The following is this writer’s rendering of Chapter Three of the Sefer Yetzirah, based on a comparison of several translations with the Hebrew. As in the last article, the Text is in Bold, and this writer’s comments in Italics. This Chapter varies considerately between editions; some commentators have said it may be “corrupt”. Thus, some repetitious material has been omitted for better cohesion.
The three Parent Letters, Aleph, Mim and Shin, which are the First Principles, and the Foundations of the Whole, are typified by a balance, in one scale praise and in the other blame, which are placed in equilibrium by the tongue, to balance them. These three Parents, Aleph, Mim and Shin, are a great, wonderful and unknown Mystery, and are sealed by six rings, or elementary circles, namely: Air, Water, and Fire emanated from them, which gave birth to progenitors, and these progenitors gave birth again to further offspring.
Once again, we see the use of higher mathematics, with the six combinations of the Three Parent Letters.
The Holy One appointed and established the Three Parents; combined, weighed and exchanged them, and formed by them Three Parents Mim, Aleph and Shin in the Material World, in the year and in humans, male and female.
Thus does everything continually Manifest in progressively lower Levels.
The Three Parents Aleph-Mim-Shin in the beginning of the World as in the Macrocosm, namely Air, Water and Fire. Heaven (“Shemayim”) was created from primal Fire and starts with the letter Shin; the earth is rose from the Sea (“Mayim” is “Water”, “Yamim” is “seas”), which came from primal Water; and the atmospheric Air (“Avir”) from primal Air, which establishes the balance between them.
This is a referent to Genesis 1:6-7.
6. And God said, "Let there be an expanse in the midst of the Water, and let it be a separation between Water and Water."
7. And God made the expanse and it separated between the Water that was below the expanse and the Water that was above the expanse, and it was so.
8. And God called the expanse Heaven, and it was evening, and it was morning, a second day.
9. And God said, "Let the Water that is beneath the heavens gather into one place, and let the dry land appear," and it was so.
10. And God called the dry land earth, and the gathering of the Waters He called seas, and God saw that it was good.
Notice that “Shemayim” starts with Shin, “Mayim” with Mim, and “Avir” with Aleph. The author of the Sefer Yetzirah continues to associate dry land with primal Water.
The Three Parents, Aleph א, Mim מ, and Shin ש, produce in the year heat, coldness and moistness. Heat was created from Fire, coldness from Water, and moistness from Air which equalizes them. These three Parents, again, represent in the Microcosm or Human form, male and female; the Head, the Belly, and the Chest; the head from the Fire, the belly from Water, and the chest from the Air that lies between them.
Here the Three Primary Principles are carried through into the Material World.
These three Parents did the Holy One create, form, and design, and combine with the three mothers in the World, and in the year, and in humans, both male and female.
The Holy One caused Aleph to reign in the Air, crowned it, and combined one with the other, and with these sealed the Air in the World, the temperate climate of the year, and the chest in humans. He caused Mim to predominate in Water, and crowned it, and combined it with others, and formed Earth on the World, cold in the year, and the fruit of the womb in mankind, being carried in the belly.
Some commentators link this passage with the Kabbalistic “Tree of Life”. Shin forms the upper portion, from Kether to the Abyss, including Kether, Chokhmah, Binah and the invisible Da’ath. Aleph forms the middle portion of the Tree, Chesed through Netzach, and Mim is at the bottom, comprising Yesod and Malkuth.