Hebrew Letter / Planetary Attributions in the Sepher Yetsira, Shiur Komah and Other Sources

Astrological Correspondences in the Sepher Yetsira
Sephirotic Systems in the Sepher Yetsira, Bahir and Post-Zohar Kabbalah
Cube of Space

Hebrew Letter / Planetary Attributions in the Sepher Yetsira, Shiur Komah and Other Sources
Version/Letter Bayt Ghimmel Dallet Kaf Pay Raysh Tav
Suares 1 Saturn Jupiter Mars Sun Venus Mercury Moon
Work of the Chariot 2 Saturn Jupiter Mars Sun Venus Mercury Moon
Short Version 3 Saturn Jupiter Mars Sun Venus Mercury Moon
Long Version 4 Saturn Jupiter Mars Sun Venus Mercury Moon
Long Ver Recap 5 Saturn Jupiter Mars Sun Venus Mercury Moon
Saadia 6 Saturn Jupiter Mars Sun Venus Mercury Moon
Saadia 6a Saturn Jupiter Mars Sun Venus Mercury Moon
Donash 7 Saturn Jupiter Mars Sun Venus Mercury Moon
Shiur Komah 8 Saturn Jupiter Mars Sun Venus Mercury Moon
Zohar 9 Moon Mars Sun Saturn Jupiter Venus Mercury
Gra 10 Moon Mars Sun Venus Mercury Saturn Jupiter
Golden Dawn 11 Mercury Moon Venus Jupiter Mars Sun Saturn
Adapted from Aryeh Kaplan, Sepher Yetsira, 1990, other sources
1. Carlo Suares The Sepher Yetsira Shambhala 1976
2. Work of the Chariot Website
3. Aryeh Kaplan Sefer Yetzirah Weiser 1990 p.178-179 Table 33: cites Raavad see Note below on Short Version.
4. Kaplan op. cit.: Long Version, Tikken Layl Shavout Yalkut Reuveni 18b
5. Kaplan op. cit.: Long Version in Recap (4:14) also in Saadia 1:3, 3:3, 5:5, 8:2.
6. Kaplan op. cit.: Appendix I: Saadia Version p.290 Kaplan doesn't specify his exact source
6a. Commentaire sur le Séfer Yesira ou Livre de la Création par Le Gaon Saadya de Fayyoum, trans. & ed., M. Lambert, Paris, Emile Bouillon, Editeur, 1891); translated into English from the French & Hebrew by Scott Thompson and Dominique Marson, San Francisco, 1985.]
7. Kaplan op. cit.: Donash, Cf, Raziel 8a(17)
8. Kaplan op. cit.: Otzar HaShem: Ramak, Shiur Komah 15 (29a)
9. Kaplan op. cit.: p.184: Zohar Planets: Tikuney Zohar 70 (128b)
10. Kaplan op. cit.: p.174-175: Gra Version 4:8-4:14
11. Golden Dawn: David Hulse, Key of It All, 1996, p.130-131

Hebrew Letter / Planetary Attributions in the Sepher Yetsira: Manuscript Versions
Version/Letter Bayt Ghimel Dalet Kaf Pay Raysh Tav
Short Version 1              
Long Version 2 Saturn Jupiter Mars Sun Venus Mercury Moon
Saadia 3 Saturn Jupiter Mars Sun Venus Mercury Moon
Planetary Hours/Days of Creation
Short Version 4 Sun Venus Mercury Moon Saturn Jupiter Mars
Long Version 5 Sun Venus Mercury Moon Saturn Jupiter Mars
Saadia 6              
Peter Hayman Sefer Yesira Mohr Siebeck 2004

1.   Peter Hayman, Sefer Yesira Mohr Siebeck 2004 p.12: Short Version (K): Parma 2784.13 1286
2.   Hayman op.cit. p.12: Long Version (A): Vatican Library 299(8) fols. 661-71b Tenth Century
3.   Hayman op. cit. p.12: Saadia Version (C): The Genizah Scroll Cambridge Univ. Library Tenth Century
4.   Hayman op. cit. p. 136-146, notes on p.138, 142
5.   Ibid.
6.   Ibid.


1.   The first thing to note is the agreement of all early recensions of the Sefer Yetsira (Hayman actually cites more than nineteen manuscript versions) on the correspondence between Hebrew letters (BGD KPRT) (Bayt-Ghimel-Dalet, etc.) and planets (ShTzM HhKNL) (Shabatai-Tsedeq-Meadim, etc.) -- except for the earliest manuscripts of the Short Version, where the correspondence is not explicitly stated and confused by the addition of a verse referring to the days of creation, found in the Long Version but not in Saadia (See note 2 on the Short Version).

It seems to be a de-selected fact (at least in certain discourses) that the early Sefer Yetsira is simply following (or explaining) the classical geocentric order of the planets. Later systems and redactions are not rooted in any astronomy known by the ancients or in the cosmology of the Sepher Yetsira.

Hayman's (2004) text-critical commentary and translation compares the earliest manuscript versions available and provides a fascinating picture of multiple hidden (overlapping) sources for each of the three major variants which emerged in the Tenth Century -- the Short, Long and Saadia Versions. His "earliest recoverable text" contains only elements shared by all sources and makes no mention of Hebrew letter/planetary correspondences (because they are omitted in the Short Version). What is present in all recensions is Hayman's verse 37, p.127-128 (Chapter 4:1 in most translations) beginning
Seven double letters BGD KPRT (they are pronounced with the tongue in two different positions) (their foundation is) life and peace, wisdom, wealth, prosperity, beauty and mastery
(except for a reversal of prosperity and beauty in the first part of Saadia's verse, which is adjusted in the rest of the verse -- see note 4) and the expansion of the contrary qualities (life-death, peace-evil, wisdom-folly, wealth-poverty, prosperity-desolation, beauty-ugliness and mastery-slavery) in the rest of the verse,
They are double letters because they are opposities. The opposite of life is death; the opposite of peace is evil; the opposite of wisdom is folly ...
all in agreement and in order. The Short Version (which is assuming knowledge of classical nocturnal and diurnal planetary rulerships) (and trying to save space) probably thought that the planetary correspendences were obvious (being, you know, geocentric) and the contrary qualities of the seven double letters were all that needed to be mentioned. By the time that it needed to said that Bayt forms Shabatai, knowledge of the meaning of the Sepher Yetsira had already been lost.

..as Solomon Ganz has correctly observed, the author of SY "connected the seven planets in the natural (geocentric) order (ShTzM HhNKL) ... with the first seven days instead of the first seven hours of creation." Ganz concludes that SY verse 42 is "the gloss of a later editor who wished to reconcile the theory of the Book of Creation with the accepted theory of the planetary hour week."   Hayman, SY, p36-37.
And with them were carved out seven firmaments, seven earths, seven hours and seven times. Therefore he loved the seventh under heaven.   SY 42

These are the seven planets in the universe: Sun, Venus, Mercury, Moon, Saturn, Jupiter, Mars. And the days in the year: the seven days of creation. And the seven apertures in mankind: two eyes, two ears, two nostrils, and the mouth.   SY 43a
So the later editor "mentions the seven hours and changes the sequence of the first day of the week." It is interesting that Shabbetai Donnolo was acutely conscious of theis discrepancy and expressed the necessity of correcting the aberrant contents of SY at this point."   Hayman, ibid., p.143
Kaplan (1990) uses the Raavad's commentary in the first printed edition of the SY (Mantua 1562) (Short Version, Long Version as appendix) as a basis for these inclusions in his Short Version:
How? Make Bet king over life, bind a crown to it, and with it depict Saturn in the Universe, Sunday in the Year, and the right eye in the Soul.   Kaplan op. cit., p.264
Which is the formula used in Hayman's earliest Long and Saadia recensions:
Seven double letters: He made Bet rule, and bound to it a crown, and combined one with another, and formed with it Saturn in the universe, the sabbath in the year, and the mouth in mankind.   Hayman op. cit. p.136-137 SY 41
except for the order of days (though Kaplan's Long Version starts with the sabbath), and
Bet, Gimel, Dalet, Kaf, Pe, Resh, Taw. There was formed with Bet: Saturn, the sabbath, the mouth, life and death.   Hayman op. cit. p.142 SY 44
And Suares:
(This is) in what manner was bestowed (the) kingship on Aut (Bayt) in (by) Hhaim (the living) and bound (a) crown on it and created with Schabatai (Saturn) in the universe and Yom Richon (the day of principle) Beshinah (in the transformation) and Ein Yamin (right eye) Benefesch (in the individual).   Suares, op.cit. p.107
It should be clear that when planets are specified in connection with Hebrew letters (seven doubles), they are in their "natural geocentric order," formed by the seven double Hebrew letters in their natural order (BGD KPRT). The only time they are not connected to the seven doubles, the context is that of planetary hour or day of creation and they are not in geocentric order:
There are seven planets in the universe ... and the days in the year: the seven days of creation.
The selected fact is the fact that can't be selected because it will result in catastrophic change for the psyche or group. The selected fact is the fact that cannot be integrated into the current definatory hypothesis or basic belief system because its integration will cause the destruction of the container, the current definatory hypothesis maintained by mythical assumptions.   Selected Fact
We have focused on this particular fact, the correspondences of Hebrew letters to planets in the early versions of the Sefer Yetzirah, because it is impossible to have a coherent psychological space without this understanding, and because its obscuring lies at the heart of certain definatory hypotheses accepted without question in both traditional Kabbalah and late Western occultism and hermeticism.

4.   While all of three of Hayman's primary earliest recensions agree (with the Short version silent on the planets but not the letters) with the geocentric order of the planets, and the alphabetic order of the letters, the pairs of opposites, or contrary qualities, which are mentioned in all the recensions, have one very curious anomaly.
Seven double letters: BGD KPRT. Their basis is life and peace, wisdom, wealth, beauty, prosperity, mastery and slavery ... They are opposities. The opposite of life is death; the opposite of peace is evil; ... the opposite of prosperity is desolation; the opposite of beauty is ugliness; and the opposite of master is slavery.   Hayman SY 37 p.128 Saadia version
Hayman doesn't comment on the transposition of beauty and properity and internal inconsistency in the same verse (!) in the Saadia recension, at least in this volume of his study, and none of his secondary sources disagree. Both his Long and Saadia recensions make explicit the list of correspondences in a following verse --
There was formed with Pe: Venus, the fourth day of the week, the left nostril, prosperity and desolation. There was formed with Resh these: Mercury, the fifth day of the week, the right ear, beauty and ugliness.   Hayman SY 44 p.142 (Long and Saadia identical)
Kaplan's (SY p.148-149) somewhat later sources (and considering his Long version correspondences appear anomalous) agree: grace-seed (Short), seed-grace (Long Recap, his Saadia source), seed-grace (Dunash).

The problem here is that with the exception of only the first part of the earliest Saadia recension, the opposites for (only) -- Pe/Venus and Raysh/Mercury are -- just by looking at them -- incorrect. Hayman uses "prosperity-desolation" for Z'ar-Shemamah and "beauty-ugliness" for Hhan-Kior. Suares' more neutral translations are "seed-selection" and "beauty-charm" (see above hyperlinks). Either way, it's easy to tell Mercury from Venus and Kawkab from Nogah -- Mercury the Messenger brings good tidings or bad into consciousness, and Venus is just plain beautiful, for heavens' sake. See the links for a more subtle analysis, but really.

So how did this confusion (a testament to how early, coherence was lost) arise? To understand this, we need to refer to another unanalyzed anomaly --
And their measure is ten for they have no limit: dimension of beginning and dimension of end ... dimension of north and dimension of south.   Hayman SY 7 p.76

Five -- he sealed above ... Nine -- he sealed the south, and he turned to the right and sealed it. Ten -- he sealed the north, and he turned to his left and sealed it. Hayman SY 15 p.90
which just happens to occupy the site of our previous anomaly. The ninth and tenth sephirot, right and left, south and north, are reversed, just as the contrary qualities for the double letters corresponding to the fifth and sixth extremities and Venus and Mercury are reversed. Here we see a collision of the "Sepherotic" and "Alphabetic" sections of the Sepher Yetsira, where a knowledge of Adam Qadmon's perspective and the reason for the contradiction of the order of the directions, had already been lost.

So the first part of Saadia's SY 37 (beauty, prosperity) refers to an alphabetic system Pay-Raysh/Venus-Mercury in geocentric order, and the second part (prospertity, beauty) to the sepherotic system where Raysh/Mercury is in the South at the ninth sephirot, and Pay/Venus in the North at the tenth.

"Evil" does not seem a natural opposite to "peace" -- Isa 45:7 is probably behind the original choice of words. But note the text of IQIsa(a)! This marginal variant and its incorporation into Ms B(1) as a gloss is an object lesson in how textual variants arise. It ends up in Mss DSFIR completely replacing (Raysh-Ayn).   (Hayman, SY, p.130)
The scribes and fixer-uppers don't understand why Shalom/peace and Raa/evil are opposites. Interestingly, their cognitive dissonance resulted in modifications to Raa rather than Shalom ("war" was a popular improvement). How can peace be the opposite of evil? If our psyches are translating "uncertainty" (Suares' choice for "Raa") as bad.

An understanding of why Ghimel forms Tsedeq with the contrary qualities Shalom-Raa in Qoshet and Daghim leaves no doubt about Raysh-Ayn. Our inner movement (Ghimel) of self (Tsedeq) is uncertain (Raa) in a sign that forces a choice between material and spiritual development (Qoshet) and at peace when the crystallizations of the ego have been dissolved (Daghim). But that would have led the normalizers of Rabbinacal tradition down a very unsettling path.