NAMES AND ARRANGEMENT OF THE SEPHIROT
(Last updated 3/11/01)
Though appearing to be distinct, each Sephirot has a relationship with the others. An
illustration of this can be seen by the principle that God chastises those He loves.
Here we see the God's Sephirah of judgment acting with His Sephirah of mercy.
It is also taught that when the Sephirot came into being in
creation, that they came in sequence, with the lowest one emanating from the ones before
it, and so on, all the way to the "top" one, which has the closest relationship
to the Eyn Sof. (This will be addressed more fully in the following section.) It
is important to remember, that although the Sephirot came into the existence of creation,
they emanate from the eternal Eyn Sof, and therefore are, in this respect,
Through a careful study of the Tenakh, the Jewish sages have
identified ten Sephirot (ten being the number of divine perfection). Listed
consecutively from the "highest" to "lowest," they are known by the
following names and associated characteristics and alternative names:
Ayin (nothingness), Hokhmah Penimit (internal
wisdom), Mahshavah Elohit (divine thought), Spirit of God, root of roots, mysterious wisdom, the (primitive) point, "white
head," ancient, Will, Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh, (I AM THAT I AM)
Chokmah (Primary meaning: Wisdom. Also known as: Revelation, the Primordial Torah
(the Torah that existed before creation), Father, Yesh me-ayin (being from
nothingness), beginning, YAH, YHWH)
Binah (Primary meaning: Understanding. Also known as: Intellect, Teshuvah (Repentance), Reason, palace, temple, womb,
upper Mother, Jerusalem above, freedom, Jubilee, "YHWH pronounced as ELOHIM")
Chesed (Primary meaning: Mercy. Also known as: Grace, Love of God, right arm of
God, white, EL, associated with Abraham)
Gevurah (Also called
"Din" - Primary meaning: Judgment. Also known as: Strength, Severity, Fear of
God, left arm of God, red, ELOHIM, YAH, associated with Isaac)
Tipheret (Primary meaning: Beauty. Also known as: Harmony, Rahamim
(compassion), the attribute of mercy, the written Torah, Bridegroom, Husband, Son, King,
Father, Messiah, Tabernacle/Temple, the Holy Tree, (Tree of Life), heaven, the letter
"vav," Creator, Gate of Righteousness, Sun, "the Holy One blessed be
He," HA-SHEM, YHWH, YHWH-ELOHIM, the Great Name, the Unique Name, the Lucid
Mirror, Open Miracles, lulov [on Succoth], the shofar [as related to the mitzvot of
blowing the shofar], green, Tefillin of the Head, associated with Jacob)
Netzach (Primary meaning: Victory. Also known as: eternity, prophecy,
orchestration, initiative, persistence, bitachon (confidence), right leg,
"Hosts of YHWH," associated with Moses)
meaning: Glory. Also known as: majesty, splendor, reverberation, prophecy, surrender, temimut
(sincerity), anchor, steadfastness, left leg, "Hosts of ELOHIM," associated
Yesod (Primary meaning: Foundation. Also known as: "Almighty God, Living
God," the "lower end" of the heavens, El Shaddai, El Hai, Tzaddik
(Righteous One), pillar connecting heaven and earth, seal of truth, phallus, the
non-Lucid Mirror, procreative power, Messiah, Covenant, Hidden Miracles, "all things," purity, associated with Joseph)
Malkut (Primary meaning: Kingdom. Also known as: Atarah (diadem),
Kingship, Shekinah (presence), Sabbath, lower Crown, the attribute of justice,
Assembly of Israel, Court of God, the oral Torah, Bride, Wife, lower Mother
"the Spirit of His holiness," the lesser "hay," ADONAI, the
Honorable Name, the non-Lucid Mirror, Hidden Miracles, the etrog [on Succot], earth, moon,
queen, Tefillin of the Hand, humility, associated with David)
- Keter (Primary meaning: Crown. Also known as:
(Note: As we will discuss later on, there is an
additional "quasi-Sephirah" called Da'at (Knowledge). This
Sephirah is counted when Keter is not considered, for reasons explained in the next part
of this study.)
These ten Sephirot are further divided into two groups. The three
"upper" ones, associated with the "higher heavenly realms," are:
(NOTE: When Da'at-Knowledge is mentioned it
is considered as emanating from the realm of the above three.)
The remaining seven are considered the "lower" ones and
are associated with creation and the world:
The names of the ten Sephirot are found scattered through the
Scriptures. Speaking of Betzalel's qualifications for building the Tabernacle, God says
that He gave him great insight into the three higher Sephirot:
Exodus 31:3 - And I have filled him with the spirit of
God, in wisdom, and in understanding, and in
knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship,
Here we see that Betzalel was filled with the Sephirot of Chokhmah-Wisdom and
Binah-Understanding. Note also that he possessed the "Spirit of God," which,
as we will discuss later, is associated with Da'at-Knowledge.
The Talmud comments on how even Moses deferred to Bezalel:
Talmud - Mas. Berachoth 55a - R. Samuel b. Nahmani said in the
name of R. Johanan: Bezalel was so called on account of his wisdom. At the time when the
Holy One, blessed be He, said to Moses; Go and tell Bezalel to make me a tabernacle, an
ark and vessels, Moses went and reversed the order, saying, Make an ark and vessels and a
tabernacle. Bezalel said to him: Moses, our Teacher, as a rule a man first builds a house
and then brings vessels into it; but you say, Make me an ark and vessels and a tabernacle.
Where shall I put the vessels that I am to make? Can it be that the Holy One, blessed be
He, said to you, Make a tabernacle, an ark and vessels? Moses replied: Perhaps you were in
the shadow of God and knew!
The seven lower Sephirot can be found in another Scripture:
1 Chronicles 29:11 - Thine, O LORD is the greatness,
and the power, and the glory, and the victory,
and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in
the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, O LORD, and thou art exalted as
head above all.
In the above verse, greatness is associated with Chesed (mercy) and "all"
with Yesod (foundation).
The Sephirot are often arranged vertically in four groups.1
Each of these groups is associated with one of the four heavens, previously
mentioned in this study. The four heavens are further linked to the carrying out of
the will of God, represented as "four worlds" of; calling (known as "emanation"), creating, forming
These four worlds are found
together in Isaiah 43:7:
These four levels of calling,
creating, forming and making, recur throughout the Scriptures and throughout Kabbalah. A
common arrangement of the Sephirot with regard to these "four worlds" is as
follows:Keter, which is so close to the Eyn Sof,
and therefore unknowable, is considered distinct from and above the remaining nine. It is
therefore not considered in the arrangement.
Chokmah is the highest possible Sephirah that can
be contemplated. It is associated with the aspects of time (the past), of
"Father" and the "Y" in Y-H-W-H.
Binah, is the "Mother" aspect and associated with the
dimension of time (the future) and the first "H" in Y-H-V-H.
The next six Sephirot are grouped together and relate to the six
directions of the space continuum and represent the concept of "relationship."
Collectively, these six are called "Zer Anpin" (small face), and are
associated with the "V," the Vav, which has a numeric value of six. Tipheret is
considered central to this group and often represents Zer Anpin in itself.
Last is Malkut, the Sephirah most closely associated with God's
presence on earth (the Shekinah). She is the bride and the last or small "H" in
This arrangement looks as follows:
Even every one that is called by My name;
for I have created him for My Glory, I have formed him:
yea I have made him.
||Daughter, Bride, "lower
(NOTE: Other systems of Kabbalah have different
With regard to the concept of dimensions, we recall the idea introduced
earlier in this study, that there are in reality five dimensions. There are three
dimensions of space (north-south, east-west, up-down) and one of time (beginning-end). In
addition to this, there is a moral/spiritual fifth dimension which ranges from good-evil,
(or clean-unclean). This dimension is directly related to the soul.
The ten Sephirot are said to to parallel the ten possible directions of these
five dimensions. These five pairs of opposites give us deeper insight into the nature of
the Eyn Sof.
The following table demonstrates this:
In the relationship between Keter
and Malkut, It should be noted that Malkhut is not itself
"evil" as all the Sephirot are aspects of God and therefore good. Malkhut, being
the Sephirot furthest from Eyn Sof, is simply said to be representing the direction away
from God, although (as Yeshua taught), it is also the beginning point in a relationship
||Good - Evil
||Past - Future
||East - West
||North - South
The upper Sephirot of Chokmah and Binah relate to
beginning and end (past and future), as God Himself is the Aleph and the Tav. (Alpha and
Omega in Greek "New Testaments.")
Netzach and Hod have to do with bringing Divine
governance down from above, and are the source of prophecy, hence the connection to up and
Tipheret has a relationship to the East, particularly as the gate of
the Holy of Holies (This will be discussed in detail later). Yesod is
considered to be the "lower end" of the heavens (toward the "west"),
thus the expression, "as far as east is from the west."
Gevurah is judgment, which is said to come from the north (also the
direction from which evil comes). Alternately, Hesed (mercy) comes from
the south, the 'right arm" of God.
THE TREE OF LIFE
The relationship between the ten Sephirot, (and the
"quasi-Sephirah" of Da'at, explained in the next part of this study), is said to
be ruled by three Divine principles; Mercy, Justice and Will (or Grace). As such, the
Sephirot are presented in three "columns" or "pillars." This
arrangement is known as the "Tree of Life," or "Image of God".
(It should be noted that in the Tree of Life diagram,
"east" is to the top, "south" to the right, "west" to the
bottom and "north" to the left.)
|Those Sephirot said to be
ruled by Mercy are on the right and are governed by the Sephirah of Chokmah
(Wisdom). This is said to be the expansive or active side. (Think of
God's mercy as "enduring forever.")
on the opposite side of Justice are governed by the Sephirah of Binah
(Understanding). This is considered to be the constrictive or passive
side. (Think of justice being "firm.")
Lastly, the middle pillar, ruled by the Sephirah of Keter
(Crown), and associated with the Will (or Grace) of God, is one of equilibrium or perfect
harmony. As seen above, the center pillar runs from Keter to Malkhut, which represent the
dimensional range of good to evil. This middle pillar is associated with the "Tree of
Knowledge," having to do with the mystery of the "Tree of Knowledge of Good and
Evil," seen in Genesis 2:9.
An example of these three pillars is
related in the Zohar, which speaks of the Patriarchs having relationships to the various
attributes of God, with Jacob (as the central pillar) bringing harmony to the judgmental
side of Isaac and the merciful side of Abraham. (This was alluded to earlier in our
This section is a good illustration of the Sephirot being how we
perceive God, and how such an understanding enables us to see that God does not change:
Soncino Zohar, Shemoth, Section 2, Page 175b-176a - R.
Simeon, we are told, explained thus the words, "And the middle bar in the midst of
the boards shall pass from one end to the other." "The middle bar"
, he said, signifies Jacob, the perfect saint, as we have pointed out on
another occasion in connection with the characterization of Jacob as "a complete man,
dwelling in tents" (Gen. xxv, 27). It does not say, "dwelling in a tent",
but "dwelling in tents,, which denotes that he unified the two
"tents" (of Severity and Mercy). The same implication may be found here:
"The middle bar in the midst of the boards shall pass from one end to the
other", uniting them. Jacob was perfect in regard to both sides, the Holy Ancient and
the Microprosopus, and also to the supernal Grace and the supernal Power, harmonizing the
two. R. Simeon said further: I perceive that Wisdom (Hokmah) is the
totality of all the holy Sefiroth, and that supernal Grace (Hesed) emanates from Wisdom,
and Power (Geburah), which is the prompter of severe judgement, from Understanding
(Binah). Jacob harmonized both sides: the Fathers (Abraham and Isaac) signified the
totality of all, and Jacob signified the union of the Fathers. ...
Said R. Eleazar: It would seem that Jacob emanated
from the region of severe Judgement, for Isaac laid hold on this attribute as his
portion. Said R. Simeon to him: But was this the only grade? Isaac emanated
from Grace, surely, and so did all the Fathers. In fact, Judgement proceeds from Mercy,
and Mercy from Judgement. Abraham inherited Mercy, and Isaac proceeded therefrom, but with
the aura of Judgement about him; and Jacob in turn issued in Mercy from the midst of
Judgement. So one quality emanates from another, each imbibes from each, and finally it is
made manifest that all are one, and all depend on One, and the One is all in all. Blessed
be His Name for ever and ever. Said R. Eleazar: It is evident that there can
be no perfection except the one aspect be joined to the other and a third hold them
together to harmonize and complete them, like Jacob in relation to Abraham and Isaac. That
is why it is written: "And the middle bar in the midst of the boards shall be
fastening from one end to the other." We have been taught that all this
differentiation of the Divine Personality is from our side and relative to our knowledge, and
that, above, all is one, all is set in one balance, unvarying and eternal, as it is
written: "I the Lord change not" (Mal. III, 6).
As we have seen earlier in this study, the "middle
pillar" of the Tree of Life is closely associated with; Jacob, the Messiah, and the
figure of Metatron. This middle pillar (the pillar of equilibrium) strikes the
"balance" between the masculine and feminine sides.
THE "PLURALITY" OF GOD
Understanding the concept of the Sephirot enables us to explain
the fact that the word often used in Scripture for "God," Elohim, often
appears in the plural - several times with plural verbs and adjectives. When we realize
that "God" in the Bible is "represented" to us by His Sephirot, the
problem of what appears to be "multiple gods" is eliminated and a proper
understanding of the plurality of the Godhead (Sephirot/Elohim) may be attained.
The Zohar cautions against confusing the Eyn Sof with
the Sephirot, by believing that that any one particular Sephirot "is" the Eyn
Sof. (Though each can be said to contain some degree of all the others within it.)
Each of us is to study the Sephirot and learn about Elohim/God to the best of our ability:
Soncino Zohar, Shemoth, Raya Mehemna, Page 42b -
Should one ask: "Is it not written, Ye saw no manner of similitude?" the answer
would be: "Truly we did behold him under a certain similitude, for is it not written,
and the similitude of the Lord should he (Moses) behold, (Num. XII, 8)?, But
only in the similitude which Moses beheld was the Lord revealed, not in any other
similitude of any creature formed by His signs. Hence it is written: "To whom then
will ye liken God? Or what likeness will ye compare unto him?" (Isa. XL, 18). Even
that "similitude" was a likeness of the Holy One, blessed be He, not in His own
place, for that cannot be penetrated, but in the aspect of the King when He shows forth
His power to rule over the whole of His creation, appearing, therefore, to each of His
creatures according to the capacity of each to comprehend Him, as it is written: "And
through the prophets I am represented in similitudes" (Hos. XII, 11). And therefore
He says: "Although I represent Myself to you in your own likeness, to whom will ye
liken Me that I should be equal to him?" For in the beginning, before shape and form
had been created, He was without form and similitude. Therefore it is forbidden to one who
apprehends Him as He is before creation to picture Him under any form or shape whatsoever,
not even by His letters He and Vau, nor by the whole of His Holy Name, nor by any letter
or sign soever. The words, "For ye saw no manner of similitude" thus mean,
"Ye saw nothing which could be represented by any form or shape, nothing which ye
could present or simulate by any finite conception". But when He had created the form
of supernal Man it was to Him as a chariot, and He descended on it, to be known according
to the style "YHWH", in order that He might be known by His attributes and
perceived in each attribute separately. For this reason He let Himself be called "El,
Elohim, Shaddai, Zebaoth, and YHWH", each being a symbol to men of His various Divine
attributes, that it may be made manifest that the world is sustained by mercy and by
justice, according to the works of men. Had the brightness of the glory of the Holy One,
blessed be His Name, not been shed over the whole of His creation, how could He have been
perceived even by the wise? He would have remained unapprehendable, and the words
"The whole earth is full of his glory" (Isa. VI, 3) could never be spoken with
truth. But woe unto the man who should presume to compare the Lord with any attribute,
even one which is His own, much less any human created form, "whose foundation is in
the dust,, (Job IV, I9), and whose products are frail creatures, soon vanishing, soon
What is interesting at the end of the section (above) is the idea
that God is revealed through His creation. This is very much reminiscent of what Paul said
about the image ("that which may be known") of God:
Romans 1:19-20 - Because
that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For
the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being
understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they
are without excuse.
As Paul mentions, the things seen of God are there for a
purpose -- for us to learn of and become conformed to the image of God. The same applies
to the Sephirot, which came into existence from Eyn Sof, prior to the world we live.
As the Sephirotic "Tree of Life" is in the
image of God, and the rest of creation came through this, we can then expect to see some
type of Sephirot pattern within creation. (This is a deep subject that we will deal with
in a separate study.)
For now, it can be said:
The Universe is based on order; its basic pattern is
summed up in the Laws embodied in the Sephirotic Tree. The Tree at first sight is a rigid
structure, but as study and experience increase, the rigiditity of the diagram begins to
dissolve as the subtleties of its dynamics begin to emerge. 3
As we will discuss in detail further in this study, the
Sephirot provide a "path" for us to follow in our relationship with God,
beginning with the one "furthest from God," (closest to this world), that being
Malkut-Kingdom. This explains why Yeshua said we must first start by seeking the Kingdom.
The next section of this study will feature a detailed
look at each of the Sephirot and their interrelationships.
1. All of the Sephirot exist in each of the four worlds,
however they are also said to have the particular relationships mentioned in this section.
Also, the world of Azilut (Emanation) is said to be outside of the realm of time, and
contains the other three worlds (Beriah, Yezirah and Asiyyah), as well as the purest
essence of the Sephirot, "within itself."
2. Another arrangement of the Sephirot in four worlds is
|4th heaven - "Y"
(Azilut - world Emanation)
Realm of Eyn Sof
|3rd heaven - "H"
(Beriah - world Creation)
Realm of the Throne
|2nd heaven - "V"
(Yezirah - world of Formation)
Realm of Angels
||1st heaven - "H"
(Asiyyah - world of Action)
Realm of the Shekinah
and physical creation
3. The Way of Kabbalah,
Z'ev ben Shimon Halevi, Samuel Weiser, Inc. York Beach, Maine, 1976, p.142.