Chapter Five of the Sefer Yetzirah continues the Theme of studying the Hebrew Alphabet. We have moved on to the Twelve “Simple” Letters. The associations vary from version to version, but we are using the most common attributions. As usual, Text is in Boldface, and this writer's comments are in Italics.
The simple Letters are Twelve, namely: Heh, Vav, Zayin, Chet, Tet, Yod, Lamed, Nun, Samech, Ayin, Tzaddi, and Qof; they represent the fundamental properties, sight, hearing, smell, speech, desire for food, sexual appetite, movement, anger, mirth, thought, sleep, and work. These symbolize also Twelve directions in space: NorthEast, SouthEast, the East above, the East below, the NorthWest, SouthWest, the West above, the West below, the South above, South below, the North above, and the North below. These diverge to all Eternity, as the arms of the Universe.
The Holy One, crowned, combined, and formed these Twelve Letters, and produced by them the Twelve divisions of the heavens, the Twelve months of the Year, and the Twelve important organs of the frame of humans, namely the right and left hands, the right and left feet, Two kidneys, the liver, the gall, the spleen, the intestines, the gullet, and the stomach.
Three Parents, Seven Doubles and Twelve Simples, these are the Twenty-Two Letters with which the Holy One, exalted and existing from Everlasting, created Three Parents, Primal Air, Water and Fire, progressing beyond them, Seven Heavens with their armies of Angels; and Twelve limits of the Universe, dividing the witnesses and bestowing a portion to each of them: a portion to the Universe, a portion to the Year, and a portion to the human body.
The Holy One crowned, combined, and formed Heh, predominant in Speech, and produced Aries in the Universe, Nisan in the Year, and the right foot in the human body.
Nisan is the first month of the Jewish Zodiac, although the Jewish Year begins in Tishri. Humans are different from other animals by their Speech, their ability to communicate their inner thoughts to others. The Jewish Holiday of this month is Pesach. The tribe of this month is Judah, the royal leader, Tribe of David, from which Jewish monarchs descend. The Pesach sacrifice was a lamb, relating to the Zodiac Sign Aries.
The Holy One crowned, combined, and formed Vav, predominant in Mind, and produced Taurus in the Universe, Iyar in the Year, and the right kidney in the human body.
Iyar is the month when Jews “count the Omer”, waiting for Shavu’ot. The Tribe of this month, Issachar, was the Tribe of Scholars, excelling in their loving devotion to the study of the Torah.
The Holy One crowned, combined, and formed Zayin, predominant in movement, and produced Gemini in the Universe, Sivan in the Year, and the left foot in the human body.
The Jewish Holiday for Sivan is Shavu'ot, celebrating the giving of the Law to Moses. The Tribe is Zebulun, the seafaring business people of Israel. The concept of Gemini, the twins, reminds us of the two tablets given at Mount Sinai.
The Holy One crowned, combined, and formed Chet, predominant in Sight, and produced Cancer in the Universe, Tammuz in the Year, and the right hand in the human body.
The tribe of this month is Reuben, whose name comes from the word for “Sight”.
The Holy One crowned, combined, and formed Tet, predominant in Hearing, and produced Leo in the Universe, Av in the Year, and the left kidney in the human body.
The name of the tribe of this month, Shimon, comes from the word for “hearing.” On the ninth day of Av, Jews mourn for the Holy Temple, destroyed by Babylon and, later, Rome.
The Holy One crowned, combined, and formed Yod, predominant in Labor, and produced Virgo in the Universe, Elul in the Year, and the left hand in the human body.
Elul is the Month when the Jewish People spiritually prepare for the High Holidays. The Members of the Tribe of this month, Gad, were the Warriors who defended Ancient Israel.
The Holy One crowned, combined, and formed Lamed, predominant in sexual desire, and produced Libra in the Universe, Tishri in the Year, and the gall-bladder in the human body.
In this Month of Tishri are the High Holidays.beginning with Rosh Hashanah. The name of this month’s Tribe, Ephraim, means “fruitful”.
The Holy One crowned, combined, and formed Nun, predominant in smell, and produced Scorpio in the Universe, Cheshvan in the Year, and the intestines in the human body.
The Jewish Month, Cheshvan, associated with this Letter, has no Holidays. Traditionally, Jews give it its own Honor, as if to compensate, by calling it “Mar Cheshvan”, (“Mr. Cheshvan”). . The Name of this month’s Tribe, Menasheh, is an anagram for the Hebrew Word for "breath" ("neshimah"), connecting it to the sense of smell, considered the most spiritual of the senses.
The Holy One crowned, combined, and formed Samech, predominant in sleep, and produced Sagittarius in the Universe, Kislev in the Year, and the stomach in the human body.
The Jewish Holiday celebrated in Kislev is Chanukah, which means “Dedication”. This month’s Tribe, Benjamin, possessed valiant warriors. Their territory contained Jerusalem, the site of the Holy Temple, where prayers and dreams are directed. You may remember that Rachel, known as the Mother of the Jewish People, died while giving birth to Benjamin.
The Holy One crowned, combined, and formed Ayin, predominant in Anger, and produced Capricorn in the Universe, Tevet in the Year, and the liver in the human body.
The Name of this Letter’s Tribe, Dan, means “to judge.” The Letter, Ayin means “eye.” We have two eyes in order to constantly discern what to accept in life, and what to reject. The liver, in Jewish Kabbalistic Tradition, was associated with Discernment.
The Holy One crowned, combined, and formed Tzaddi, predominant in Taste, and produced Aquarius in the Universe, Shevat in the Year, and the gullet in the human body.
The Jewish Holiday of this Month, Tu B’Shevat, is celebrated by eating fruits of the tree. The territory of Asher, this Month’s Tribe, produced an Abundance of food.
The Holy One crowned, combined, and formed Qoph, predominant in Mirth, crowned, combined, and produced Pisces in the Universe, Adar in the Year, and the spleen in the human body.
The central Jewish Holiday of the Month of Adar is Purim, which celebrates the Holy One’s hidden hand in history. This month’s Tribe, Naftali, was Named after the swiftest son of Jacob.
Of course, the Jewish Calendar does not correspond exactly with the Zodiac Signs. .Did the author literally believe, that God created the Universe with the Hebrew Alphabet? Perhaps! In this writer’s opinion, it is the symbolism that is most important.