mishnah I.1.4. [I.2]   twenty-two letters - consonants.  The Hebrew tradition has at least one system for representing vowels in written words.  However, the Book of Formation hardly concerns itself with vowels, other than to teach us that there are ten of them.

letter - oht in Hebrew.  This word also means 'sign'.  Counting and naming the consonants are signs that point to the actual sounds of speaking.  A sign is a way to refer to something, but it is not the thing itself.

The characters in the address bar of this web browser, for example, represent this page, but they are not the page itself.  Servers in the network of the Internet use those characters to locate this page.  (The characters together as a unit form a URL  uniform resource locator.)

Street signs point to the street that I live on, but the signs are not the street itself.  A number posted near my doorway points to my house and its entry, but the number  numerals  are not my house or door.

a foundation - for creating the universe  the twenty-two consonants wrapping around ten vowels and forming the utterances of Creation.

a foundation - Also a foundation of signs to represent the consonants.  These are the traditional names of the letters of the Hebrew alphabet.

The Book of Formation was taught orally, and students memorized its content.  I surmise that teachers called the letters by the names that we know  Alef, Beit, Gimmel, and so on.  I surmise this because I haven't come across any other names.  It is essential, though, that we all use the same names today, regardless of what a teacher said a couple of thousand years ago.

Written (and printed) texts of the Book of Formation served as memory aids and for convenience.  Our convenience is to use the standard names for the Hebrew letters, even when our pronunciation varies somewhat.

twenty-two - Each of the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet has a distinct energy to create and maintain every detail of the universe.  Each is an element of foundation for both creating the universe and maintaining the universe.

twenty-two - Each of the twenty-two consonants (letters) of the Hebrew alphabet has a distinct function in creating the universe. Within the twenty-two letters, some have special associations.  Mishnah I.8 delineates the three associations.  Some call each of the three groups of letters separate "books."  Like books, each one is a separate volume.  If these volumes were on a shelf, one would bring down each of them to study separate but related topics.

A hypothetical book that expands on the three letters Alef, Mem, and Shin would have the title Mother Letters in the Hebrew Alphabet.  On my part, I would also give the book the subtitle The Three Physical and Metaphysical Fundamental Principles of the Universe's Creation.

A book that expands on the seven letters Beit, Gimmel, Dalet, Kaf, Peh, Reish, and Tav would have the title Doublet Letters.  On my part, I would also give the book the subtitle The Seven Physical and Metaphysical Dimensions in the Universe.

A book that expands on the twelve letters Heh, Vav, Zayin, Het, Tet, Yod, Lammed, Nun, Samekh, Ayin, Tsadik, and Koof would have the title Simple Letters.  On my part, I would also give the book the subtitle The Twelve Physical and Metaphysical States of Emergence in the Universe.

* Definitions and Pronunciation

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