Jewish Mysticism's Origins
At the same time that merkavah mystics were attempting to perceive the divine throne, another form of mysticism was emerging. This type of mysticism, found in books such as Sefer Yetzirah and B’raita d’Ma’aseh Bereishit, focus on the mysteries of creation. The latter book gives a detailed account of each day of creation, embellishing the narrative found in Genesis 1 with, among other things, a description of God’s residence in the “upper worlds.” Sefer Yetzirah is a brief book that had an enormous influence on future Jewish mysticism.
According to Sefer Yetzirah, God created the world by manipulating the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet along with 10 primordial numbers. These 10 numbers are referred to as sefirot (emanations, or countings) The sefirot represent those attributes of God that are understandable to human beings. However, they are dynamic attributes, changing and moving, reacting both to each other and to human activity.
Merkavah mysticism and creation mysticism served as important foundations for kabbalah, the medieval mystical tradition that would forever change Judaism.
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