Great wisdom is hidden from many. Sefer Yetzirah is the title of the earliest extant book on Jewish mysticism, although some early commentators treated it as a treatise on mathematical and linguistic theory as opposed to Kabbalah. Yetzirah is more literally translated as “Formation”; the word Briah is used for “Creation”. The book is traditionally ascribed to the patriarch Abraham, although others attribute its writing to Rabbi Akiva. Modern scholars have not reached a consensus on the question of its origins.
According to Rabbi Saadia Gaon, the objective of the book’s author was to convey in writing how the things of our universe came into existence. Conversely, Judah Halevi asserts that the book’s main objective, with its various examples, is to give man how he can understand the unity and omnipotence of God, which are multiform on one side and, yet, uniform on the other.
The book explores the dynamics of the spiritual domain, the worlds of the sefirot, souls, and angels. Rabbi Kaplan explains that when properly understood, the Sefer Yetzirah becomes an instruction manual for a special type of meditation meant to strengthen concentration and aid in developing telekinetic and telepathic powers.
Through the use of various signs, incantations, and divine names, initiates could also influence or alter natural events. This translation includes the meditation in five dimensions, the transition from Binah to chakhmah consciousness, the point of infinity, kabbalistic astrology, Ezekiel’s vision according to the Sefer Yetzirah, and the mystery of the 231 gates. Also included is a digest of all major commentaries on the text of the Sefer Yetzirah and a bibliography of many of the major kabbalistic works that discuss it, as well as extensive notes regarding the various aspects of the translation. Rabbi Kaplan’s translation is based on the Gra version of the text, which is thought to be the most authentic.