Kabbalah: "Sefer Yetzirah" 231 Gates

The 231 Gates rotate forward and back

BKabbalah's Secret Circles by Robert Zuckery Robert Zucker

A new book on the legends and history of Kabbalah and the Book of Creation, Kabbalah's Secret Circles, has just published! Read some of the chapters and download a free PDF sample of the book to preview. This page is an excerpt from the book.


Circling of an object in a religious procession is a popular Jewish custom. Jews circle the groom under a wedding canpoy, they circle the cemetary on certain occasions, and there are places where a procession is made around the coffin of a corpse at a funeral.

It is a custom found among all people of ancient times. It arose from the belief in the course of ones spiritual development that the world is full of spirits and there are many magic means to overcome them. One of the best is through the use of a circle or "magic ring."

The closed circle is even feared by the devil. The magicians of the Middle Ages would enclosed themselves with a circle to keep away the evil spirits. If the spirit were to enter the circle, it would be entire helpless and would have to obey all orders. From this practice comes the belief in the "wishing-ring." which when worn on the hand, brings fulfilment of every wish.

Man stands in a ring, a circle, and does not release Gd until He hears man's prayer and grants it. In the Aggadah of the Talmud, Honi, the Circle-drawer, who lives in Jerusalem during the war between the two Hasmonean brothers, a tale is told. He was nicke-named "the circle-drawer" from his habit of making a circle about himself and telling Gd he would not move from the spot unless his prayer was granted.

Circles in other cultures

The Hindus, Persians, Greeks, Romans shared the same ideas of the circle. One of the most imporant ceremonies of the Arabs consists of circling their sanctuary.

Soon, it became a symbolic ceremony of the ritual of Sukkos.

These 22 Autiot (letters) Yassod (fastened)
(which are the foundation of all things),
Belgalgal (to a turning wheel)

(He arranged upon a sphere)

(on a sphere like a wall with) (like a wheel on a wall)
(set them in a wheel, like a kind of wall)
by 231 (with 231 gates)

Every "gate" in the circle is formed by letters of alphabet and stands as a combination of 2 consonants (2 letter Heb. roots) Through these "gates" the creative power goes out into the universe which is sealed on all 6 sides with the permutation of YHVH (SY 2.4)

But everything (being) in it exists through

one of these combinations

which are the true signatures of all beings

Jacob Boehme, 1930,

"Das Buch Jezira”, p. 24;);

(from Scholem, “Golem”, p. 168)

The combination of the letters are used to both create words and to create the universe. Combination is one series of operations.

The characteristic feature is the combinations of each of their letters with each consonant of the Tetra, according to every possible vocalization.

It is possible that it was limited to the recitation of all the possible combinations of two (in every conceivable vocalization) between one of the consonants, each one accord to the “Book Yetsirah”, governs a part of the human organism, and one consonant of the tetrag.

The gates described are the gates to creative activity. The assumption is that if one combines the letters properly, the creative process used by Gd in the formation of the world can be re-enacted.

Need to distinguish: "basic arrangement" of the letters in "combinations" and "gates" and the "basic forms" by which the arrangement is presented, the "wall" and the "wheel." "combinations" are formed by combining each letter with all the other letters of the alphabet=462 combinations. (22 letters x 21 letters).

Eliminate the mirror images (AG, GA)=231 combinations. "Aleph with all, and all with Aleph..."

Construct another set of "combinations" and start at the end of the alphabet. This pairing of letters, forward and reverse, generates the "combinations."

"Gates" formed by pairing the pairs of the forward and reverse "combinations."

By pairing the "combinations," one made the non-existant exist, create something out of nothing, the soul of all that is formed and all that shall be formed.

A circular wall with each two-letter combination as a "gate" the whole wall rotates as a wheel.

It can go in either direction- the combination could be forward or backward.

All words arising from the combination of the letters are combined, And permutated with the Tetragrammaton, called "The One Name." The letters of the Tetragrammaton were considered as vowels.

from Khazari, p 237

The book, then, shows that the revolution of the sphere is the cause of the variety of things, in the following words: "The wheel turns forward and backward" (SY 2.4). This is compared to the combination of single letters, viz, aleph placed in combination with all the others, all the others with aleph; bet... (SY 2.5) This continued through the whole alphabet results in 231 combinations. The variety would be the groups of 3 and 4 letters. 

The 231 Gates

231 represents the number of possible combinations of the 22 Hebrew letters; in groups of twos. 231 is the product of 3, 6, and 11.

Each 2 letter combination is like a "gate" set in a circular wall which rotates as a wheel. It can rotate in either direction, so the combination of letters can be both ahead and back.

Every "gate" in the circle is formed by letters of the alphabet and stands as a combination of two consonants, two letter roots of Hebrew.

Through these "gates" the creative power goes out into the universe.

This universe as a whole is sealed on all six sides, with the 6 permutations of YHVH.

But everything (being) in it exists through one of these combinations which are the "True" signatures of all beings, suggested by Jacob Boehme in Johann Friedrich von Meyer, “Das Buch Jezira,” Leip, 1930, 24 p.189.

re: Nifla' Maharal: letters and combinations, depends on one's own spontaneous interpretation of which "lights" each letter points, then will spontaneously. know material forces in each letter

"lights" that shine into the elements

Cordovero:

Over this figure they recite the combinations of the alphabet derived from the "221 gates of the Book Yetsirah," which according to Eleazar, form 221 combinations (not 231).

The characteristic feature is the combinations of each of their letters with each consonant of the Tetragrammaton, according to every possible vocalization.

It was possible that it may have been limited to the recitation of all the possible combinations of two (in every conceivable vocalization) between one of the consonants, each one accord to the Book Yetsirah, governs a part of the human organism, and one consonant of the Tetragrammaton.

And he has to be acquainted with the construction [binyan] and all the alphabets, which are  231, which are the gates of the alphabets, and are engraved in the 9th sphere, divided into 60 parts.

And he has to be acquainted with the combination of all the letters, and all the alphabets, each on per se, until all the gates will be completed. Read more about the 231 Gates.

The Kamaz

R. Abraham ibn Ezra "Sefer ha-Moznayim” (Offenbach, 1791) fol. 10a: "the great patah is a line, indicating a revolving circle."

"Every kamaz is like a sphere, divided by the Patah [ray line] and a Heerik [point]. The form of the kamaz is a straight line and a point, circumscribed in a circle. Form here we learn that the patah [aah] would probably be depicted as a circle, but is actually depicted as a straight line so that the vowel sign not conflict with the consonant letter. And the kamaz is secretly surrounded by a circle and is a KDVR MPYK MKYPh [kadur mapik makif- a pointed circumscribed sphere.”

Abulafia, "Sefer ha-Bahir"

KMZ (kamaz= 230 = MKYPh (makif -circumscribed = MPYK (mapik - pointed) = KDVR (kadur - sphere). This association was well known among Abulafia's close circles. ("Language," Abulafia, p. 8)

"Know that the kamaz is regarded as a circle that surrounds [in the printed version= 'MVKPh' is surrounded by, should be MKYPh, surrounds]. Know too, that all circles eventually take the form of the kamaz, since any circle is limited by diameter. Know also, my brother, that every circle has a point in its center, which is the secret of the point of the kamaz. So, too, you should contemplate, and you will find that every letter returns in the revolving wheel, the secret of the 231 [gates], which constitutes a circle {KDVRA], i.e. surrounding circle. And this is called the center, the secret of the kamaz."

R. Joseph Gikatilla "Sefer Ginnat 'Egoz" fol. 72x:

Gikatilla says all the letters revolve by way of the 231 gates, to the fact that the kamaz surrounds letters as a circle.

"The kamaz is a point, and a line stands upon it, and its numerical value is 230, the value of [the word] KDVR. And the point beneath the line refers to the 231."

 R. Hannael ben Abraham, "Sefer Yesod 'Olam" Ms. Moscow-Gunsburg 607, fol. 721, basing on Gikatilla

(from "Language...Abualfia,” p. 142)

“And he shall take pure dust and flour, and will turn the wheel in the middle, and he will begin to combine, and he shall combine until the 231 gates [are completed] and he will received the influx of wisdom, and when he will receive the influx, [then] let him recite speedily the circle of velocity, and it is the Divine Spirit.”

At beginning stage

"revolve the languages until

they return to their prime material state."

This means break up words to their constituent letters,

which are the prime material of all languages.

The second stage

is the creation of new words,

i.e. the (re)combination of the letters from their prime-material state.

"to create from the wondrous innovations, for the combinations of the letters

include the 70 languages."

He further mentions,

“And the sixth is the method of returning the letters to their prime-material state

and giving them form in association with the power of intellect that issues forms."

("Language, " Abulafia, p 10)

 

The book (“Sefer Yetzirah”) shows that the revolution of the sphere is the cause of the variety of things, in the following words:

"The wheel turns forward and backward" (SY 2.4).

This is compared to the combination of single letters, viz, aleph placed in combination with all the others, all the others with aleph; bet... (SY 2.5)

This continued through the whole alphabet results in 231 combinations.

The variety would be the groups of

3 and 4 letters.

The golem was activated by the mystical combinations of letters,

and the inscription of the letters “AMT" (emet, ,nt ) or "truth" on its forehead.

when the Aleph is removed, the word spells MeT "dead" and the creature would collapse.

from “Khazari” p 237

 

“Tanya” p. 239 names in the Holy Tongue are the very "letters of speech" which descend degree by degree from the 10 utterances by means of substitutions and transposition of the letters through the 231 gates until they reach and become invested in that particular created thing to give it life.

 

PSEUDO-SA'ADYAH TEXT

 

"...they are founded together

so as to make a formation [la'asot yezirah].

You make a wheel [galgal]

and a circle ['iggul]

around the creature [beri'yah]

and they have to circumambulate

around the circle

and they say the alphabets...231 [times]...and there are persons who explain that the wheel going forwards and backwards, and that the Creator has given power to the letters,

[so that when] someone creates his creature [beri'yato] out of virgin soil and he kneads it [megabbelo] and buries it in the ground [literally, soil] and he makes a circle and a wheel around the creature, and he says at each and every round one alphabet

and so [he does] 462 times.

And if he goes forwards, the creature emerges to life by the power of the letters, since G-d gave them power, and if he wants to destroy what he has created, he returns backwards [going] around pronouncing the letters* and the creature will sink back

by itself and it shall die.

So it happened once to Rabbi Y. ben A.** and his disciples who studied “Sefer Yezirah “wanting to create a creature and they erred in [the direction] of their walking and they went backwards so that

they sank in the earth up to their navels,

by virtue of the letters

not being able to go out.

Then they cried and Rabbi Y. ben A. heard their voice and told them: Say the letters of the alphabets going forwards, just as you went backwards. They did so and went out...R. Sa'adyah explained that by saying [them] forwards a form [zurah] emerges and by turning backwards, anytime,

the form will sink  in the earth.

"Commentary to Sefer Yezirah," written by a 13th c. unknown author, possibly French, attributed in print to R. Sa'adyah Gaon. printed in Jerusalem, 1965, fol. 40b-40c. (from “Golem!”, p. 20):

 

* 'AMIRAT HA-'OTIOT. Later in this treastie, fol 43a, this phrase comes to describe the way G-d created the universe, when it is stated that G-d conferred life on the creatures by the "vapor of the pronunciation of the letters." This explains the peculiar role of the pronunciation of the letters. Especially important is the statement on fol. 31a-b:

"The letters were created from the spirit of G-d and by their pronunciation He created the world, and you will also be able to create a creature by the power of the pronunciation of the alphabets." G-d infused a creative figure to the letters, which can be exploited by man in pronouncing the letters.

(Scholem, "Golem," p.171, n.1. “Golem! “ p. 122)

** Not sure who R. ben A. is. Scholem, in "Idea of Golem" p.186 suggests initials of ancient master R. Ishmael ben Elisha.

The text continues:

"R. Sa'adyah explained that dance [mahol]

means when someone goes as in a dance

[movement] when he want to create and it [the creature] turns to its primal state by the backwards dance. And I heard that Ibn Ezra created a creature in the presence of R. Tam and said: See what [power] Gd gave to the holy letters; and he said: Turn backwards and it turned to its primal state...there is no speech but by the syllabs [containing] the letters AH AY AV and they emerge from the letters HVY, which are the soul was we explained above *** This is why and their pronunciation are fraught by Gd with power to make a formation [yazur] and give it [that is to the golem;] vitality [hiyyat] and soul [neshamah].

from "Commentary on Sefer Yezirah”, fol. 42b, "Golem!, p. 21)

 

*** HWY are the souls of the letters. The vowels.

 

He fixed the 22 letters, stamina

on a sphere like a wall with 231 gates

and turned the spheres forward and backward  (lightening rod)

For an illustration may serve the 3 letters AyNG

There is nothing better than joy and there is nothing worse than sorrow or plague

Kalish (SY 2.4)

 

 

(This is) how ALEPH

is weighed, combined with everything

& everything with ALEPH.

BAYT with everything

& everything with BAYT.

They return in a circular movement

to where all that is formed

& uttered is found coming out of

the One Name.

SY 2:5 (#19PII)

 

 

But how was it done?

How did he combine, weigh and change?

The A with all the other letters in

succession and all letters again with A.

B with all and all again with Bayt.

Hence, it follows that there

are 231 formations, and that every

creature and every word emanated

from one name.                         

SY 2:5 Kalish p. II5.

 

For he shewed the

combination of these letters;

each with the other;

Aleph with all and all with Aleph,

Bayt with all and all with Bayt.

Thus in combination all together

in pairs are produced the 231 gates.

Wescott, p. 18

 

How did he combine them,

Weigh them, and change them?

Aleph with all of them

and all of them with aleph.

Bayt with all of them

and all of them with Bayt.

And so all of them with all of them

turning around in order,

thus all words and all existing forms

are derived from them.

Mordell, p. 56

 

How did he combine, weigh and exchange them?

A with all and all with A.

B with all and all with B.

G with all and all with G.

And all of them turned around.

Hence they go forth thru 321 gates,

and thus it comes about

that the whole of creation and all of language

proceed from one combination of letters.

Ben Joseph/Stenring, p. 20, II5

 

“How did he combine them, weigh them and set them at opposites?

A with all of them and all of them with A.

B with all of them and all of them with B.

It rotates in turn,

and thus they are 231 gates.

And everything that is formed

and everything that is spoken

goes out from one term (alphabet).”

Blumenthal/Goldstein, p. I5


 


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