Sefirot

According to the kabbalists, the attributes of God relate to each other in a scripted way.

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The name of God associated with Keter is "Ehyeh,"which is what God says when Moses asks who speaks from the burning bush: "Ehyeh asher ehyeh (I will be what I will be)." In some kabbalistic texts, this sefirah is associated with the point at the tip of the letter yod in the Tetragrammaton (the four‑letter name of God which is never spoken, but which is spelled yud‑hey‑vav‑hey in Hebrew). The body part associated with Keter is "aura," the space directly above the head; Keter has no color.

Hokhmah

Hokhmah (Wisdom) represents the first impulse to Create as it arose in the Creator. It is "primordial Torah," absolute and Divine wisdom, the flash of intuition or inspiration that precedes conscious thought. In another sense, Hokhmah is the "sperm" that will impregnate Binah (Understanding) as the first step in the Creative process. (One aspect of the Infinitude is that God, although without gender, encompasses both male and female attributes.)

The name of God associated with Hokhmah is Yah or the yod in the Tetragrammaton. The body part associated with Hokhmah is the right hemisphere of the brain. Hokhmah's color is blue.

Binah

Binah (Understanding) represents the point at which the Divine inspiration begins to take on a definite form. Some refer to Hokhmah as the contemplative and synthetic element of Divine Thought; by contrast, Binah is seen as analytic and distinguishing. The uppermost female element of the sefirot, Binah is the womb into which the "sperm" of Hokhmah was deposited. From that union, the lower seven sefirot were born. To put it differently, Binah, which is also translated as "insight" or "discernment," is the point at which the flash of intuition is refined into a conscious thought.

Binah is associated with the letter hey in the Tetragrammaton and with the name of God Elohim.In the body, Binah is usually associated with either the left hemisphere of the brain or the forehead. Binah's color is green.

Hesed

Hesed (Lovingkindness) represents the generous, benevolent side of God, the quality of unconditional Divine Love. Hesed is often translated in this context as "love," "compassion," or "grace."

Hesed is associated with the Divine name El or El Elyon (Supreme God). It corresponds to the right arm. Hesed's color is white.

Gevurah

Gevurah (Might) (also called Din [Judgment]) counterbalances Hesed. It is the side of God most familiar to those with a superficial understanding of the Hebrew Bible, the wrathful Divinity of awful punishments. Without Gevurah, the world would be so overwhelmed by God's love that it would be reabsorbed into the Divine; without Hesed, God's judgment would unleash forces of destruction on the world. It must be noted that the seeds of the Sitra Akhra (literally "Other Side," a reference to demonic forces of evil) are found in Gevurah, as well; Sefer ha‑Zohar teaches that an excess of Gevurah is the source of Ultimate Evil. It is the balance of Justice and Mercy evoked repeatedly in Tanakh, Talmud, and midrash, that is the key to the world's thriving. And that balance, necessary in the Divine realm, is also essential in human endeavor.

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George Robinson

George Robinson, author of Essential Judaism, is the recipient of a Simon Rockower Award for excellence in Jewish journalism from the American Jewish Press Association. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Newsday, Jewish Week, and The Detroit Jewish News.