[plural of sefirah] In Jewish mysticism, the sefirot are the ten aspects of God’s being that manifest from Ein Sof. Ein Sof (literally, “without end”) is the term used to describe God prior to creation. Ein Sof is usually translated as “the Infinite.” It is the ultimate reality, the First Cause: unmanifest, incomprehensible, imperceptible and indescribable—the “divine nothingness.”
The sefirot are names which God gave to himself, each part of himself having a specific name with a specific vibration that we could access through the universal “computer” of the mind of God. The sefirot bridge the gap between the finite creation and the infinite God.
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.
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.
Early Kabbalists made diagrams of the structure of creation as it progressed from Ein Sof down through the sefirot. The most common diagram is called the “Tree of Life.” Kabbalists conceived of many possible groupings of the sefirot within the Tree of Life. They also considered the creation of the cosmos to have resulted from the creation of language. Thus, they believed the twenty-two letters and sounds of the Hebrew alphabet were the instrument of creation itself.
In addition to the ten sefirot, there is one “quasi sefirah,” which is sometimes described as a secret or hidden attribute. The power of thirty-three present in the Tree of Life derives from the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet, the ten sefirot and the one quasi sefirah.
Names of God and the sefirot
The Hebrew names of God associated in Kabbalah with the ten sefirot are:
|Sefirah||Name of God|
|Yesod||Shaddai, “Almighty,” and El Hai, “Living God”|
|Hod||Elohim Tzevaot, “God of hosts”|
|Netzah||YHVH Tzevaot, spoken Adonai Tzevaot, “Lord of hosts”|
|Tiferet||YHVH, spoken Adonai|
|Binah||YHVH, spoken Elohim|
|Hokhmah||Yah, “the Eternal”|
|Keter||Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh, “I AM THAT I AM”|
The sefirot and the Chart of Your Divine Self
Tiferet (“Beauty” or “Adornment,” also known as Rahamim, “Compassion”), is the sixth sefirah, located in the center of the Tree of Life. Tiferet is the mediator who brings into harmony the extremes of Mercy and Judgment and represents wholeness and balance. Kabbalists see Tiferet as the son of the sefirot Hokhmah and Binah, and the Zohar refers to Tiferet as the Son.
The ascended masters teach that Tiferet corresponds to the Universal Christ, who is individualized in each of us as the Higher Self, or Holy Christ Self (the middle figure in the Chart of Your Divine Self).
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.” 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,
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. The sefirot on the Tree might be regarded as a system of functions in a circuit through which flows a divine current.
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.
For more information
Elizabeth Clare Prophet, Kabbalah: Key to Your Inner Power.
Pearls of Wisdom, vol. 35, no. 59, December 2, 1992.
Elizabeth Clare Prophet, Kabbalah: Key to Your Inner Power, pp. 23, 24.
Pearls of Wisdom, vol. 38, no. 10, March 5, 1995.
- 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.
- Z’ev ben Shimon Halevi, Kabbalah: Tradition of Hidden Knowledge (New York: Thames and Hudson, 1980), pp. 5, 6.
- Z’ev ben Shimon Halevi, An Introduction to the Cabala: Tree of Life (New York: Samuel Weiser, 1972), p. 32.