Chapter Two of the Sefer Yetzirah is much shorter than Chapter One, so this writers rendition of it follows below in its entirety. You may remember that, in Genesis, God created everything by speaking. The following is an elaboration of that Idea, and much, much more. This little chapter is the Source of Inspiration for much of Western Mysticism and Metaphysics. Once again. Text is Bold, and this writer’s humble comments are in Italics.
The Foundations are the Twenty-Two Letters; there are Three Parents or Fundamental First Principles, Seven Doubles, and Twelve Simples. The Three Parents, namely Aleph, Mim and Shin, are Air, Water, and Fire: Mim is mute like Water, Shin hisses like Fire, and Aleph is like a breath of Air between them to balance them.
This Pattern, formed by the Three Parents, is said to resemble a scale.
These are the Twenty-Two Letters which form the Foundation after having been themselves appointed and established. The Holy One combined, weighed and exchanged them, forming by them not only all that is, but also, all that is to come.
Thus, the Universe Itself is said to be prefigured by the 22 letters!
The Holy One established the Twenty-Two Letters to be formed by the voice, impressed on the air, and audibly uttered in Five situations; in the throat, the gutturals, Aleph, Heh, Chet, Ayin; in the palate, the palatals, Gimel, Yod, Kaf, Qof ; by the tongue, the linguals, Daled, Tet, Lamed, Nun, Tav; through the teeth, the dentals, Zain, Shin, Samekh, Resh, Tzaddi ; and by the lips, labials, . Bet, Vav, Mem, Peh.
The Holy One fixed these Twenty-Two Letters, the Foundations, and arranged them as on a sphere, with 231 Gates, and rolled the sphere forwards and backwards. If the sphere be rotated forward, good is implied, if backward, evil may occur. As an example, Gimel Nun Ayin spells “Joy”, and Ayin Nun Gimel spells “Sorrow”.
The “231 Gates” are combinations, without permutation, achieved by pairing each letter with the rest. This mathematical formula is 3 x6 x 11=231.
This was the source of much later Metaphysical Speculation, especially in the Sefer Ha-Zohar (“Book of Splendor”). This is also the root of Gematria, Hebrew Numerology. Every Hebrew Letter is also a Number.
But how was it done? The Holy One combined, weighed and exchanged, each with each other, Aleph with all the other Letters in succession, and all the others again with Aleph , Bet with all, and all again with Bet; and so on, the whole series of Letters. Thus in combining all together in pairs were produced these 231 Gates of Knowledge. Thus from Nothingness did the Holy One make something, and all forms of speech and every created thing, and from the empty void made the solid earth, and from the Non-Existent brought forth Life, and every creature and every Word emanated from the One Name.
That Name is the unpronounceable YHVH (yod heh vav heh) of course.
The Holy One hewed, as it were, colossal pillars, out of the Intangible, and from the empty space. This has been shown by the example of combining the Letter Aleph with all the other Letters, and all the other Letters with Aleph. Thus did the Holy One predetermine, and by speaking, created every creature and every word by the One Name. For a sign of this may serve the Twenty-One elementary substances by the primitive substance of Aleph.
Section Six is thus the fulfillment of Section Two. Once again, for the Time in which it was written, the mathematics of the Sefer Yetzirah are astounding, prefiguring Blaise Pascal and Pierre de Fermat by many Centuries.