revhead.gif (4972 bytes)

(Last updated 9/1/01)

NOTE: In this section, we will take a deeper look at the Sephirotic Tree of Life presented in Part V. As any study on the mysteries of God is a subjective explanation of an objective reality, there is no one "right explanation" or "perfect system" in Kabbalah study. (As Rav Sha'ul (Paul) said, "We all see darkly, as through a glass.")

As complex as the material we present on this web site may seem, it only scratches the surface of these mystical areas of study. We hope to present enough material to provide a foundation for understanding some of the themes hidden in the text of the book of Revelation. Please consult our YashaNet Reading List for suggested study materials. Students are also encouraged to contact us for recommendations and with any questions.


Although seemingly simple at first glance, the Tree of Life is highly complex. The ten Sephirot (plus the "non-Sephirah" of Da'at), are known by Hebrew names.

These are based on root words that describe attributes of God manifested in the Divine world (see "Azilut" below).

The term "Sephirot" itself has been defined in many ways, including; emanations, powers, crowns, numbers, degrees, garments, faces of God, and vessels.

As discussed in an earlier study, there are multiple names given to each Sephirah.

The Tree of Life (particularly the seven lower Sephirot), is also associated with the "Seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth" (Revelation 5:6), also known as God's seven eyes.

hebsef.gif (9700 bytes)

Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh offers the following connection between the "Tree of Life" and "eyes":

The word for "tree" in Hebrew, etz, is composed of two letters: ayin and tzadik. Ayin means "eye"; tzadik means the "righteous one." Each and every Jew is in essence a tzadik, as it is said: "And your people are all tzadikim, they shall forever inherit the land, they are the sprout which I have planted, the workings of My hands in which to take pride." The potential tzadik inherent, though initially latent, in every Jew becomes activated when the "eye" of the Torah enters his consciousness and becomes part of him. Just as the Torah is the "tree of [eternal] life," so does the tzadik, when connected and one with the "eye" of the Torah, become a "tree of [eternal] life." This is the secret of the word "tree," etz--ayin ("eye") tzadik ("righteous one"). And so do we find in Psalms: "The eyes [einei] of G-d are to the righteous [tzadikim]." To each potential tzadik G-d gives His "eyes," His ability to look into the Torah (the secret of the insight of His "right eye") and His ability to thereby create (and rectify) reality (the secret of the power of His "left eye"). 1

As with DNA in the world of science, the Tree of Life is God’s "blueprint," and is consistently found in all aspects of understanding Him, in the written Torah, and all that is found in nature. It is a diagram of the principles working throughout the universe. As human beings were created in the image of God, we too are modeled on the Sephirot, and reflect the nature of the cosmos.

Through study of the Tree of Life, we can attain a higher level of understanding of many Biblical subjects, from the unfolding drama of creation, to the workings of the worlds of angels and demons, to our own spiritual, psychological and physical makeup, and most importantly how we can be reconformed to the image of God that we were created in.

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 rigidity of the diagram begins to dissolve as the subtleties of its dynamics start to emerge. 2


There are essentially two ways of approaching the Tree of Life. To put it simply, one can study it from the "top-down" or from the "bottom-up." The study of the Tree from the "top-down" is an analysis of the process of creation, beginning with what we can know about God, going through the heavenly realms, then down to earth and man himself. In Kabbalistic tradition, this has been called the Work of Creation, and stems from the first chapters of Genesis.

Conversely, the "bottom-up" approach begins with man, including his physical, psychological and spiritual makeup, continuing his spiritual journey "up Jacob's Ladder," into the spiritual realms, toward God. This method of study has traditionally been based on an analysis of Ezekiel’s vision, and is called the Work of the Chariot.

In addition to these two approaches, the Tree of Life may also initially be examined from several viewpoints:

  • Literal - i.e., aspects of God in our lives and the world we live in
  • Allegorical - i.e., comparison to the characteristics of the Biblical patriarchs (as discussed in an earlier study)
  • Metaphysical - i.e., analysis of the dynamics of the Tree of life (i.e., letters, numbers, triads, symbols -- see, "Paths and Triads" below)

These three ways of approaching the Tree of Life are similar to how we relate to any spiritual concept in Scripture. Take the study of the Temple for instance.

We can view the Temple;

  • in a simple, literal way, i.e., as the place people went to meet as a community and pray
  • from an allegorical viewpoint, seeing what it represents in Israel's relationship to God
  • according to the details of the Temple design, looking for deeper metaphysical meaning


As discussed in an earlier study, the Sephirah on the right "pillar" of the Tree of Life are on the "active" side, and those on the left are on the "passive" side. The outer pillars are also associated with the ideas of "force" and "fire" (on the right side) and "form" and "water" (on the left side). The central pillar is that of equilibrium (balance), and is associated with "air" or "spirit."

All the Sephirot on the passive pillar are receptive and have the qualities of Form, in the Understanding (Binah) is the formulation of ideas, Judgment (Gevurah) is exercised in response to something, and Reverberation (Hod) is the echo to an impulse coming from any one of the other Sephirot. It is the same with the active pillar. Here the impact of revelation is seen in Wisdom (Hokhmah), while the power than must be behind Mercy (Hesed) is enormous. Eternity (Netzah) is the principle of repetition, the incessant input necessary to make the world go round. The central pillar is concerned with Will and with the Grace which descends from the Crown (Keter) through Knowledge (Da'at) to Beauty (Tiferet), which is the Sephirah which reflects the top to the bottom of the Tree. Foundation (Yesod) and Kingdom (Malkut) are respectively the manifestation of an image plan and the actualization of it in the Divine material. 3

It should be noted however, that as the Sephirot interact with, and contain aspects of each other, that any of the ones on the passive side can act forcefully, and vice-versa. For instance, Gevurah (Judgment) can be "passive" in terms of mediating between understanding and truth, or it can be "active" in terms of meeting out punishment in the face of continued evildoing.4


The ten Sephirot are joined by a series of 22 paths, each one corresponding to a letter of the Hebrew alphabet with a numeric value. Whereas the ten Sephirot are established in their "roles" throughout Kabbalistic teachings, there are different systems of lettering/numbering the paths.

The 22 paths and the ten Sephirot form a series of 16 "triads" within the Tree of Life. As each side of a triad is in turn associated with a Hebrew letter, they form a series of three-letter roots, the building blocks of the Hebrew language.

The method of study related to the letters associated with the paths and triads is primarily metaphysical. For instance, in one system, the path from Malkut to Yesod is associated with the letter Resh, having as its meaning the "head" or "beginning." Thus, the beginning path is to seek the Kingdom (Malkut) first, in order to become a righteous Tzaddik (at the level of Yesod). The path continuing from Yesod to Tipheret is linked to the letter Tzaddi, and is associated with the Path of the Tzaddik, also called the Path of honesty, as it leads to Tipheret, the Sephirah of Truth.5


Another aspect of the Tree of Life is the idea of the upper and lower "Faces." In this scheme, the "upper Face" of the Tree (shown in orange) is seen as extending between Keter, Hokhmah, Binah and Tipheret, with Da'at lying in the middle. The "lower Face" (shown in yellow) is made up of Tipheret, Netzah, Hod and Malkut with Yesod in the middle. This last point is important, as Yesod is the "foundation" of the Tree, through which things pass upward and flow downward.

As the upper Face of the Tree is associated with the Supernal Sephirot (Keter, Hokhmah and Binah), it is said to represent the "merciful Face."  The lower Face is the "severe Face," and is a reflection of the upper. The upper Face imparts grace to the lower Face, which receives it. Thus, the lower Face is more complex, with more governing laws, it being further from Eyn Sof than the upper Face.

faces.gif (5797 bytes)

Note in the diagram above, how the central Sephirah of Tipheret plays a pivotal role between the upper and lower faces. As we will discuss, the Four Worlds (see below) "overlap" in such a fashion that the "upper Face" of one World corresponds to the "lower Face" of the World just above it.6

(See also previous notes on "Arikh Anpin" and "Ze'er Anpin.")


Although not directly explained at the P’shat (simple) level in Scripture, the Four Worlds (also called the "Four Heavens," or "Four Universes"), are found at the deeper levels of Torah study.

For instance, the books of Ezekiel and Revelation depict different "levels" of the heavenlies. We also have teachings in the "New Testament" that seem to distinguish between "Heaven" and "Paradise." In addition, we have the comment by Paul in one of his epistles, that speaks of a man (possibly Paul himself), going up to the "third heaven" where he received a view of the heavenly realms. He may have been referring to the third world of Beriah.7

The Four Worlds are not places such as planets, but rather correspond to four "stages of removal" from Eyn Sof. These stages are another aspect of the "creation process" and do not conflict with the "six days" of Creation listed in Genesis. As the light of Eyn Sof move progressively further away from its source (from Azilut through Asiyyah), it becomes "more physical" and more laws are necessary.

The four worlds are:

  1. Azilut (Emanation) - the eternal unchanging Divine world
  2. Beriah (Creation) - considered "Heaven" proper, it is the first separation from the Divine, and "location" of the Throne of God and archangels
  3. Yezirah (Formation) - the abode of the "lower angels," men's souls and the Garden of Eden
  4. Asiyyah (Action) - the material universe in which we live

The four worlds as they relate to one another in creation, are mentioned in Isaiah’s book:

Isaiah 43:7 - 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.

A simple way of understanding the four worlds is to compare it to someone building a house:

  1. The person determined that one day they would build their own house (emantion)
  2. They planned the style they would design it to (creation)
  3. They drew up the specific blueprints to fulfill this design (formation)
  4. They acquired the materials and constructed it according to the above (making)

Ezekiel’s vision (Ezekiel, chapter 1),  is helpful in gaining an initial insight into the four worlds from the "bottom up." The prophet is physically present here in the first world of Asiyyah. His view of the "Chariot" (made up of various heavenly beings) is one into Yezirah. Above the Chariot is the "likeness of a throne," which lies in the third world of Beriah. Finally, on the throne there is the "likeness as the appearance of a man," that being the Divine world of Azilut.

The qualifying terms Ezekiel uses indicate that his vision was only "clear" through Yezirah. Looking into Beriah (which was one world away from his prophetic level of Yezirah), he saw only the "likeness of a Throne." His view into Azilut (two worlds away from Yezirah), was even dimmer, as he saw only the "likeness as the appearance of a man."


The four world of Azilut, Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyya, though having their own specific attributes, are not totally separate from one another. There is a systematic order to how each one "flows into the next." The diagram to the right shows the interconnection between, any two worlds.

For the sake of instruction, we will view how Azilut interacts with Beriah. We will begin with "A" which in our example represents the Keter. Following the standard layout of the Tree, the Tipheret of Azilut would be located at "B." As the beginning of a lower world emanates from the Tipheret of the one above it, this causes the Tipheret of Azilut to correspond to the Keter of Beriah, the world below it at "B."

Following suit, the Hod (C) and Netzah (D) of Azilut, coincide with the Binah (C) and Hokhmah (D) of Beriah. the world just below Azilut.

At "E" we have the Yesod of Azilut above, being in alignment with the Da'at (E) of Beriah below. (If this seems confusing, remember that "B" is also the Keter of Beriah, and take it from there.) This is important as through Da'at of a world below (the realm of the Ruach haKodesh), we have access to the foundation (Yesod) of a world above. Conversely, Yesod is seen as "procreative," thus through Yesod above, is "knowledge" (Da'at) of the world below.

two-three-tree.gif (8538 bytes)

We now come to "F" which is quite interesting as here we have the intersection of the three upper worlds. In our example, "F" is the Malkut of Azilut, the Tipheret of Beriah and also the Keter of Yetzirah, the world below Beriah.

Note also at this point that the "lower face" of Azilut (from its Tipheret (B) through its Malkut (F) corresponds to the "upper face" of Beriah (from its Keter (B) to its Tipheret (B) and that the "lower face" of Beriah (from its Tipheret (F) through its Malkut (J), corresponds to the "upper face" of Asiyyah (from its Keter (F) to its Tipheret (J).

Following suit, "G" is both the Hod of Beriah and Binah of Yetzirah, and "H" is simultaneously the Netzah of Beriah and Hokhmah of Yetzirah. The Yesod of Beriah overlays the Da'at of Yetzirah at "I," and at "J" you have the Malkut of Beriah and Tipheret of Yetzirah. (The astute person will see that "J" would also be the Keter of the lowest world of Asiyyah, another key point where the three lowest worlds meet.)

The process of each new world beginning with the Tipheret of the one above it, continues within each of the Four Worlds. As will see however, although this method begins at Tipheret, the foundation of each world is established at Yesod, which, as mentioned, lies in the center of the lower face of the Tree in each World. This will be further explained later in this study.


This study follows the idea there the ten Sephirot exist within each of the worlds of Azilut, Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyyah. While the names and positions of the Sephirot within the Tree of each world stays the same, their inter-relationships within each tree differs.

The following chart shows, in general terms, some aspects of the Four Worlds, from both a "downward" and "upward" view:

The Four Worlds "Downward View"
(begin at Azilut)
"Upward View"
(begin at Asiyyah)
Azilut The Divine unchanging realm, the "archetypal" Sephirot and the "Names of God." Contact with the Divine.
Beriah The beginning of the Creation account, realm of the archangels, and "Throne room" of God. The level of prophecy transcending linear time and space (i.e., Moses in Torah and John in Revelation).
Yetzirah The dynamic world of transition with "lower angels" carrying out the will of God from Beriah to Asiyyah. The level of the soul and beginning of deeper spiritual understanding. The realm of most prophetic revelation.
Asiyyah Physical man and the Earth. The "lower face" of Asiyyah is biological man. The "upper face" of Asiyyah is the psyche and holds the opportunity of man's advancement to the higher worlds.

(An important point to note is that the presence of the Tree of Life in each world indicates that the same laws operate throughout the Universe, only at different levels. - i.e., "As above, so below.")

It is a preeminent truth of the Bible that "God is One." As we will see, from each subsequent higher world, the "view" of God, creation and history ("time"), is much more unified.

The links below provide diagrams without annotation, enabling you to enter your own references.

Basic Tree of Life diagram | Extended Tree of Life diagram

1. Kabbalah and Modern Life: Living with the Times, A Torah Message for the Month of Shevat: The Tree of Life, Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh,

2. The Way of Kabbalah, Z'ev Shimon Halevi, Samuel Weiser, Inc., York Beach, Maine, 1976, p. 142.

3. A Kabbalistic Universe, Z'ev Shimon Halevi, Samuel Weiser, Inc., York Beach, Maine, 1977, p. 16.

4. The Way of Kabbalah, Z'ev Shimon Halevi, Samuel Weiser, Inc., York Beach, Maine, 1976, p. 145.

5. This line of Kabbalah which we incorporate in much of this section, is the Toledano Tradition which dates back to medieval Spain. For a deeper understanding of the concepts presented in the subsequent section, we recommend the works of author Z'ev Shimon Halevi as listed on our YashaNet Reading List.

6. This system of "overlapping" Four Worlds, is also of the Toledano Tradition.

7. There is also a teaching of "seven heavens" within the world of Beriah. In this tradition, the "third heaven" is the place where, "... incarnate men can rise during prayer and be instructed in the mysteries of creation." (See A Kabbalistic Universe,   Z'ev Shimon Halevi, Samuel Weiser, Inc., York Beach, Maine, 1977, p. 52.