Sefer Yetzirah (Book of Formation)

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Sefer Yetzirah (Book of Formation) is a pseudoepigraphical work attributed to Abraham but likely written between the 3rd and 6th centuries. It describes thirty two paths to higher knowledge and to becoming a lesser co-creator with God, and it records a formula for the animation of a golem.

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Sefer Yetzirah (the Book of Formation/Creation) is a Jewish mystical book that is as influential as the Zohar.

Traditionally, the book’s authorship is ascribed to Abraham. Still others say that the book first came to Adam, and that it was passed to Noah, and then to Abraham. Others credit the authorship to Rabbi Akiva of the Talmud. Regardless, the book is certainly old. It is referenced in the Talmud (San. 65b, 67b) itself, “On the eve of every Shabbat, Rav Hanina and Rav Hoshaiah would sit and engage in study of Sefer Yetzirah.” Academic scholars agree that it was written sometime in Late Antiquity (c. 100-500 C.E.) and is the most influential book of the Ma'asei-Bereshit mystical tradition.

There are many variations and edits of the Sefer Yetzirah—so many they they have been broadly grouped into four categories: the Short Version, the Long Version, the Saadia Version, and the Gra Version.

The book describes the thirty-two paths of wisdom, consisting of the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet and the ten sefirot—the 10 attributes/emanations through which Ein Sof (G-d prior to its self-manifestation) reveals itself and continuously creates both the physical and metaphysical realms. These sefirot and 32 paths have become synonymous with the mysticism of the Kabbalah.

The book lays the foundation of gematria and teaches that the letters of the alphabet are the building blocks out of which G-d creates the physical and metaphysical, underscoring the logocentric praxis of Jewish magic. The text explains how tzaddikim, who master the secret knowledge of the letters, can also become a "lesser creator" who are even empowered to make a golem.

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