Kabbalah> The Letters of the Hebrew Alphabet> Combinations

Permutations and Combinations of the Hebrew Letters

He knew how to join together (le-tsa-ref)
the letters by means of which the heavens and the earth were created."
This is because he was"filled with the spirit of GD,with wisdom and understanding."
Ex 31.3, T.B. Berachoth 55a 

"The Lord by wisdom founded the earth." Pr. 3.19 

Tzeruf: Permutating— the act of combining

Combining and permutating the letters of the Hebrew alphabet with specific breathing techniques and contemplation on specific body centers produces ecstacy almost immediately. The continuous, monotonous repetition of letters and sounds excites the mind, rather than dulls it. This is done in combination with various bodily and breathing techniques. This Hebrew letter combination technique is called Tzeruf.

Tzerufim is the plural for the Hebrew word "act of combining". It means "to join, to permutate (mental Hebrew letter permutation)".

The technique of Tzeruf (also spelled as Tseruf or Tzerf) uses language to cut through its structure and enables super rational realm quickly. Its aim is at disorientation following repeated pronounciation of now meaningless phrase. Out of that comes "meaning beyond meaning.”:

In combination with specific breathing techniques and contemplation on body centers meditation on letter produces ecstacy almost immediately. (“Kab. Way of Jew. Myst.”)

“Every word of Gd is permuted (tzeruf). He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him." (Pr. 30:5) Madregot: levels from “Oztar Eden Ha Ganuz,” p. 84 “Med & Kab”

"Move the letters about" says R. Shem Tov Seph “By means of combining the letters of the ineffible names as recorded in the “SPR ITsIRH” (i.e., the sealing names enumerated in the first chapter, being permutations of IHV0}

This teaches that true knowledge depends on Gd's saying, which must be permuted and tested through such permutation.

"A permutater (me-teref)  for silver a furnace for gold,
but Gd tests the heart."
(Pr. 17:3 p. 323) 

“He [Gd] permuted the speech according
to its letters and its vocalizations. [niqqudav].”

R. Shabbati Donnolo’s (Italy) "Long" recension of the “Sefer Yezirah.”  In his “Commentary on Sefer Yezirah”, fol. 69c: 913-982  (Idel, “Golem,” p.75)

Abraham Abulafia and Tzerufim

Abulafia calls his "science of the combination of letters" Hochmah ha-Tseruf (;urm vnfuj), a methodical guide to meditation with the aid of letters and their configurations. The letters do not have to mean anything. This method utilizes letters in a certain manner to attain the divine language.

"Know that the method of Tseruf (;urm) can be compared to music; for the ear hears sounds from various combinations, in accordance with the character of the melody and the instrument..." (Abulafia, MS Munich 285f 75b)

The continuous, monotonous repetition of letters and sounds excites the mind, rather than dulls it. This is done in combination with various bodily and breathing techniques.

There are two stages in the creation process, according to Abulafia,

1) the combinations of the alphabets and
2)  the combinations of the letters of the divine name

Shefa Formula: To bring down the Shefa (by Abraham Abulafia, 1200AD) Permutation of formula that spells "king" while moving head up and down to sound of vowel "o" and "i"; forward and backward to the "u"; right and left to the "a" "e"; which commemorated the presence of the "king" in the 6 spatial directions

The meditation upon the letters of the Hebrew alphabet, in combination with themselves and the Divine Name, can produce ecstatic experiences, according to many Kabalists, including Abraham Abulafia, a master of “tzeruf” during the 1200’s in Spain. Meditation performed by a pure human being on any letter was just like meditating on the entire Creation.

The method of Tzeruf uses language to cut through its own structure and  enables the mystic super rational realm very quickly. The Kabalist who practiced this extraordinary form of contemplation, studies a biblical phrase until the rational meaning is lost, and in the disorientation following the repeated pronunciation of new meaningless phrase comes "meaning beyond meaning.” Combined with specific breathing techniques and contemplation of body centers meditation on the letters produces ecstasy almost immediately.
“Kabbalah, the Way of Jew. Mystic., p. 76

The gate of the secret of zeruf [combination of letters], we asked the sage, “Anytime we ask you anything your answer is, ‘Great is the power of the zeruf.’” He answered to us, “You know that by the combination of the letters of His names, Gd created everything. And our ancestor, blessed be his memory, out of the the combination of the letters which he was taught...he achieved the entire gist of His unity and the strength of all the formations, and he almost reached that degree that he knew how to form excellent formations, namely formations of thought [yezirot mahshaviyot], and this is the reason he called his excellent book by the name “Sefer Yezirah.”
late 13th or early 14th century kabalistic text “Gates (of the Old Man)”, ”She’arim” .Ms. Oxford 2396, fol. 53b;, mentioned by Schole, Idel, “Golem”, p. 111-112, 118 

Stages of Letter Permutation

Abulafia,  describes three stages of letter permutation:

MIVTA; Articulation of Letters
MIKJTAV; Writing the Letters
MASHAV: Contemplating the Letters (“Kabbalah, the Way of Jewish Mystic”, p. 77)

These three levels are similar to “Sefer Yetzirah’s” three levels of the sephorim in Chapter 1.

Abulafia used several methods. Dilug, Dillug: Skipping, free association of ideas using any among several standard methods of letter manipulation. This can be done with simple letter permutation, ciphers, gematria. When working within the same system (such as gematria), one is "skipping." But if several methods are used, it is called "jumping." Both used by Abulafia and Albotini with Kefitzah "jumping" Each of these meditative techniques lead to a high level of enlightenment. (“Kabbalah, the Way of Jew. Mystic., p. 77)

Abulafia says one must compl. alter nature and personality and transpose oneself from the state of feeling to intellect, from the path of imagination to one of burning fire. Otherwise, he will find his visions altered, through processes demolished, and reveries confounded. The sphere is what refines and tests regarding the Scripture which states “A refinery (metzeruf) is for silver...” (“Otzar Eden ha Gonuz, from “Med. & Kab., p. 81)

Dilug, Dillug: Skipping fre association of ideas using any among several standard methods of letter manipulation. This can be done with simple letter permutation, ciphers, gematria. When working within the same system (such as gematria), one is "skipping." But if several methods are used, it is called "jumping."

Both methods are used by Abulafia and Albotini with Kefitzah "jumping" Each of these meditative techniques lead to a high level of enlightenment.

The Best Times to Permutate Letters

The best hour to permutate the letters is at midnight wrapped in a prayer shawl and phylacteries, surrounded by candles, according to Rabbinic sources.

Start writing the sacred letters. Gather speed as you permutate them. You will begin to feel a warm, glowing sensation at the heart. This is the sign of the descending “shefa” or the “divine influx”. Singing certain names according to the prescribed melodies will attain ecstasy with some sensations of air, heat, rushing water, or oil, as described by Merkabah mystics. (“Kab. Way of Jew. Mystic, p. 96)

See also Raavid on “Sefer Yetzirah” 6.4, cf. “Ozar Eden HaGanuz” 26b, “Sef. HaCheshek” 31b. Abulafia discusses the concept of tzeruf in detail in “Or HaShekel”, p. 89).

A Method to permutate the letters

Begin the contemplation by focusing on the crown of the head or the “Beginning of the Beginning.” Then, move down to the middle of the face, or the “Middle of the Beginning” and finish the segment by concentrating on the back of the head or the “End of the Beginning”. Similarly, the top most point of the heart, the center point of the hear and the back point of the heart; so on downward through the abdomen, and the base of the spine.”


“Jewish Mysticism,” Abelson, p. 100

“Kabbalah, The Way of the Jewish Mystic” by Pearle Epstein. Pages 73-81 The path of the Letters, Tzruf, permutation, Shefa,  Abulafia


GAMATRIA, Gematria, GMATRIA;  each letter is given a numerical value and other words with same value are equivalent of the originals. Metatron=Shaddai=314

Gematria  (fr. Gk); is one of the  aggadic hermeneutical rules for

Interpretation of prayer (Torah, in the "Baraita  of 32 Rules, no.. 29 which links words and phrases of the liturgy with names from the Merkabah tradition and angelology according to the numerical value of the letters of the alphabet for them in accordance with set system

Whereas the word is normally employed  in the sense of manipulation acc. to no. value, it is sometime found with the meaning of 'CALCULATIONS'   (Avot 3:18).(Talmud) Joseph b. Zakkai knew "the heavenly revolutions and gemariot.";parallel source is "the heavenly revolutions and calculations" (Suk. 28a; BB134a;  Ch. Albeck, "Shisha Sidrei Mishnah 4, 1959 p. 497)

Perhaps formed in Babylon. First appeared inscription of SARGON II (727-707BC) which states that the king built wall of Khorsabd 16,283 cubits long to corr. w/no. value of his name.

End of the Geonic period (7-11thc)Widespread in Hellinistic period  among the Magi and interpreters of dreams Gnostics  equated 2 holy names ABAZAS and MITHRAS on basis of equiv. no. value(365 corr. to days of solar year)

Apparently introduced in Israel during 2nd Temple, even in the Temple itself, Greek letters being used to indicate numbers (Shek. 3:2).

In Rabinnic literature first appears in statements by TANNAIM of 2nd c..* (Scholem, Kabal. 337)

 Italy (9th c before Megaillat Anim'az by Ahimaz of Oria mysticism spread from Italy to Germany then France (beg. 11th c peaked half 12c and 13th c.

12th c. known as HASIDEI ASHKENAZ says mysteries transmited 870 to R. Moses ben Kalonymus in Lucca by Abu  AHARON, son of

R. Samuel ha-Nasi of Bagdad, afterwards K. went to Germany where he laid the foundation of mystical tradition of Hasidei Ash.

TMIRH Temurah, Form of cryptic writing which substitutions are made for letters according to one code or another.

Notariqon- (notarikon) combining letters

ATBASH is most common form where first letter is substituted for the last letter of the alphabet, the second for the penultimate, etc.

ALBAM is a similar form of substitution, where the first letter is replaced by the twelth, the second by the thirteenth, etc.

AVGAD is a form where each letter is replaced by the one succedding it so that a=b, b=c, etc.


AQ BEKER; The Qabalah of 9 Chambers

Interception of 2 horizontal and 2 verticle lines forming 9 squares. Used for Kamea's to determine the number value of the sigils.

Divide alphabet (22 letters and final forms) into three groups, each with 9 letters.

This arrangement is considered important in the formation of Sigils or Symbols from the names of planetary Spirits.

1st group of 9 represents 1-9, and the divisions of the world ruled by the order of ANGELS.

2nd 9 represents numbers 10-90 and all the things which are in the 9 cirlce of HEAVEN.

3rd 9 contained the 4 last letters of the alphabet and final forms of K, M, N, P, & S, represent no. 100-400 and 4 elements of Earth, Wind, Fire, Water and the 5 final forms symbolizing the 5 unions of bodies.

(from the Aleph, the lines which enclose the groups of 3 letters the 9 follow figures constructed to form a powerful amulet. (Kamea of Alphabet, Budge, A. Amulets", p. 405

AQ Beker: where any letter in any one of 9 boxes can be substituted for any other letter in the same box. AChS BChR s where 8 boxes are used and letters in any box are interchangeable. Endless variety.

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