Creation Mysticism: Fashioning the World From Letters

An early group of Jewish mystics conceived of the Hebrew alphabet as the building blocks of creation.

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"Three Mothers: Aleph, Mem, Shin: he engraved them, he hewed them out, he combined them, he weighed them, and he set them at opposites, and he formed through them: Three Mothers: Aleph, Mem, Shin in the universe, and Three Mothers: Aleph, Mem, Shin in the year, and Three Mothers: Aleph, Mem, Shin in the body of male and female…"

"Three Mothers: Aleph, Mem, Shin: The product of Fire is the Heavens, the product of Air is Air, and the product of Water is Earth. Fire is above, Water is below, and Air tips the balance between them. From them the Fathers are generated and from them, everything is created."

"Three Mothers: Aleph, Mem, Shin are in the universe: Air, Water and Fire: Heavens were created first from Fire, Earth was created from Water, Air was created from Air and it tips the balance between them."

"Three Mothers: Aleph, Mem, Shin are in the year: Cold, Heat and Temperate‑state: Heat was created from Fire, Cold was created from Water, Temperate‑state was created from Air and it tips the balance between them."

"Three Mothers: Aleph, Mem, Shin are in the body of male and female: Head, Belly and Chest: Head was created from Fire, Belly was created from Water, Chest was created from Air and it tips the balance between them."

In addition to these three mother letters, there are seven double letters (Bet, Gimel, Dalet, Kaf, Pey, Resh, Tav) which signify the contraries in the universe (forces which serve two mutually opposed ends):

"He caused the letter Bet to reign over Life, and He tied a crown to it, and He combined them with one another, and He formed through them: Saturn in the universe, the first day in the year, and the right eye in the body of male and female."

"He caused the letter Gimel to reign over Peace, and He tied a crown to it, and He combined them with one another, and He formed through them: Jupiter in the universe, the second day in the year, and the left eye in the body of male and female."

"He caused the letter Dalet to reign over Wisdom, and He tied a crown to it, and He combined them with one another, and He formed through them: Mars in the universe, the third day in the year, and the right ear in the body of male and female."

"He caused the letter Kaf to reign over Wealth, and He tied a crown to it, and He combined them with one another, and He formed through them: Sun in the universe, the fourth day in the year, and the left ear in the body of male and female."

"He caused the letter Pey to reign over Gracefulness, and He tied a crown to it, and He combined them with one another, and He formed through them: Venus in the universe, the fifth day in the year, and the right nostril of the body of male and female."

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Rabbi Dan Cohn-Sherbok

Dan Cohn-Sherbok is a widely published and eminent scholar of Judaism, and is currently Professor of Judaism at the University of Wales, Lampeter.