The Sefirot (singular Sefirah) are the ten emanations and attributes of God with which He continually substains the universe in existence. The word “sefirah” literally means “counting”, but early Kabbalists presented a number of other etymological possibilities including: sefer (book), sippur (story), sappir (sapphire, brilliance, luminary), separ (boundary), and safra (scribe). The term sefirah thus has complex connotations within Kabbalah. The central metaphor of Man’s soul is used to describe the Sephirot. This incorporates masculine and feminine aspects, after Genesis 1:27 (“God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him, male and female He created them”). Corresponding to the last Sephirah in Creation is the indwelling Shechina (Feminine Divine Presence). In the Sephirot, performance of Mitzvot (traditional Jewish observances) unites the masculine and feminine aspects of supernal Divinity, and brings harmony to Creation. The description of Divine manifestation through the 10 Sephirot is a defining feature of Medieval Kabbalah, alongside their male and female aspects, and the concept of downward flow of Divine Light through the chain of Creation. The Sephirot correspond to the Four Worlds of this spiritual descent, Atziluth, Beri’ah, Yetzirah and Assiah.
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