Perhaps the most fundamental model of Kabbalah is that based upon the four letters of God's essential Name, Havayah. The ten sefirot themselves are indeed but manifestations of the Divine process depicted by these four holy letters.
Though the essence of the Name Havayah is above meaning, etymologically it is derived from the Hebrew root that means "existence," and can be read "He who continuously brings [all reality] into existence." This teaches us that we can conceive of "existence" or "life" in terms of a four-stage unfolding structure.
The transcendent sefirah of keter is alluded to by the upper tip of the first letter of the Name, the yud. The yud, a "formed point," corresponds to the seminal sefirah of chochmah; the first hei to the expansive comprehension of the sefirah of binah. The vav (whose numerical value is six) corresponds to the six emotive attributes from chesed to yesod. The final hei corresponds to the domain of the sefirah of malchut.
The Three Basic Models
The word "Kabbalah" derives from the Hebrew root whose original meaning in the Bible is "to parallel." Kabbalah analyzes all of reality in "parallel" to basic models or frames of reference.
Above, we have discussed the two most basic models, that consisting of ten levels or developmental stages, the ten sefirot, and the even more fundamental frame of reference, the "seal of all creation," the four letters of God’s essential Name. We have also seen how this second model encapsulates the first model as well.
There is yet a third basic model or frame of reference in the Torah–the twenty two letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Relatively, the ten sefirot are referred to as "lights" and the twenty two letters as "vessels." Together, the ten sefirot and twenty two letters become the "thirty two pathways of wisdom" through which God created the world.
The twenty two letters subdivide into three categories of 3, 7, and 12. As with regard to the sefirot (and in a certain sense, even more so, for the letters are vessels while the sefirot are lights), the letters correspond to individual limbs and organs of the body.
The three "mother" letters—alef, mem, and shin—correspond to the three primal "elements" of creation—air, water, and fire—and the three general divisions of the body: chest (air), abdomen (water), and head (fire), respectively.
|Letter||Element of creation||Part of body|
The seven "double" letters–beit, gimel, dalet, kaf, pei, reish, tav–correspond in the body to the seven "gateways" of the head (each one serves as a gateway for the senses of sight, hearing, smell, and taste, the sensation of external reality, to enter the consciousness of the soul). Each gateway, when sanctified, serves as a portal through which to receive a Divine gift or blessing:
|Letter||Gift||Gateway of head|
The twelve "simple" letters–hei, vav, zayin, chet, tet, yud, lamed, nun, samech, ayin, tzadik, kuf–correspond to twelve basic limbs and organs of the body. Each of these "controls" (often in a most mysterious way, for no overt relationship is apparent) a spiritual sense or talent of the soul (the particular talents of each one of the twelve tribes of Israel):
|hei||ה||speech, expression||right leg|
|vav||ו||thought, contemplation||right kidney|
|zayin||ז||walking, progress||left leg|
|chet||ח||sight, perception||right hand|
|tet||ט||hearing, understanding||left kidney|
|yud||י||action, rectification||left hand|
|lamed||ל||touching, sexuality||gall bladder|
|samech||ס||sleep, dreaming||lower stomach|
|tzadik||צ||eating, taste||higher stomach|