In the Wikipedia page for the Sefer Yetzirah I found this:

along with ten calibrations of empty space, twenty-two letters [of the Hebrew alphabet], [of which] three are principal [letters] (i.e. א מ ש‎), seven are double-sounding [consonants] (i.e. בג"ד כפר"ת‎) and twelve are ordinary [letters] (i.e. ה ו ז ח ט י ל נ ס ע צ ק‎).[3]

My question is more about what is the correct way to define this classification of 3 types of letters?

Can I refer to this just as Classification of letters, Type of letters, or Group of Letters when I want to refer to them?

For example, what of these 3 examples is correct?

  1. The classification of ת is double.
  2. The type of ת is double.
  3. The group of ת is double.

Or maybe there is another way to make this reference?


1 Answer 1


Looking at the poorly translated link you provided from Wikipedia shows where your confusion is coming from.

In the opening chapter of Sefer Yetzirah, the Hebrew alphabet is conceptualized as falling into three general categories of meaning. They are referred to as Counting, Writing and Speaking.

What this means is that proper and complete comprehension of Hebrew as found in the Holy writings encompasses the numerical meaning of the letters (The Hebrew letters have numerical meaning. Numerical and mathematical transformations of all types give additional meaning and understanding to any text.).

Additionally, the form of the letters themselves, meaning how they are formed both when they are engraved like in the Tablets of the 10 Commandments and when they are written with ink and pen convey additional levels of understanding in terms of any text. This also relates to the traditions of large and small letters, reversed letters and other types of transformations pertaining to the form and shape of the letters and also the number and types of crowns found on different letters.

And the third category is how the letters are pronounced and spoken. This encompasses both variations where the letters are written one way and the reading or pronunciation of the text is different and also in regard to what part of the mouth and throat the pronunciation of those letters originates from. Those which originate from the same part of the mouth are interchangeable. It also relates to the whole subject of Nekudot, which can be thought of as the vowels in Hebrew and Ta'amim, also known as Trope, which can be conceived of as a type of punctuation marks. But they also have a much deeper meaning relating to the flow of a given text. This too is a very large field of study unto itself. Also included in this division is the general subject of grammar, verbs and nouns as it relates to Hebrew.

What follows in the translation of the Wikipedia link explains how these three categories of Counting, Writing and Speaking also correspond to the three divisions of the letters themselves, the 3 Imahot, the 7 Doubling Letters and the 12 Plain letters. And the rest of Sefer Yetzirah goes into further explanation of all these arrangements and how they are the basis and model for the existence and structure of all of Creation.

  • Could you explain the last part? What is the role of the "Imahot", and why those three letters? How do they differ from the other 19?
    – MichoelR
    Commented Feb 23, 2021 at 22:19
  • @MichoelR Based on the question being asked, it’s not really relevant. But to give you an insight, one of the underlying arrangements set up within the inner aspect of Torah is called the 3 pillars or columns. They are the qualities of kindness, severity & equity. Think in the context of the 3 pillars mentioned in Rosh HaShanah prayers (Torah, Tefillah & Tzedakah). All that evolves from these 3 letters (א,מ,ש). Similarly the 3 people preceding Avraham (אדם,מתושלח,שם) & the 3 primary Angels corresponding to this system (שמעו״אל, יהו״אל היינו אליהו, מטטר״ון). For details see Brit Menucha. Commented Feb 24, 2021 at 1:57
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    @AdrianCidAlmaguer If I understand you, then yes, the 3 "categories of meaning" which all derive from the root in Hebrew ספר, can be described in English as a group. But this implies separate parts which is a problem. One of the unspoken details here is that ספ״ר is also שם (name). That all the letters of the Hebrew Alphabet are conceived of as G-d's name. G-d and His name are absolute one. All these models or systems are only introducing the concept of "otherness" or "non-oneness" into existence for His creations. Like I said, they are the basis of existence and structure of all Creation. Commented Feb 24, 2021 at 19:52
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    @AdrianCidAlmaguer The 3 groups of letters parallel the paradigm established in regard to the 3 "categories of meaning". But it is important to keep in mind that each successive step introduces greater and greater diversity for Hs creations. Commented Feb 24, 2021 at 19:56
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    @MichoelR This is said more tongue-in-cheek and only in regard to what you asked regarding your wanting some distinction in terms of the pronunciation of the Imahot. How do you pronounce the letter "Aleph" (א)? Shin (ש) and Mem (מ) work with your idea. Purim same'ach my friend. Commented Feb 24, 2021 at 20:06

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