Jezirah (סֵפֶר יצַירָה, Sepher Yetsirah), or the Book of Creation, is the name of one of the cabalistic books which, next to the ZOHAR, forms the principal source whence we derive our knowledge of Jewish mysticism. The age of the book it has thus far been impossible exactly to determine. Jewish tradition claims it to be of divine origin. It was intrusted by the Lord to Abraham, and he handed it down to Akiba (q.v.). Modern scholars have come to the conclusion that the Jezirah is the product of the Jewish schools in Egypt at the time of Philo Judaeus. Dr. Zunz, however, assigns it to the Geonastic period, the 8th or 9th century. For the latter assertion there seems to us to be no good reason, and we are inclined to believe it was composed during the period of the first Mishnaists, i.e. between a century before and about eighty years after the birth of Christ (comp. Etheridge, Introd. to Heb. Lit. p. 300 sq.; Enfield, Hist. Philos. p.405). SEE CABALA, vol. 2. p. 1. We do this after having determined that the Hebrew of this work is of that dialectic kind used by the learned Jews at the time of the opening of the Christian era. Indeed, it is barely possible that the work itself was a collection of fragments of various earlier times; a kind of résumé of what had hitherto been determined on the occult subject of which it treats. The Jezirah treats of the Creation of the World, and "is, in fact, an ancient effort of the human mind to discover the plan of the universe at large, and the law or band which unites its various parts into one harmonious whole. It opens its instructions with something of the tone and manner of the Bible, and announces that the universe bears upon itself the imprint of the name of God; so that, by means of the great panorama of the world, the mind may acquire a conception of the Deity, and from the unity which reigns in the creation, it may learn the oneness of the Creator." So far, so good.. But now, instead of tracing in the universe the laws which govern it, so as to ascertain from those laws the thoughts of the lawgiver, "it is sought rather to arrive at the same end by finding some tangible analogy between the things which exist and the signs of thought, or the means by which thought and knowledge are principally communicated and interpreted among men; and recourse is had for this purpose to the twenty- two letters of the Hebrew alphabet, and to the first ten of the numbers" (compare Etheridge, p. 304 sq.).
"The book of Jezirah begins by an enumeration of the thirty-two ways of wisdom (נתַיבוֹת חָכמָה), or, in plainer terms, of the thirty-two attributes of the divine mind (שֵׂכֶל), as they are demonstrated in the founding of the universe. The book shows why there are just thirty-two of these; by an analysis of this number it seeks to exhibit, in a peculiar method of theosophical arithmetic, so to speak (on the assumption that figures are the signs of existence and thought), the doctrine that God is the author of all things, the universe being a development of original entity, and existence being but thought become concrete; in short, that, instead of the heathenish or popular Jewish conception of the world as outward or coexistent with Deity, it is coequal in birth, having been brought out of nothing by God, thus establishing a pantheistic system of emanation, of which, principally because it is not anywhere designated by this name, one would think the writer was not himself quite conscious. The following sketch will illustrate the curious process of this argumentation. The number 32 is the sum of 10 (the number of digits) and 22 (the number of the letters of the Heb. alphabet), this latter being afterwards further resolved into 3 + 7 +12. The first chapter treats of the former of these, or the decade, and its elements, which are designated as figures (ספַירוֹת, Sephiroth), in contradistinction from the 22 letters. This decade is the sign manual of the universe. In the details of this hypothesis, the existence of divinity in the abstract is really ignored, though not formally denied; thus the number 1 is its spirit as an active principle, in which all worlds and beings are yet enclosed; 2 is the spirit from this spirit, i.e. the active principle in so far as it has beforehand decided on creating; 3 is water; 4 fire, these two being the ideal foundations of the material and spiritual worlds respectively; while the six remaining figures, 5 to 10, are regarded severally as the signs manual of height, depth, east, west, north, and south, forming the six sides of the cube, and representing the idea of form in its geometrical perfection.
"We see, however, that this alone establishes nothing real, but merely expounds the idea of possibility or actuality, at the same time establishing the virtualiter as existing in God, the foundation of all things. The actual entities are therefore introduced in the subsequent chapters under the 22 letters. The connection between the two series is evidently the Word, which in the first Sephirah (number) is yet identical in voice and action with the spirit; but afterwards these elements, separating as creator and substance, together produce the world, the materials of which are represented by the letters, since these, by their manifold combinations, name and describe all that exists. Next, three letters are abstracted from the 22 as the three mothers (composing the mnemotechnic word אמ8ש), i.e. the universal relations of principle, contrary principle, and balance, or in nature — fire, water, and air; in the world — the heavens, the earth, the air; in the seasons — heat, cold, mild temperature; in humanity — the spirit, the body, the soul; in the body — the head, the feet, the trunk; in the moral organization — guilt, innocence, law, etc. These are followed by seven doubles (consisting of בגדכפר8ת), i.e. the relations of things which are subject to change (opposition without balance), e.g. life and death, happiness and misery, wisdom and insanity, riches and poverty, beauty and ugliness, mastery and servitude. But these seven also designate the material world, namely, the six ends (sides) of the cube, and the palace of holiness in the middle (the immanent deity) which supports it; also the seven planets, the seven heavenly spheres, the seven days of the week, the seven weeks (from Passover to Pentecost), the seven portals of the soul (i.e. the eyes, ears, nose, mouth, etc.). This theory further has express reference to the fact that from the combination of the letters results, with mathematical certainty and in a geometrical ratio, a quantity of words so great that the mind cannot enumerate them; thus, from two letters, two words; from three, six; from four, twenty-four, etc.; or, in other words, that the letters, whether spoken as results of breath, or written as elements of words, are the ideal foundation of all things. Finally, the twelve single letters (constituting the remainder of the alphabet) show the relations of things so far as they can be apprehended in a universal category. Their geometrical representative is the regular twelve-sided polygon, such as that of which the horizon consists; their representation in the world gives the twelve signs of the zodiac and the twelve months of the lunar year; in human beings, the twelve parts of the body and twelve faculties of the mind (these being very arbitrarily determined). They are so organized by God as to form at once a province and yet be ready for battle, i.e. they are as well fitted for harmonious as for contentious action" The text of the Jezirah is divided into six chapters, which are subdivided into sections. Its style is purely dogmatic, having the air and character of aphorisms, or theorems laid down with an absolute authority. The abstract character is, however, relieved by a haggadistic addition which relates the conversion of Abram from Chaldaean idolatry to pure theism, so treated as to render the work a kind of monologue of that patriarch on the natural world, as a monument or manifestation of the glory of the one only God. The book of Jezirah has been published with five commentaries (Mantua, 1562); with a Latin translation and notes by Rittangelius (Amst. 1642), and with a German translation and notes by Meyer (Lpzg. 1830); with ten commentaries (Warsaw, 1884, 4to). See Grätz, in Frankel's Monatsschrift, 8, 67 sq., 103 sq., 140 sq.; Steinschneider, Catalog. Libr. Hebr. in Bibliotheca Bodl. col. 335 sq., 552,639 sq.; Fürst, Biblioth. Jud. 1, 27 sq.; 2, 258 sq. SEE PANTHEISM.