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[[Kabbalah|Kabbalists]] have used many synonyms for the ''sefirot'' including: emanations, vessels, lights, stages, pillars, garments and inner faces of God. Each name describes another aspect of the nature and function of the sefirot.
== History The Tree of Life ==
The term ''sefirot'' first appeared in the Sefer Yetzirah (the “Book of Formation” or the “Book of Creation”), the oldest known Hebrew text on cosmology. Tradition says that the priest [[Melchizedek]] revealed the teachings recorded in the Sefer Yetzirah to the patriarch [[Abraham]], who either recorded them himself or transmitted them orally to his sons.
The tenth ''sefirah'', ''Malkhut'' (“Kingdom”), also called ''Shekhinah'' (“Divine Presence”), is at the base of the Tree of Life. In Kabbalah, ''Shekhinah'' figures as the mother of the world. ''Malkhut/Shekhinah'' is at the nexus of two worlds, representing the point where spiritual and physical forces meet. In the world of the ''sefirot'', she is the lowest point; in our world, she is the uppermost point. Thus ''Malkhut'' serves as both the channel through which the divine forces of the ''sefirot'' flow downward to this world as well as the gate through which we on earth reach upward to God. ''Malkhut'' is the gate we must pass through as we begin our ascent up the ladder of the ''sefirot'' to ''Ein Sof''.
== The Lightning Flash ==
In addition to the [[Tree of Life]], another diagram some Kabbalists use to depict the emanation of the ''sefirot'' is the Lightning Flash. The ''Sefer Yetzirah'' (the oldest known Hebrew text on cosmology) says of the ''sefirot'', “Their countenance is like the scintillating flame flashing in lightning, invisible and boundless.”<ref>Sefer Yetzirah 1.6, translation by W. Wynn Westcott, ''Sepher Yetzirah: The Book of Formation,'' 3d ed., rev. (1893; reprint, New York: Samuel Weiser, 1980), p. 16.</ref> This has also been translated as: “The ten ineffable ''sefirot'' have the appearance of the Lightning Flash.”
Some Kabbalists take this description to mean the ''sefirot'' are luminescent or that they can only be seen for an instant, like a flash of lightning. Others believe that the Lightning Flash depicts the continual descent of divine forces through the Tree of Life in a zigzag pattern like lightning.
The pattern of the Tree of Life, writes author Z'ev ben Shimon Halevi,
<blockquote>is the model on which everything that is to come into manifestation is based.... The relationships set forth in the Tree underlie the whole of existence; and so the properties of the ''sefirot'' may be seen in terms of any branch of knowledge.<ref>Z’ev ben Shimon Halevi, ''Kabbalah: Tradition of Hidden Knowledge'' (New York: Thames and Hudson, 1980), pp. 5, 6. </ref> The ''sefirot'' on the Tree might be regarded as a system of functions in a circuit through which flows a divine current.<ref>Z’ev ben Shimon Halevi, ''An Introduction to the Cabala: Tree of Life'' (New York: Samuel Weiser, 1972), p. 32.</ref></blockquote>
The divine flash continuously travels from a ''sefirah'' on the expansive Pillar of Mercy to a ''sefirah'' on the constrictive Pillar of Judgment then to a ''sefirah'' on the harmonizing Pillar of Compassion. The flash begins at ''Keter'', flows to ''Hokhmah'' and ''Binah'' and then to ''Da’at''. Next it travels to the expansive sefirah ''Hesed'', then its constrictive opposite, ''Gevurah'', then the balancing force of ''Tiferet''. From there it moves to ''Netzah'', ''Hod'', ''Yesod'' and ''Malkhut''.
== See also ==

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