Jewish mystical exegesis
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Jewish mystical exegesis is a method of interpreting the Bible based on the assumption that the Torah contains secret knowledge regarding creation and the manifestations of God. The only way to find these secrets is to know how to decode the text and reveal them. The method most likely dates back to the third century.
Focusing on the holiness of the text, Jewish mystics consider every nuance of the text to be a clue in discovering divine secrets, from the entire text to the accents on each letter. Once one can find such knowledge, one can use the text in mystical rituals to affect both the upper worlds (heavens) and the lower world (our world). The name of God is considered one of the greatest sources of power and is assumed to be hidden in various forms throughout the text. Much activity involves rearranging the breaks between words to seek out different names for God as well as other aspects of hidden knowledge.
Sefer Yetzirah (Hebrew, Sēpher Yəṣîrâh "Book of Formation," or "Book of Creation," ספר יצירה) is the title of the earliest extant book on Jewish esotericism. "Yetzirah" is more literally translated as "Formation"; the word "Briah" is used for "Creation".
The Zohar was originally considered to be a revelation from God through R. Simeon ben Yohai, though it was most likely written by Moses de Leon of Spain in the 13th century. The text uses large amounts of gematria to interpret the Torah text. The method of gematria involves numeric values assigned to Hebrew letters, giving every word a value, allowing one to look for patterns in the text based on those numerical values. According to the Zohar, gematria is the highest category of interpretation, called "Sod" which refers to mystical interpretation. There is also the literal, allusion-based and anagogical meanings of the text which are referred to as "Peshat", "Remez" and "Derash" respectively. When the 4th category is added, the acrostic forms the four-fold exegetical method called PaRDeS ("Paradise") which can be achieved once one understands the Torah in all four modes of interpretation.
- In Hebrew, "Yetzirah" can mean either "creation" or "formation," but can also refer to the created or formed object itself. A work of art, for example, is called in Hebrew 'yetzira', as well as the action of creating it. Thus, the name "Sefer Yetzirah" could refer to the act of creating or forming the cosmos, or to the cosmos itself, or both. Since there is a specific Hebrew word for the creation of the cosmos ("briah") it is more likely that the meaning refers to formation, or formed-object, or both.
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