Moreover, a large part of the book [Bahir] consists of mystical variations on motifs from
the Book Yezirah. In fact, the term sefiroth was taken by the Bahir from that work,
though it is no longer understood in the sense of ideal numbers that contain within them all the
powers of creation, as was the case with the author of the Yezirah.
The decisive step beyond the other gnostic systems consists in the fixing of the number of these
powers or aeons at ten, according to the ten sefiroth of the Book of Creation and the
ten words of creation
through which, according to the ancient Aggadah, God called the world into
Gershom Scholem, Origins of the Kabbalah, Princeton, p.84
These 32 paths, defined as "ten Sefirot beli mah" and the "22 elemental letters"
of the Hebrew alphabet, are represented as the foundations of all creation. Chapter 1
deals with the Sefirot and the other five chapters with the function of the letters.
Apparently, the term Sefirot is used simply to mean "numbers," though in employing
a new term (sefirot instead of misparim), the author seems to be alluding
to metaphysical principles or to stages in the creation of the world.
Gershom Scholem, Kabbalah, Keter, 1994, p.23
In the form in which the book has come down to us, the principles of creation are thirty-two paths of
wondrous or secret wisdom denominated by the twenty-two Hebrew letters and ten entities designated by the
neologism sefirot belimah. It is generally assumed by scholars that this term refers in this
context to primordial numbers that serve, in Scholem's locution, as metaphysical principles or stages
of the creation of the world.
Elliot Wolfson, Though a Speculum That Shines, Princeton, 1994, p.70
As the next stanza will explain, these 32 paths are manifest as the 10 digits and the 22 letters of the
Hebrew alphabet. The 10 digits are also manifest in the Ten Sefirot, which are the most basic concepts
Aryeh Kaplan, The Sefer Yetzirah, Aronson, 1995, p.6
The first Mishnah of Sefer Yetzirah tell of the thirty-two paths. The rest
of the book is dedicated to supplying the details of these paths, that is to say, the
details of the ten Sefirot and twenty-two letters.
Leonard R. Glotzer, The Fundamentals of Jewish Mysticism, Aronson, 1992
These thirty-two "paths" are the ten sefirot -- a term that the author himself invented and
that relates, initially, to the first ten numbers, one to ten -- and to the twenty-two letters of
the Hebrew alphabet.
Joseph Dan, Jewish Mysticism, Vol 1, Late Antiquity, p.137
In short, the first four words of the first verse, Beschlaschim Weschtiam Nativot Phayliot invite us to
study thirty-two elements binding the energy of intemporal life to the visible universe, as conceived
and thought in human knowledge: that is to say, they are turned into the contrary of the real value of
their energy and life.
We see how misleading, superficial and indeed senseless are the generally accepted translations of Nativot
(paths, pathways, roads) and Phayliot (wonderful, mysterious, incomprehensible).
The obviousness of 32 being
the sum of 22 Autiot and 10 Sephirot appears as a screen or a snare to bewilder the amateur cabalists.
Not only is the summing-up of Sephirot and Autiot, as roads, inadequate, but adding them together is
like adding a number of electric transformers to the voltage which lights them.
In number 32 there
is a secret key which it was very important not to hand over to the non-initiated, because it opens the
door to a conception of the first 4 Sephirot, respecting creative energy, that is hardly canonical.
We will examine it in discussing verses 1,3 to 1,8.
Suares, The Sepher Yetsira Sepher Yetsira, Shambhala, 1976 pages 61-63, em added