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Is Sefer Yetzirah (the Book of Creation) mentioned in the Talmud?

by Rabbi Yossi Marcus

  

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Yes. The Talmud Sanhedrin 65b reports that the Talmudic sage Rava created a person and sent it to Rabbi Zeira. Rabbi Zeira spoke to it but it did not reply (because it did not have a human soul it was unable to speak). Rabbi Zeira said to it: “You are a creation of one of my colleagues; return to your dust!” Rashi ad loc. explains that Rava used the teachings of Sefer Yetzirah to create this being. (Rabbi Zeira in turn used the same teachings to destroy the man, uttering the same letters as did Rava but in reverse order [Ben Yehoyada].)

The Talmud continues with another tale: Rav Chanina and Rav Oshaya would sit together every eve of the Sabbath and delve into Sefer Yetzirah. A calf would be created for them and they would eat it.

Rashi (ibid 67b) explains that they would form various permutations of the Divine Name with which He created the world and a calf would therefore come into being.

So there you go.

See also Jerusalem Talmud 7:13.


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COMMENTS

confused

Posted by: Anonymous on Jan 10, 2006

I am new to Judaism, sorry. Could you please explain this further?

I have never heard this before... Is this saying that humans actually created animals? I don't understand how that would be possible...

Thanks!

Editor's Comment

If one can tap into the Divine creative energies, then it would possible. It's not humans creating the creature; it is a Divine power being harnessed by a holy person.

...

Posted by: Anonymous on Jan 15, 2006

Is this commonly accepted among scholars?

This type of thing was never mentioned during Moses’ time or in his writings, as far as I know. All of the miracles Moses performed were accredited directly to G-d working through Moses; as in, Moses was his instrument, his servant here on Earth. The way that this article is worded, it seems as though the sages had reached a level that was equal with G-d... that doesn’t seem right to me. We are mere humans, imperfect and only made holy through the mercy and forgiveness of G-d.

The story said that the human that was created didn’t have a soul... what happened? How could G-d’s divine power make a mistake? G-d is perfect and his creations would never be mistakes.

thanks for your time and patience. :)

Editor's Comment

1. These were very rare occurrences. 2. The article specifies that it didn't have a HUMAN soul. 3. The concept of tzaddikim (holy people) performing miracles using the divine powers they can access is a well-known phenomenon, and is often described in the Bible.

RELATED CATEGORIES

Philosophy » Creation

Talmud
Usually referring to the Babylonian edition, it is a compilation of Rabbinic law, commentary and analysis compiled over a 600 year period (200 BCE - 427 CE). Talmudic verse serves as the bedrock of all classic and modern-day Torah-Jewish literature.
Rashi
Acronym for Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki (1040-1105). Legendary French scholar who authored the fundemental and widely accepted "Rashi commentary" on the entire Bible and Talmud.
Sanhedrin
The Jewish Supreme Court. The court would convene in a designated chamber in the Holy Temple, and was comprised of 71 of the greatest scholars of the time. Continued after the destruction of the Temples, but was dissolved in the 5th century when due to Roman persecution the seat of Torah scholarship relocated from Israel to Babylon.
Jerusalem
Established by King David to be the eternal capital of Israel. Both Temples were built there, and the third Temple will be situated there when the Messiah comes.