ספר יצירה | Sefer Yetsirah, a derivation of A. Peter Hayman’s experimental “earliest recoverable text,” by Aharon Varady for practitioners

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נֹטֶ֣ה צָפ֣וֹן עַל־תֹּ֑הוּ תֹּ֥לֶה אֶ֝֗רֶץ עַל־בְּלִי־מָֽה׃
“He stretches out the Tsafon/North over the Abyss,
and suspends the Earth over Bli Mah/Nothingness” (Job 26:7).

The Sefer Yetsirah is an esoteric cosmological work whose earliest layer was written by an unknown author during the Tannaitic period (1st-2nd centuries CE). A second layer was added in the Amoraic period (3rd-6th centuries CE), but variations of the text only became more widely extant in the Geonic period (7th-9th centuries). Three variations of the text were known by the 10th century: a Short version, a Long Version, and a variation that R’ Saadya Gaon translated and commented upon in Arabic. The text of the Sefer Yetsirah presented here follows the “experimental exercise” produced by Dr. A. Peter Hayman in his Sefer Yeṣira: Edition, Translation, and Text-Critical Commentary, “Appendix III: The Earliest Recoverable Text of Sefer Yeṣira” (Mohr Siebeck, 2004). Hayman looked through the extant early manuscripts, translations, and commentaries witnessing each strand of the text in order to locate his “earliest recoverable text.” By carefully analyzing these manuscripts, Hayman reconstructed a layer of the text common to the the three versions that may have circulated early in the Geonic period (or perhaps even earlier). Absent from Hayman’s earliest recoverable text are the astrological, anatomical, and some of the linguistic material found in later versions. (Such material may have originated as an esoteric commentary or gloss, on this earlier layer or even earlier layers of the work. “It is the glory of Elohim to conceal a thing; but the glory of kings to search a matter out”–Proverbs 25:2.)

As a practical text, the strongest resonance of the Sefer Yetsirah for me has been with the Shema and the liturgy directly preceding it (Nishmat, Yishtabaḥ, the blessing Yotser Ohr, etc.). The custom long has been that for those reciting the Shema alone (i.e. without a minyan), that they preface their pronunciation of the shema and their closed-eye meditation on the expanse of divinity in the cosmos with the words, El Melekh Ne’eman (El Majestic and Trustworthy). Additionally, the liturgical Shema is normally written out with the Ayin and the Daled enlarged, spelling “עד” (eid, witness). Close readers will find reference to both the term El Melekh Ne’eman and cosmic, calendrical, and anatomical witnesses in the chapters 1 and 6 of the Sefer Yetsirah.

I’ve limited my adaptation of Hayman’s important work to the re-arrangement of several sections of text in “chapter 6.” (I’ve restrained myself against splitting chapter 6 into two smaller segments, one concerning “the witnesses” and the other concerning the “theory of opposition.” I am interested in arranging some of the supplemental astrological and anatomical material in the Long version, separately — but that will have to wait for another time.) I have made no changes to the text of the Sefer Yetsirah itself, as Hayman faithfully transcribed it, however, I have set this text side-by-side with an English translation. Hayman did not provide a direct translation for his “experimental exercise” although much can be derived from his translations of the the Short, Long, and “Saadyan” recensions that he did translate. The translation I provide here deviates at times from what Hayman offered for these recensions, but not by very much. I have also added vocalization (niqud), using Lazarus Goldschmidt’s Sepher Jeṣirah: Das Buch Der Schōpfung (1969), as a guide. (Please comment if you think you have found an error in the niqqud.)

For details on Hayman’s construction and his review of the available recensions of Sefer Yetsirah, please refer to his complete commentary in Sefer Yeṣira: Edition, Translation, and Text-Critical Commentary (Mohr Siebeck, 2004). Section numbers, offered in brackets after the translation were adopted by Hayman from I. Gruenwald’s “A Preliminary Critical Edition of Sefer Yezira”, Israeli Oriental Studies I, 132-177. I have added six chapter breaks which Hayman notes in his introduction. Square brackets around text indicate some doubt as to whether the included wording was present in an earlier layer of the text (Hayman, p.124). I provide this derivation of Dr. A. Peter Hayman’s “earliest recoverable text” of the Sefer Yetsirah here for others who might also wish to incorporate the text of the Sefer Yetsirah into their daily practice.

Aharon Varady
Summer 5776


Source (Hebrew) Translation (English)

שְׁלֹשִׁים וּשְׁתַּיִם נְתִיבוֹת פְּלִאוֹת חָכְמָה
חָקַק יָהּ יהוה צְבָאוֹת
בְּשָׁלֹשׁ סְפָרִים
בְּסֶפֶר וּסְפַר וְסִפֻּר.
Thirty-two wondrous paths of wisdom
Yah YHVH Tsevaot, carved out
by means of three delineations (sepharim)[1]from ספר, “cuttings” or “accountings.” I think the valence here is scribal, architectural, design: actively separating (i.e., cutting) by means of semiotic treatment. Hayman translates as “three types of things” which is understandably neutral given his interest in avoiding kabbalistic anachronisms on this work from Antiquity.:
with writing (b’sepher), and counting (ūs’phar), and speech (v’sippur). [§1]

1: Ten Sefirot


עֶשֶׂר סְפִירוֹת בְּלִי־מָה
מִסְפַּר עֶשֶׁר אֶצְבָּעוֹת
חָמֵשׁ כְּנֶגֶד חָמֵשׁ
וּבְרִית יָחִיד מְכוּוֶנֶת בְּאֶמְצָע
בְּמִילַּה וְלָּשׁוֹן וְפֶּה.
The ten sefirot[2]R’ Aryeh Kaplan notes in his commentary on the Sefer Yetzirah that the ten sefirot directly refer to the ten creative utterances in Genesis 1. Each of these creative acts is a kind of separation, one thing from another. of bli mah (Nothingness)[3]A reference to the hapax legomenon in Job 26:7, נֹטֶ֣ה צָפ֣וֹן עַל־תֹּ֑הוּ תֹּ֥לֶה אֶ֝֗רֶץ עַל־בְּלִי־מָֽה׃ “he has suspended the world on bli mah — nothing.” Alternately, “emptiness.” Bli Mah literally translates to “without” or “absence” of “what.” Hayman translates בלימה as “the basis,” the implicit question of the author here being: “What is the foundation on which the God has constructed the Universe?” A language of mechanics is perhaps most proper for this metaphysics and so I translate bli mah as the suspension point or fulcrum — the central support on which a lever pivots or a pendulum swings. I understand the relationship with the shoresh (root), בלם — to hold in, curb, check, stop, muzzle, restrain, restrict — in the manner in which our physical laws define our physical reality. Alternately, the limit of nothing may establish the form (יצר) of creation.
the number of the ten fingers,
five opposite five,
and the covenant of the Unique One is exactly in the middle,
in word and tongue and mouth. [§3]

עֶשֶׂר סְפִירוֹת בְּלִי־מָה
עֶשֶׂר וְלֹא תֵּשַׁע, עֶשֶׂר וְלֹא אַחַת עֶשְׂרֵה
הָבֵן בְּחָכְמָה וְחֲכַם בְּבִינָה
בְּחוֹן בָּהֶם וַחֲקוֹר מֵהֶם
וְהַעֲמֵד דָּבָר עַל־בֵּרַיו
וְהֹשֵב יוֹצֵר עַל־מְכוֹנוֹ.
The ten sefirot of bli mah
ten and not nine, ten and not eleven.
Understand with wisdom, and be wise with understanding.
Test them and investigate them,
and get the matter clearly worked out
and restore the Creator to his place. [§4]

עֶשֶׂר סְפִירוֹת בְּלִי־מָה
בְּלוּם פִּיךָ מִלְּדַבֵּר
בְּלוּם לִבְּךָ מִלְּהַרְהֵר
וְאִם רָץ לִיבְּךָ שׁוּב לְמָקוֹם
שֶׁכַּךְ נֶאֱמַר רָצוֹא וָשׁוֹב
וְעַל דָּבָר זֶה נִכְרְתָה בְרִית.
The ten sefirot of bli mah:
restrain (b’lum) your mouth from speaking,
restrain your mind (lev)[4]literally, heart from thinking.
And if your mind races return to the Maqom,
for thus it is written “running and returning” (Ezekiel 1:14).
And concerning this matter a covenant was made. [§5]

עֶשֶׂר סְפִירוֹת בְּלִי־מָה
נָעוּץ סוֹפָן בִּתְחִילָּתָן וּתְחִילָּתָן בְּסוֹפָן
כְּשַׁלְהֶבֶת בְגַחֶלֶת
שֶׁהַיוֹצֵר אֶחָד וְאֵין לוֹ שֵׁינִי
וְלִפְנֵי אֶחָד מָה אַתָּה סוֹפֵר.
The ten sefirot of bli mah.
Their end is fixed in their beginning and their beginning in their end,
as the flame to the burning coal
and form (a mental image) that the Creator is one, and he has none second to him;
and before one, what can you count? [§6]

עֶשֶׂר סְפִירוֹת בְּלִי־מָה
וּמִידָּתָן עֶשֶׂר שֶׁאֵין לָהֶן סוֹף
עוֹמֶק רֵאשִׁית וֽעוֹמֶק אַחֵרִית
עוֹמֶק טוֹב וְעוֹמֶק רַע
עוֹמֶק רוּם וְעוֹמֶק תַּחַת
עוֹמֶק מִזְרָח וְעוֹמֶק מַעֲרָב
עוֹמֶק צָפוֹן וְעוֹמֶק דָּרוֹם
וְאָדוֹן יָחִיד אֵל מֶלֶךְ נֶאֱמָן
מוֹשֵׁל בְּכוּלָּן מְמְּעוֹן קָדְשׁוֹ וְעַד עֲדֵי עַד
The ten sefirot of bli mah
and their measure is ten for they have no end:
dimension of first and dimension of last,
dimension of good and dimension of evil,
dimension of above and dimension of below,
dimension of east and dimension of west,
dimension of north and dimension of south.
And the unique Master, El, majestic and trustworthy,[5]Find this invocation directly preceding the Shema for use in prayer “without a minyan,” attesting to a practice of solitary and cosmic contemplation. 
rules over them all from his holy abode for ever and ever. [§7]

עֶשֶׂר סְפִירוֹת בְּלִי־מָה
צְפִיָּתָן כְּמַרְאֵה הַבָּזָק
וְתַכְלִיתָם אֵין לָהֶן קֵץ
וּדְבָרוֹ בָהֶן כְּרָצוֹא וָשׁוֹב
וּלְמַאֲמָרוֹ כְסוּפָה יִרְדּוֹפוּ
וְלִפְנֵי כִסְאוֹ הֵם מִשְׁתַחֲוִים
The ten sefirot of bli mah.
Their appearance? “like a vision of lightning,” (Ezekiel 1:14)
and their end? — they have no limit.
And his word (davar) is in them as though “running and returning” (ibid),[6]Here is another inspiration for the practice of “running and returning” in contemplating divine expansiveness. I understand davar here to be akin to Logos. 
and they pursue his command like the storm wind,
and before his throne they bow down. [§8]

עֶשֶׂר סְפִירוֹת בְּלִי־מָה
אַחַת רוּחַ אֱלֹהִים חַיִּים
זוּ הִיא רוּחַ הַקּוֹדֶשׁ
The ten sefirot of bli mah.
One — the Ruaḥ Elohim Ḥayyim (Spirit of the Living God).[7]קול ורוח ודיבור (Voice, and wind, and word) This phrase is absent in the recension of R’ Saadya Gaon. Gruenwald comments that “the three words may well point to possible Logos-speculation which lie at the bottom of this section of the book” (1972: p.500). Hayman agrees with Weinstock that the phrase is a “conspicuous enigmatic addition” (1972: 45, n. 8), that the two kinds of ruaḥ are distinguished in the very next section (Mss. 12), and that identifying the two kinds of ruaḥ here compounds the ambiguity of its meaning rather than clarifying it (Hayman, p81-82). The identification of ruaḥ with a Jewish conception of Logos appears significant here, as an introduction to Mss. 12 in its short recension, which further explains that ruaḥ was carved and hewed in the aleph-bet.
this is the Ruaḥ haQodesh (the Holy Spirit). [§10]

שְׁתַּיִם רוּחַ מֵרוּחַ
חָקַק וְחָצַב בָּה אַרְבַּע רוּחוֹת הַשָׁמַיִם
Two – wind from Ruaḥ:
he carved and hewed in it the four winds of heaven. [§12]

שָׁלֹש מַיִם מֵרוּחַ
חָקַק וְחָצַב בָּהֶם תֹהוּ וָבֹהוּ רֶפֶשׁ וָטִיט
חֲקָקָן כְּמִין עֲרוּגָה
הַצִיבָן כְמִין חוֹמָה
סִיכְכָן כְמִין מַעֲזִיבָה
Three — water from wind:
he carved and hewed in it tohu and bohu (Genesis 1:2), mud and mire.
He carved them like a sort of garden-bed.
He erected them like a sort of wall,
and he wove them like a sort of ceiling. [§13]

אַרְבַּע אֵשׁ מִמַּיִם
חָקַק וְחָצַב בָּה כִּסֵּא כָּבוֹד וְכֹּל צָבָא מָרוֹם
שֶׁכַּךְ כָּתוּב עֹשֶׂה מַלְאָכָיו רוּחוֹת
Four — fire from water:
he carved and hewed in it the Throne of Glory and all the heavenly host,
for thus it is written: “he makes his angels winds” (Psalms 104:4). [§14]

חָמֵשׁ חָתַם רוּם פָנָה לְמַעְלָה וַחֲתָמוֹ בְּיה״ו
שֵׁשׁ חָתַם תַּחַת פָנָה לְמַטָּה וַחֲתָמוֹ בְּיו״ה
שֶׁבַע חָתַם מִזְרָח פָנָה לְפָנָיו וַחֲתָמוֹ בְּהו״י
שְׁמֹנֶה חָתַם מַעֲרָב פָנָה לְאַחֲרָיו וַחֲתָמוֹ בְּהי״ו
תֵּשַׁע חָתַם דָּרוֹם פָנָה לִימִינוֹ וַחֲתָמוֹ בְּוי״ה
עֶשֶׂר חָתַם צָפוֹן פָנָה לִשְׂמֹאלוֹ וַחֲתָמוֹ בְּוה״י
Five — he sealed above. He turned upwards and sealed it with YHV.
Six — he sealed below. He turned downwards and sealed it with YVH.
Seven — he sealed the east. He turned in front and sealed it with HYV.
Eight — he sealed the west. He turned to his right and sealed it with HVY.
Nine — he sealed the south. He turned to his right and sealed it with VYH.
Ten — he sealed the north. He turned to his left and sealed it with VHY. [§15]

אֵילּוּ עֶשֶׂר סְפִירוֹת בְּלִי־מָה
רוּחַ אֱלֹהִים חַיִּים
וְרוּחַ מַיִם אֵשׁ.
מַעְלָה מַטָּה מִזְרָח מַעֲרָב צָפוֹן וְדָרוֹם
These ten sefirot of bli mah:
the Ruaḥ Elohim Ḥayyim;
and wind, water, fire;
above, below, east, west, north, and south. [§16]

2: Twenty-two Letters


עֶשְׂרִים וּשְׁתַּיִם אוֹתִיּוֹת יְסוֹד
שָׁלֹשׁ אִמּוֹת
שֶׁבַע כְּפוּלוֹת
וּשְׁתֵּים עֶשְֹרֵה פְשׁוּטוֹת.
The twenty-two letters are the foundation:
three primary,[8]Literally, “mothers.” 
seven double,
and twelve simple (letters). [§9]

[עֶשְׂרִים וּשְׁתַּיִם אוֹתִיּוֹת
חֲקוּקוֹת בְּקוֹל
חֲצוּבוֹת בְּרוּחַ
קְבוּעוֹת בְּפֶה בַחֲמֵשׁ מְקוֹמוֹת
א״ח ה״ע
ב״ו מ״ף
ג״י כ״ק
ד״ט לנ״ת
ז״ס שר״ץ]
[The twenty-two letters:
they are carved out by the voice,
hewn out with wind,
fixed in the mouth in five positions:
Alef, Ḥet; He, Ayin;
Bet, Vav; Mem, Pe;
Gimel, Zayin; Kaph, Qof;
Dalet, Tet; Lamed, Nun, Tav;
Zayin, Samekh; Shin, Resh, Tsadi.] [§17][9]The second part of Mss. 17, omitted here, organizes the letters by the place of articulation in the mouth. Hayman notes that “the closest parallel to the theory of phonetics expressed here…is found in an Arabic treatise Kit’ab Al-Ayin produced by the Muslim scientist and linguist Al-Halil (c. 710-775/91)….parallels…discussed by Allony (1972:88-91)” (p.95).

עֶשְׂרִים וּשְׁתַּיִם אוֹתִיּוֹת
קְבוּעוֹת בְּגַלְגַּל
חֹזֵר גַלְגַּל פָּנִים וְאָחוֹר
סִימָן לְדָבָר
אֵין בְּטוֹבָה לְמַעְלָה מֵעוֹנֶג
וְאִם בְּרָעָה לְמַטָּה בַּנֶּגַע
The twenty-two letters.
They are fixed on a wheel.
The wheel rotates backwards and forwards.
A sign for the matter:
if in good, above pleasure (oneg),
and if in evil, below pain (nega). [§18]

עֶשְׂרִים וּשְׁתַּיִם אוֹתִיּוֹת
חֲקָקָן
חֲצָבָן
צְרָפָן
שְׁקָלָן וַהֲיְמִירָן
[כֵּיצַד שְׁקָלָן וְהֲמִירָן
אָלֶף עִם כֻּלָּן, וְכֻּלָּן עִם אָלֶף
בֵּית עִם כֻּלָּן וְכֻּלָּן עִם בֵּית
וְכֻּלָּן חוֹזְרוֹת חֲלִילָה
נִמְצְאוּ יוצְאוֹת בְּמָאתַיִם וּשְׁלֹשִים וְאֶחָד שְׁעָרִים
נִמְצָא כָל־הַיְצוּר וְכָל־הַדִּבּוּר יוֹצֵא בְּשֵׁם אֶחָד]
Twenty-two letters:
he carved them out,
he hewed them,
he combined them,
he weighed them and he exchanged them.
[How did he weigh and exchange them?
Alef with them all, and them all with Alef;
Bet with them all, and them all with Bet;
And they all rotate in turn.
The result is that they go out by two-hundred and thirty-one openings.[10]or “gates” 
The result is that all creation and all speech (dibur) go out by one name.] [§19]

יָצַר מִתּוֹהוּ מַמָּשׁ
וְעָשָׂאוֹ בַּאֵשׁ וַיֶשְׁנוֹ
וְחָצַב עַמּוּדִים גְּדוֹלִים מְאַוֵּיר שֶׁאֵינוֹ נִתְּפַשׁ.
He formed substance from tohu,[11]Hayman notes that one of the major difficulties presented by the text of the Sefer Yetsirah was its disagreement with the principle, creatio ex nihilo, evident in the absence of the verb ברא in the text. 
and he made it with fire and it exists,
and he hewed out great columns from intangible air.[12]Hayman notes that “great columns of intangible air” is “simply a reference to the biblical pillars of heaven (Proverbs 9:1, Job 9:6, Job 26:11, etc.).” In some manuscripts (but omitted here), Mss. 21 presents these great columns as linked pairs of letters. [§20]

3: Three Primary Letters


שָׁלוֹשׁ אִימּוֹת אמ״ש
יְסוֹדָן כַּף זְכוּת וְכַּף חוֹבָה
וְלָשׁוֹן חֹק מַכְרִיעַ בֵּינָתַּיִים.
Three primary letters: Alef, Mem, Shin.
Their basis is the scale of acquittal and the scale of guilt,
and the language of statute (ḥoq) decides between them. [§23]

שָׁלוֹשׁ אִימּוֹת אמ״ש
סוֹד גָּדוֹל מְכוּסָּה וּמוּפְלָא
וְחָתוּם בְּשֵׁשׁ טַבָּעוֹת
וּמִמֶּנוּ יוֹצְאִין אֵשׁ מַיִם וִּרוּחַ
וּמְחוּתָּל בִּזָכָר וּנְקֵבָה.
Three primary letters: Alef, Mem, Shin —
a great secret, hidden and ineffable,
and sealed with six seals.
And from it goes out: fire, water, and air,
and it is wrapped up in male and female. [§24]

שָׁלֹשׁ(ה) [אִמּוֹת]  
אֵשׁ לְמַעְלָה
מַיִם לְמַטָּה
וִּרוּחַ [חֹק מַכְרִיעַ] בֵּנָתַּיִים.
Three [primary letters]:
fire above,
water below,
and wind is [the rule deciding] between them. [§25]

שָׁלוֹשׁ אִימּוֹת אמ״ש
מֵם דּוֹמֶמֶת
שִׁין שׁוֹרֶקֶת
אָלֶף רוּחַ חֹק מַכְרִיעַ בֵּנָתַּיִם.
Three primary letters: Alef, Mem, Shin.
Mem is silent.[13]Kaplan translates dommemet here as “hums” 
Shin shishes.
Alef is the rule of wind deciding between them. [§26]

[הִמְלִיךְ אֹת אָלֶף בְּרוּחַ
וְקָשַׁר לוֹ כֶתֶר וְחָתַם בּוֹ אַוֵּיר בָּעוֹלָם
רְוִיָה בַשָּׁנָה
וּגְוִיָּה בַנֶּפֶשׁ.]
[He made the letter Alef rule over wind
and bound to it a crown and sealed with it air in the Cosmos,
humidity in the year,
and the chest in the body (nefesh).] [§32]

[הִמְלִיךְ אֹת מֵם בְּמַיִם
וְקָשַׁר לוֹ כֶתֶר וְחָתַם בּוֹ אֶרֶץ בָּעוֹלָם
וְקוֹר בַּשָּׁנָה
וּבֶטֶן בַּנֶפֶשׁ.]
[He made the letter Mem rule over water
and bound to it a crown and sealed with it earth in the Cosmos,
cold in the year,
and the belly in the body.] [§33]

[הִמְלִיךְ אֹת שִׁין בְּאֵשׁ
וְקָשַׁר לוֹ כֶתֶר וְחָתַם בּוֹ שָׁמַיִם בָּעוֹלָם
וְחוֹם בַּשָּׁנָה
וְרֹאשׁ בַּנֶּפֶשׁ.]
[He made the letter Shin rule over fire
and bound to it a crown and sealed with it heaven in the Cosmos,
heat in the year,
and the head in the body.] [§34]

4: Seven Double Letters


שֶׁבַע כְּפוּלוֹת בג״ד כפר״ת
מִתְנַהֲגוֹת בְּשְׁתֵּי לְשׁוֹנוֹת
חַיִּים וֽשָׁלוֹם וְחָכְמָה וְעוֹשֶׁר
חֵן זֶרַע מֶמְשָׁלָה
וּמִתְנַהֲגוֹת בְּשְׁתֵּי לְשׁוֹנוֹת
בֵּי בֵי גִּימַל גִמַל דֶּלֶת דֶלֶת כַּף כַף פֵּי פֵי רֵּישׁ רֵישׁ תָּיו תָיו
רַק וְקָשֶׁה גִיבּוֹר וְחָלָשׁ
Seven double letters: Bet, Gimel, Dalet; Kaph, Pe, Resh, Tav.
They are pronounced with the tongue in two different positions:
life and peace and wisdom and wealth,
prosperity, beauty, and mastery.
They are pronounced with the tongue in two different positions:
Bet/Vet, Gimel/Ghimel, Dalet/Dhalet, Kaph/Khaph, Pe/Fe, Resh/Rhesh, Tav/Thav —
soft and hard, a paradigm of strong and weak. [§37a]

[שֶׁבַע כְּפוּלוֹת בג״ד כפר״ת
מִשְׁתַּמְשׁוֹת בְּשְׁתֵּי לְשׁוֹנוֹת
בֵּי בֵי גִּימַל גִמַל דֶּלֶת דֶלֶת כַּף כַף פֵּי פֵי רֵּישׁ רֵישׁ תָּיו תָיו
רַךְ וְקָשֶׁה תַּבְנִית גִבּוֹר וְחָלָשׁ
כְּפוּלוֹת שֶׁהֵן תְּמוּרוֹת
תְּמוּרַת חַיִּים מָוֶת
תְּמוּרַת שָׁלוֹם רַע
תְּמוּרַת חָכְמָה אִוֶּלֶת
תְּמוּרַת עוֹשֶר עוֹנִי
תְּמוּרַת זֶרַע שְׁמָמָה
תְּמוּרַת חֵן כִּיאוּר
תְּמוּרַת מֶמְשָׁלָה עַבְדוּת]
[Seven double letters: Bet, Gimel, Dalet; Kaph, Pe, Resh, Tav.
They are pronounced with the tongue in two different positions:
Bet/Vet, Gimel/Ghimel, Dalet/Dhalet, Kaph/Khaph, Pe/Fe, Resh/Rhesh, Tav/Thav —
soft and hard, a paradigm of strong and weak.
They are double letters because they are opposites.
The opposite of life is death;
the opposite of peace is evil;[14]After Isaiah 45:7 
the opposite of wisdom is folly;
the opposite of wealth is poverty;
the opposite of prosperity is desolation;
the opposite of beauty is ugliness;
and the opposite of mastery is slavery.] [§37b]

שֶׁבַע כְּפוּלוֹת בג״ד כפר״ת
שֵׁשׁ קְצָווֹת וְהֵיכַל קָדוֹשׁ מוּכָן בְּאֶמְצָע [וְהוּא נוֹשֵׂא אֶת כּוּלָם]
Seven double letters: Bet, Gimel, Dalet; Kaph, Pe, Resh, Tav.
Six edges and the holy temple set in the middle [and it supports them all]. [§38]

שֶׁבַע כְּפוּלוֹת בג״ד כפר״ת
חֲקָקָן
חֲצָבָן
צְרָפָן
וְצָר בָּהֶן כוֹכָבִים יָמִים וּשְׁעָרִּים
Seven double letters: Bet, Gimel, Dalet; Kaph, Pe, Resh, Tav.
He carved them,
he hewed them,
he combined them,
and formed with them the starry planets, the days, and the openings.[15]Some recensions clarify that these are the seven openings in the head [§39]

כְּאֵיזֶה צָד צְרָפָן
שְׁתֵּי אֲבָנִים בּוֹנוֹת שְׁנֵי בָּתִּים
שָׁלוֹשׁ בּוֹנוֹת שִׁשָׁה בָּתִּים
אַרְבָּע בּוֹנוֹת עֶשְׂרִים וְאַרְבָּע בָּתִּים
חָמֵשׁ בּוֹנוֹת מֵאָה וְעֶשְׂרִים בָּתִּים
שֵׁשׁ בּוֹנוֹת שֶׁבַע מֵאוֹת וְעֶשְׂרִים בָּתִּים
שֶׁבַע בּוֹנוֹת חֲמֵשֶׁת אֲלָפִים וְאַרְבָּעִים בָּתִּים
מִיכַּאן וְאֵילָךְ צֵא וַחֲשׁוֹב
מַה שֶׁאֵין הַפֶּה יְכוֹלָה לְדַבֵּר
וּמַה שֶׁאֵין הַאוֹזֶן יְכוֹלָה לִשְׁמוֹעַ
How did he combine them? —
two stones build two houses;
three build six houses;
four build twenty-four houses;
five build one hundred and twenty houses;
six build seven hundred and twenty houses;
seven build five thousand and forty houses.
From here on go out and ponder
what the mouth cannot speak,
and what the ear cannot hear.[16]In contemporary factorial notation, the implicit equation here is “t(n) = n!” (Many thanks to Nir Krakauer and Matt Tuozzo for their assistance.)
Sequence A000142 in the On-line Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences, “Factorial numbers: n! = 1*2*3*4*…*n (order of symmetric group S_n, number of permutations of n letters).
The earliest publication that discusses this sequence appears to be the Sepher Yezirah [Book of Creation], circa AD 300. (See Knuth, also the Zeilberger link) – N. J. A. Sloane, Apr 07 2014.
For n >= 1, a(n) is the number of n X n (0,1) matrices with each row and column containing exactly one entry equal to 1.”
1 × 1 = 1
2 × 1 = 2
3 × 2 = 6
4 × 6 = 24
5 × 24 = 120
6 × 120 = 720
7 × 720 = 5040
8 × 5040 = 40320
9 × 40320 = 362880
10 × 362880 = 3628800
11 × 3628800 = 39916800
12 × 39916800 = 479001600
13 × 479001600 = 6227020800
14 × 6227020800 = 87178291200
15 × 87178291200 = 1307674368000
16 × 1307674368000 = 20922789888000
17 × 20922789888000 = 355687428096000
18 × 355687428096000 = 6402373705728000
19 × 6402373705728000 = 1.21645100408832E+017
Also see the wikipedia entry “Factorials.”

[§40]

5: Twelve Simple Letters


שְׁתֵים עֶשְׂרֵה פְשׁוּטוֹת
הוזחטילנסעצ״ק
יְסוֹדָן רְאִיָּה שְׁמִיעָה רִיחָה
שִׂיחָה לְעִיטָה תַּשְׁמִישׁ
מַעֲשֶׂה הִילּוּךְ רוֹגֶז
שֹחוֹק הִרְהוּר שֵׁינָה.
Twelve simple letters:
He, Vav, Zayin, Ḥet, Tet, Yod, Lamed, Nun, Samekh, Ayin, Tsadi, Qof.
Their basis is sight, hearing, smelling,
talking, eating, sexual intercourse,
action, walking, anger,
laughter, thought, sleep. [§45]

שְׁנֵים עָשָׂר גְּבוּלֵי אֲלַכְסוֹן
גְּבוּל מִזְרָחִית צְפוֹנִית
גְּבוּל מִזְרָחִית דְּרוֹמִית
גְּבוּל מִזְרָחִית רוֹמִית
גְּבוּל מִזְרָחִית תַּחְתִּית
גְּבוּל צְפוֹנִית תַּחְתִּית
גְּבוּל צְפוֹנִית מַעֲרָבִית
גְּבוּל צְפוֹנִית רוֹמִית
גְּבוּל מַעֲרָבִית תַּחְתִּית
גְּבוּל מַעֲרָבִית דְּרוֹמִית
גְּבוּל מַעֲרָבִית רוֹמִית
גְּבוּל דְּרוֹמִית תַּחְתִּית
גְּבוּל דְּרוֹמִית רוֹמִית
Twelve diagonal lines:
the north-eastern line,
the south-eastern line,
the upper eastern line,
the lower eastern line,
the lower northern line,
the north-western line,
the upper northern line,
the lower western line,
the south-western line,
the upper western line,
the lower southern line,
the upper southern line. [§47]

שְׁתֵים עֶשְׂרֵה פְשׁוּטוֹת
חֲקָקָן
צְרָפָן
חֲצָבָן
שְׁקָלָן וְהֲמִירָן
וְצָר בָּהֶם מַזָּלוֹת וְחֲדָשִׁים וּמַנְהִיגִים
Twelve simple letters.
He carved them,
he combined them,
he hewed them,
he weighed them and he exchanged them,
and formed with them constellations, the months, and the principal (bodily) organs. [§48a, Long and Saddyan Recension form]

6: The Witnesses and the Statute of Opposition


[אֵילּוּ עֶשְׂרִים וּשְׁתַּיִם אוֹתִיּוֹת
שֶׁבָּהֶן יָסַד יָהּ יהוה צְבָאוֹת אֱלֹהִים חַיִּים אֱלֹהֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל
רָם וְנִשָּׂא שֹׁכֵן עַד וְקָדוֹשׁ שְׁמוֹ]
[These are the twenty-two letters
by which (the Cosmos) was founded (by) Yah YHVH Tsevaot, Elohim Ḥayyim, Elohei Yisrael,
“high and lofty, dwelling for ever, and holy is his name” (Isaiah 57:15).] [§56a]

שְׁלֹשָה אָבוֹת וְתוֹלְדוֹתֵיהֶן
וְשִׁבְעָה כֹּבֵשִׁים וְצִבְאוֹתֵיהֶן
וּשְׁנֵים עָשָׂר גְבוּלֵי אֻכְלוּסִין
וְרַאֲיָה לֻדָבָר עֵדִים נֶאֱמָנִים
עוֹלָם שָׁנָה וָנֶפֶש
Three patriarchs[17]Hayman notes that the inconsistency in terminology, “mothers” vs. “fathers” in describing the primary letters Alef, Mem, and Shin, may point to an earlier version of the text (or texts). and their descendants,
and seven conquerors and their armies,
and twelve borders of the populace.
And a proof for the matter — trustworthy witnesses:[18]The custom of enlarging the Ayin (in Shema, שמע) and the Daled (in Eḥad, אחד) seems to me connected here. The “witnesses” may essentially be creative prompts for this contemplative practice. 
the Cosmos, the year, and the body. [§58a]

[חִיצָה אֶת הַעֵדִים
וְהַעֲמִידָן אִחָה אֶחָד לְבַדּוֹ
עוֹלָם לְבַדּוֹ,
שָׁנָה לְבַדָּה
נֶפֶשׁ לְבַדָּה].
[He split up the witnesses
and made each one stand by itself —
the Cosmos by itself,
the year by itself,
and the body by itself.] [§43c][19]Hayman has this section set between §40 and §45. I have moved §43c here to clarify the narrative of the witnesses of Creation, i.e., establish the witnesses (58a) and then separate them so their testimonies remain individual and thus authoritative.

חֹק עֲשָׂרָה שְׁלֹשָׁה וְשִׁבְעָה וּשְׁנֵים עָשָׂר
פְקוּדִין בְּתָּלִי וְגַלְגַּל וָלֵב.
תָּלִי בְעוֹלָם כְּמֶלֶךְ עַל־כִּסְאוֹ
גַלְגַּל בְּשָׁנָה כְּמֶלֶךְ בִּמְדִינָה
לֵב בְּנֶפֶשׁ כְּמֶלֶךְ בְּמִלְחָמָה
There is a statute (ḥoq) of ten, three, seven, and twelve.
They are present in the Hook (tali)[20]i.e., a cosmic pivot from which the Cosmos is suspended as a pendulum, I imagine., the celestial sphere,[21]literally, the “Wheel” and the mind.
The Hook in the Cosmos is like a king on his throne;
the celestial sphere in the year is like a king in a province,
the mind in the body is like a king at war. [§59]

עָשָׂאן כְּמִין מְרִיבָה
וְעֲרָכָן כְּמִין מִלְחָמָה
גַּם אֶת־זֶה לְעֻמַּת־זֶה עָשָׂה הָאֱלֹהִים
He made them a sort of disputation,
he arranged them a sort of battle,
“one opposite the other Elohim made them” (Kohelet 7:14). [§48a, Short Recension form]

שְׁלֹשָה אֶחָד אֶחָד לְבַדּוֹ
עוֹמֵד שִׁבְעָה
שְׁלֹשָה חָלוּקִין עַל שְׁלֹשָה
וְאֶחָד חוֹק מַכְרִיעַ בֵּנָתַיִים
שְׁנֵים עָשָׂר עוֹמְדִין בְּמִלְחָמָה
שְׁלֹשָה אוֹיֵבִים
וּשְׁלֹשָה אוֹהֲבִים
שְׁלֹשָה מְחַיִּים
וּשְׁלֹשָה מְמִיתִים
וְכּוּלָּן אָדוּקִין זֶה בְּזֶה
Three — each one by itself;
seven stand (in opposition) —
three against three,
and one is the statute which holds the balance between them.
Twelve stand in battle array;
three hate
but three love;
three give life
but three kill.
And all of them are engaged[22]literally, are fastened. Hayman has, “adhered.” with one another. [§48b][23]Hayman has §48a (Short Recension form) and §48b together between §60b and §61. I have moved them one step up, as it were, between §59 and §60b.

גַּם כָל חֵפֶץ זֶה לְעוּמַּת זֶה עָשָׂה אֱלֹהִים
טוֹב לְעוּמַּת רַע רַע מִרַע וְטוֹב מִטּוֹב
טוֹב מַבְחִין אֶת רַע וְרַע מַבְחִין אֶת טוֹב
טוֹבָה גְּנוּזָה לַטּוֹבִים
“So Elohim has made every object, one opposite the other” (cf. Kohelet 7:14):
good opposite evil — good from good and evil from evil.
Good brings evil to light and evil brings good to light.
Good is stored up for the good. [§60b]

כְּשֶׁהֵבִין אַבְרָהָם אָבִינוּ
וְצָר וְצֹרַף
וְחָקַר וְחָשַׁב
וְעָלְתָה בְּיַדוֹ
נִיגְלָה עַלָיו יהוה
When Avraham our father understood
and formed and combined
and investigated and pondered
and succeeded,
YHVH was revealed to him. [§61]

Source

The basis of the text of the Sefer Yetsirah presented here follows the “experimental exercise” produced by Dr. A. Peter Hayman in his Sefer Yeṣira: Edition, Translation, and Text-Critical Commentary, “Appendix III: The Earliest Recoverable Text of Sefer Yeṣira” (Mohr Siebeck, 2004). As Dr. Hayman notes, this is a preliminary and speculative reconstruction based upon the textual witnesses of the three recensions emerging in the Geonic period. Please refer to Dr. Hayman’s work for additional details.

Download sefer-yetsira-earliest-recoverable-text-a.-peter-hayman-Mohr-Siebeck-2004.pdf (PDF, Unknown)

Notes   [ + ]

1. from ספר, “cuttings” or “accountings.” I think the valence here is scribal, architectural, design: actively separating (i.e., cutting) by means of semiotic treatment. Hayman translates as “three types of things” which is understandably neutral given his interest in avoiding kabbalistic anachronisms on this work from Antiquity.
2. R’ Aryeh Kaplan notes in his commentary on the Sefer Yetzirah that the ten sefirot directly refer to the ten creative utterances in Genesis 1. Each of these creative acts is a kind of separation, one thing from another.
3. A reference to the hapax legomenon in Job 26:7, נֹטֶ֣ה צָפ֣וֹן עַל־תֹּ֑הוּ תֹּ֥לֶה אֶ֝֗רֶץ עַל־בְּלִי־מָֽה׃ “he has suspended the world on bli mah — nothing.” Alternately, “emptiness.” Bli Mah literally translates to “without” or “absence” of “what.” Hayman translates בלימה as “the basis,” the implicit question of the author here being: “What is the foundation on which the God has constructed the Universe?” A language of mechanics is perhaps most proper for this metaphysics and so I translate bli mah as the suspension point or fulcrum — the central support on which a lever pivots or a pendulum swings. I understand the relationship with the shoresh (root), בלם — to hold in, curb, check, stop, muzzle, restrain, restrict — in the manner in which our physical laws define our physical reality. Alternately, the limit of nothing may establish the form (יצר) of creation.
4. literally, heart
5. Find this invocation directly preceding the Shema for use in prayer “without a minyan,” attesting to a practice of solitary and cosmic contemplation.
6. Here is another inspiration for the practice of “running and returning” in contemplating divine expansiveness. I understand davar here to be akin to Logos.
7. קול ורוח ודיבור (Voice, and wind, and word) This phrase is absent in the recension of R’ Saadya Gaon. Gruenwald comments that “the three words may well point to possible Logos-speculation which lie at the bottom of this section of the book” (1972: p.500). Hayman agrees with Weinstock that the phrase is a “conspicuous enigmatic addition” (1972: 45, n. 8), that the two kinds of ruaḥ are distinguished in the very next section (Mss. 12), and that identifying the two kinds of ruaḥ here compounds the ambiguity of its meaning rather than clarifying it (Hayman, p81-82). The identification of ruaḥ with a Jewish conception of Logos appears significant here, as an introduction to Mss. 12 in its short recension, which further explains that ruaḥ was carved and hewed in the aleph-bet.
8. Literally, “mothers.”
9. The second part of Mss. 17, omitted here, organizes the letters by the place of articulation in the mouth. Hayman notes that “the closest parallel to the theory of phonetics expressed here…is found in an Arabic treatise Kit’ab Al-Ayin produced by the Muslim scientist and linguist Al-Halil (c. 710-775/91)….parallels…discussed by Allony (1972:88-91)” (p.95).
10. or “gates”
11. Hayman notes that one of the major difficulties presented by the text of the Sefer Yetsirah was its disagreement with the principle, creatio ex nihilo, evident in the absence of the verb ברא in the text.
12. Hayman notes that “great columns of intangible air” is “simply a reference to the biblical pillars of heaven (Proverbs 9:1, Job 9:6, Job 26:11, etc.).” In some manuscripts (but omitted here), Mss. 21 presents these great columns as linked pairs of letters.
13. Kaplan translates dommemet here as “hums”
14. After Isaiah 45:7
15. Some recensions clarify that these are the seven openings in the head
16. In contemporary factorial notation, the implicit equation here is “t(n) = n!” (Many thanks to Nir Krakauer and Matt Tuozzo for their assistance.)
Sequence A000142 in the On-line Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences, “Factorial numbers: n! = 1*2*3*4*…*n (order of symmetric group S_n, number of permutations of n letters).
The earliest publication that discusses this sequence appears to be the Sepher Yezirah [Book of Creation], circa AD 300. (See Knuth, also the Zeilberger link) – N. J. A. Sloane, Apr 07 2014.
For n >= 1, a(n) is the number of n X n (0,1) matrices with each row and column containing exactly one entry equal to 1.”
1 × 1 = 1
2 × 1 = 2
3 × 2 = 6
4 × 6 = 24
5 × 24 = 120
6 × 120 = 720
7 × 720 = 5040
8 × 5040 = 40320
9 × 40320 = 362880
10 × 362880 = 3628800
11 × 3628800 = 39916800
12 × 39916800 = 479001600
13 × 479001600 = 6227020800
14 × 6227020800 = 87178291200
15 × 87178291200 = 1307674368000
16 × 1307674368000 = 20922789888000
17 × 20922789888000 = 355687428096000
18 × 355687428096000 = 6402373705728000
19 × 6402373705728000 = 1.21645100408832E+017
Also see the wikipedia entry “Factorials.”
17. Hayman notes that the inconsistency in terminology, “mothers” vs. “fathers” in describing the primary letters Alef, Mem, and Shin, may point to an earlier version of the text (or texts).
18. The custom of enlarging the Ayin (in Shema, שמע) and the Daled (in Eḥad, אחד) seems to me connected here. The “witnesses” may essentially be creative prompts for this contemplative practice.
19. Hayman has this section set between §40 and §45. I have moved §43c here to clarify the narrative of the witnesses of Creation, i.e., establish the witnesses (58a) and then separate them so their testimonies remain individual and thus authoritative.
20. i.e., a cosmic pivot from which the Cosmos is suspended as a pendulum, I imagine.
21. literally, the “Wheel”
22. literally, are fastened. Hayman has, “adhered.”
23. Hayman has §48a (Short Recension form) and §48b together between §60b and §61. I have moved them one step up, as it were, between §59 and §60b.

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