Planets and the Sefirot


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Planets and the Sefirot

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Mar 29, 2007, 6:49am

Assigning planets to the sefirot is quite popular, and one might even argue necessary, in both Christian and post-Christian Kabbalah; and we can see examples of this going back to the Renaissance (Pico, Agrippa, etc.). As far as I know this does not appear to happen until about the 18th century in Jewish Kabbalah, and then apparently largely in Eastern Europe (and I'll admit, I'm not a huge fan of post-18th century European Kabbalah; I am finding that the Enlightenment did strange things to mystical and occult thought, but that's a different post else entirely).

Now, yes, in the Zohar there are some planetary allegories, with Tiferet and Yesod being simultaneously associated with the sun and Malkhut being associated with the moon. Beyond that, though, I'm not familiar with any such associations, and certainly not with correspondences such as will eventually be found in, for instance, the writings of the Gra.

Personally, I don't see the need or logic making such associations, even for practical Kabbalah. I am curious, though, as to what others think about this and its headway into Jewish Kabbalistic thought.

Apr 1, 2007, 2:11pm

It is very strange that you post this now as I've just begun studying the Gra, and for this very reason. On p. 184 of Kaplan's Sefer Yetzirah, we see that he prefers the Gra's version of the SY text, which adheres to the order of planets found in the Zohar, and he says that the following correspondences are found in the Zohar (unfortunately, in a section that I don't think has been translated by anyone: Tikuney Zohar 128b.

Moon - Khesed
Mars - Gevurah
Sun - Tiferet
Saturn - Yesod
Jupiter - Malkhut
Venus - Netzakh
Mercury - Hod

Kaplan also notes that this can be found in Kisei Melekh ("Throne of the King") 58a, a work with which I have no familiarity and which is unlikely to be available in translation.

I've also become intrigued by "planets" named after the forms of Ezekiel's khayyot/kheruvim: the lion, eagle, ox and human. Here is a section from the Zohar that describes such a division:

"For every man who is compounded of the four elements is accompanied by four angels on his right hand and four on his left, those already named; and from the side of his body Metatron presses close to him at the right and Samael at the left. Now all men are formed of the four elements, but on the order in which these elements are found---that is, the order of the planets with which each man is connected---depends the order of the angels who accompany him, and also the potential characteristics of the man. Thus, if his ruling planet be the Lion, Michael will lead, and be followed by Gabriel, and after him Raphael, and lastly Nuriel. If, however, his planet is the Ox, first comes Gabriel, then Michael, then Nuriel, then Raphael. If the Eagle be the planet by which he is influenced, Nuriel will be first, then Michael, followed first by Gabriel and then by Raphael. And should his planet be Man, then will Raphael lead, with Michael, Gabriel and Nuriel coming after in the order named. Now all aspects of Michael are of the attribute of mercy. A man whose leading angel is Michael will be benevolent, he will be pious and wise ; but all this applies only if he is a student of the Torah, for if he is not so he will be the very reverse of all this, since he will be formed after the evil inclination; he will be stupid and unfeeling, without benevolence or worth---for no ignorant man can be truly pious. Should a man be from the side of Gabriel, his attributes will all partake chiefly of the quality of justice: he will stand up courageously against the wicked; he will prevail over his own evil inclinations, will abhor sin and cleave unto all things righteous, and he will become a judge by profession; but again, all this will only come to pass if he study the Torah with diligence and attain proficiency; should he neglect this, he will be as strong in iniquity as otherwise in holiness; he will rejoice in the tribulations of the righteous; he will be hard in his condemnations, bold in evildoing, with no fear of sin; he will have a red face, and will be of the type of Esau---a blood-shedder. He whose planet is the Eagle possesses neither the attribute of mercy nor that of justice in a marked degree, but is either moderately good or moderately bad, as his good or evil inclination obtains influence over him, as his countenance reveals, red and white being blended therein. He who is under the guidance of the planet Man combines in himself---in so far as he derives his characteristics from the good side---all the good qualities: he is wise and pious, strong in intellectual apprehension, sin-fearing, full of excellent virtues; and the colour of his countenance is dark. But if he is governed by the principle of evil, he will be full of bad qualities." (Shemot, Raya Mehemna 42a)

Unfortunately, I have no idea how to go from the Zodiac's 12 to these four. Is it a seasonal thing?

Apr 1, 2007, 4:59pm

Ah, this passage (actually, there are a few of these that say similar thing. What translation are you using here, btw?). This one will mess you up if you are familiar with traditional Western astrology and the "Kerubic" or "Fixed" signs. The big problem is that elemental associations that are used in astrology for these signs don't work with the above descriptions.

What you have is the following:

Aryeh = Water
Shor = Fire
Nesher = Air
Adam = Earth

This seems to be associated with an alternative form of Havayah (or the Tetragrammaton if you prefer the Greek title) and seems to have to do with the creation of humanity and the soul/psyche rather than the more usual form of Havayah that has to do with the creation of the universe.

In the "regular" form of the Name, you have

Yod = Chokmah (yes, yes, tip of the Yod to Keter of course)
Heh = Binah
Vav = Tiferet
Heh sofit = Malkhut

But in the above form (which I tend to call the "inner Havayah" as it deals with the soul and psyche), you have:

Yod = Chesed (presumably with the tip in Da'at*)
Heh = Gevurah
Vav = Tiferet
Heh sofit = Malkhut

Ultimately, I think this means that the above passage from the Zohar has nothing explicitly to do with astrology, despite the use of the word "planet" (which may be an odd translational choice, any footnotes about why that term was used in translation?) but instead with the overall spiritual make up of a person. We could, though, extrapolate further and look at the correlation of the twelve tribes to the four sides of the tabernacle and their astrological associations. Each Kerub would then be associated with three tribes and thus three zodical signs. Even if this holds true, though, I think it is, at best, secondary to the purpose of the passage.

* there are two traditional ways of counting the sefirot (ok, there are three actually, but one has to do with what order they are numbered in, the other two, which I am concerned with here, have to do with which sefirot are actually counted). If I recall correctly the Ramak, I believe, used the way most of us are familiar with; he always counted Keter and always excluded Da'at from the list. The Ari Zaal (who was a student of the Ramak I think, at least for a short period of time), though, tended to not count Keter, which he saw as being Ayin and thus completely different from the other sefirot, and instead counted Da'at.

The "outer" and "inner" modes of Havayah, to me at least, incorporates both (and predate both) systems and have, I think, some important ramifications.

Edited: Apr 29, 2013, 6:34pm

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