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Illustration in Portae Lucis (actually שערי אורה scha'are orah 'Gates of Light') by Josef Gikatilla : Man holding a tree with the ten Sephiroth.

Sephiroth , Sephiroth , Sefirot or Sefiroth ( heb. Sg. סְפִירָה səfīrā Sefira , pl. סְפִירוֹת səfīrōt ) is the Hebrew name of the ten divine emanations in the Kabbalistic Tree of Life (Hebrew Ez Chaim ). These emanations (see Neo-Platonism ), which in philosophical and theological models of thought represent the emanation or emergence of ideas and attributes from the abundance of the originally one or perfect - also from the divine - are embodied according to the Kabbalah ( Lurianic Kabbalah) conceived by Isaak Luria ) in its entirety symbolically represents the heavenly man , Adam Qadmon . The back ( sitra achra ) of the tree of life forms the tree of death with the Qlīpōt .

Concept and meaning of the Sephiroth

Sephiroth is the plural of the Hebrew word Sephira , which means digit . Kabbalah also sees this term as the mystical origin of the Greek word sphere . The vocal relationship of the terms probably goes back to the common origin of the Hebrew and Greek alphabets in the Phoenician script . The German term numeral also has the same etymological origin via Arabic .

The tree of life model is structured by the sequence of digits from 1 to 10 (10 = Malchuth , 1 = Kether ) and wants to reflect the divine creation in the microcosm and macrocosm at the same time. As a result, the Sephiroth result in a dynamic model of the encounter between pairs of semantic opposites that are balanced on the central axis. All contents of the earthly and divine world are systematically assigned to the ten Sephiroth. These include interpretations of the Hebrew Bible, colors , shapes, Hebrew letters , angels , worlds, limbs. The Kabbalist thus unites all possible experiences, elements and events in the model of the tree of life with the aim of deepening spirit and soul ( spiritualization ). Speculative Kabbalists (theoretical Kabbalah) meditate with it, magicians (practical Kabbalah) use it as a model for magical operations.

The term Sefirot can also be used positively as a characteristic for defining a work as cabbalistic: Works that use this term are to be viewed as cabbalistic. The only exception is the Sefer Jetzira , which used this term for the first time, but is not a cabalistic work. Conversely, however, many Kabbalistic works do not use the term for various reasons. The Sefer ha-Bahir, for example, prefers the terms midot (characteristics, properties) and ma'amarot (utterances). The term is also very rarely found in the Zohar . Abraham Abulafia , although a Kabbalist, categorically rejected the idea of ​​the Sefirot. Moshe Chaim Luzzatto, on the other hand, avoids him in order to hide his kabbalistic worldview.

Systematics of the Sephiroth

The 10 Sephiroth and 22 paths in the Kabbalistic tree of life according to Isaac Luria

The names of the ten Sephiroth are taken from the Tanach . Most of the corresponding words can be found in verse 1 Chr 29.11  EU :

  1. Kether or Kether Eljon (crown, first point to light up in En Sof )
  2. Chochmah (divine wisdom, prudence, skill, plan of creation)
  3. Binah (will, insight, understanding; intelligence)
  4. Chesed (love, mercy, grace, favor, loyalty), sometimes also referred to as Gedulah (greatness, long-suffering), Abraham
  5. Din , Gewurah or Gebura (law, strength, might, victory, righteousness), Isaac
  6. Tiphareth (maintenance of existence, splendor, glorification, beauty), Jacob
  7. Netzach (Eternity, Persistence, Victory; Fame, Blood, Juice)
  8. Hod (shine, majesty, thunder)
  9. Jesod (foundation, foundation, foundation, foundation stone, foundation), Joseph
  10. Malchuth or Shekhina (kingdom, rule, royal dignity, government), David
  11. Da'at (the inner knowing, cognition, receiving)

The Da'at is mentioned in the kabbalistic tree of life and is sometimes referred to as 11th Sephira, non-Sephira or sham Sephira, since it does not represent an independent force, but a state in which all divine ten Sephiroth are mystically united.

The system of the Sephiroth is fundamentally represented in the book Sefer Jetzira (Hebrew: "Book of Formation"), one of the most important forerunners of the Kabbalah, which was written before the 6th century AD. Depending on the Kabbalistic author, different models and combinations of these Sephiroth are represented, the most detailed of which is the conception of Isaak Luria .

The anthropomorphic conception of the Sefirot as body parts goes back essentially to the writing Shi'ur Qoma . Here, according to the description of the Beloved in the Song of Songs, the divine body of the Creator is described with secret names and dimensions. The three upper Sefirot stand for the divine head, the next two for the arms, the sixth for body, heart and masculinity, the next two for the legs and the ninth for the phallus. The tenth Sefira denotes an independent, female body: the Shechina . This view also underlies the Lurian concept of Adam Qadmon .

Another view understands the Sefirot as phases of divine emanation (cf. Neo-Platonism ), while still other Kabbalists understand the Sefirot as the personification of ethical values. Still others understand them as worlds, from divinity down to the material, physical sphere.

A third model integrates the biblical names of God into the Sefirot system. The tetragram YHWH stands for the Sefira Kether , the J in it for Chokmah , the first H for Binah , the W for the following six Sefirot and the second H for the Shechina . A fourth model assigns the spheres to the biblical heroes. Further models identify different concepts and things (male / female, sun / moon, sky / earth / day / night etc.) occurring in pairs with Sefirot. In medieval Kabbalah, the Sefira can also be duplicated, duplicated and repeated so that twenty to a hundred Sefirot are discussed.

Finally, in the Lurian Kabbalah , the number of Sefirot is infinite, since every being consists of different combinations of the Sefirot system. The Tree of Life is in the Lurianic Kabbalah, the ten Sephiroth and the paths connecting them 22 represent the Sephiroth with names and numbers that contrast with the 22 letters of the linking paths Hebrew alphabet are called.

Sephiroth in a non-Jewish context

In esoteric traditions, the tree of life has also gained considerable influence in a non-Jewish context. The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn connects the tarot cards with it.

The Illuminatus! Trilogy by Robert Anton Wilson is structured according to the Sephiroth, as is Umberto Eco's novel The Foucault Pendulum .

There is also an antagonist of this name in the well-known Final Fantasy game series .


  • Heinrich Elijah Benedikt: The Kabbalah as a Jewish-Christian initiation path . 2 volumes:
Volume 1: Color, tone, number and word as gates to soul and spirit . 12th edition, Ansata-Verlag, Munich 2003; ISBN 3-7626-0279-4
Volume 2: The tree of life - mirror of the cosmos and of man . 9th edition, Ansata-Verlag, Munich 2003; ISBN 3-7626-0280-8 .
  • Joseph Dan: The Kabbalah: A Brief Introduction . 2nd edition, Reclam, Stuttgart 2012, ISBN 978-3150189467 .
  • Karl RH Frick : The enlightened. Gnostic-theosophical and alchemical-Rosicrucian secret societies up to the end of the 18th century - a contribution to the intellectual history of modern times . Academic Printing and Publishing Company, Graz 1973, ISBN 3-201-00834-6 .
  • Z'ev ben Shimon Halevi: Tree of Life and Kabbalah . Heyne, Munich 1997; ISBN 3-453-11836-7 .
  • Johann Maier : The Kabbalah. Introduction - Classical Texts - Explanations . 2nd edition, Beck, Munich 2004, ISBN 3-406-39659-3 .
  • Gershom Scholem : On the Kabbalah and its symbolism . Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt 1973; ISBN 3-518-27613-1 .

Web links

Commons : Tree of life (Kabbalah)  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Joseph Dan: The Kabbalah. A little introduction . Reclam, Stuttgart 2012, pp. 60f.
  2. a b c Karl RH Frick : The Enlightened . Gnostic-theosophical and alchemical-Rosicrucian secret societies up to the end of the 18th century - a contribution to the intellectual history of modern times. Akademische Druck- und Verlagsanstalt, Graz 1973, ISBN 3-201-00834-6 , p. 98 f .