• Marla Segol
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)


At the beginning of this project I set out six goals: first, I aimed to resituate the diagrams in the textual and ritual traditions to which they belong. Second, in so doing I wanted to better grasp the meaning of the Sefer Yetsirah (SY). Third, I wanted to better understand the worldview of its readers. Fourth, I looked at the diagrams to gain insight into the development of kabbalistic cosmology, and fifth, into the application of the text. Sixth, I combined these concerns to look at the larger problem of the relation between religion and magic, and of scholarly treatment of these categories. In this process I found that although the SY admits a wide range of interpretations, the diagrams emphasize a practical function. This is also true of the structure of the work. This contradicts much of the scholarship of the SY, and this is most apparent in scholarly treatments of the letterforms and of the golem. The diagrams also posit a use for this rather difficult text. In the course of this exploration it has become evident that it is this very difficulty that makes the SY so productive for thinking about key issues in religious studies.


Digital Technology Mystical Experience Letter Combination Philosophical Interpretation Hebrew Letter 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Raphael Jospe, “Early Philosophical Commentaries on the Sefer Yezirah: Some Comments,” Revue Etudes Juives 149, no. 4 (1990): 369–415.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    See A. Peter Hayman, “Was God a Magician?” Journal of Jewish Studies, 40, no. 2 (1989): 225–237. He argues that at the end of the text, “Abraham functions like a magician who by his knowledge of the correct formulas can compel the gods to appear and do his bidding” (234). For Hayman, this desire to emulate the divine and actually become capable of exercising influence over God stems from a lack of political power (237).Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Gershom Scholem, On the Kabbalah and Its Symbolism (New Jersey: Schocken Press, 1996), 137.Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    E. D. Bilski, and M. Idel. Golem! Danger, Deliverance and Art (New York: The Jewish Museum, 1988), 32.Google Scholar
  5. 6.
    Howard Schwartz, Tree of Souls (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), 280.Google Scholar
  6. 12.
    Moshe Idel, Golem: Jewish Magical and Mystical Traditions on the Artificial Anthropoid (Albany, SUNY Press: 1990), 273.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Marla Segol 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marla Segol

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations