“By means of thirty-two wondrous paths of wisdom Yah YHWH of armies, God of Israel, the Living God, Almighty, high and exalted, dwelling for ever, and Holy is His Name (Isaiah 57:15), carved out. He created His world with three סֶפָרִים (sefarim), ciphers: with בְסֶפֶר וּסְפַר וְסִיפּור (ve-sefer u-sefar ve-sippur), with book, and census, and recounting” (Sefer Yetsirah §1).
“What are these thirty-two?… A parable: a king residing within the innermost chambers, thirty-two in all, each with its own path. Now, is it fitting for this king that everyone enter his chambers by his paths? Certainly not! But is it fitting for him not to display his pearls, his brocades, his hidden treasures, and his precious objects? Certainly not! What did he do? He designated [lit., נֶגַע (nega), touched] the daughter and included all the paths in her and in her garments. Whoever wishes to enter, let him gaze here!” (Bahir §63).
“What is the reason that we place blue wool in the tsitsit? And why are there thirty-two [tassels, fringes]? A parable: To what can this be compared? To a king who had a lovely garden, and in it were thirty-two paths. He placed a guard over them to make known that all these paths belong to him alone. He said to him, ‘Guard them and traverse them each day, and at any time that you tread through them peace will be upon you.’ What did the guard do? He appointed other guards over them. He said, If I remain alone on these paths, it is impossible for me, a single guard, to maintain them all. And furthermore, the world may say ‘He is king.’ This is why there are other guards guarding all the paths. These are the thirty-two paths.
What is the reason for the blue? The guard said, ‘Perhaps those other guards will say that the garden belongs to us.’ He therefore gave them a sign, and told them, ‘And look this is the king’s sign, making it known that the garden belongs to him. He is the one who made these paths, and they are not mine. This is his seal.’
A parable: A king and his daughter had servants, and they wanted to travel abroad. But [the servants] were afraid, being in terror of the king. He therefore gave them his sign. They were also afraid of the daughter, and she [too] gave them a sign. They said, ‘From now on, with these two signs YHWH guards you from all harm, He guards your life (Psalms 121:7)” (Bahir §92–§93).
“What is the earth from which the heavens were hewn? It is the Throne of the blessed Holy One. It is the אֶבֶן יְקָרָה (even yeqarah), precious Stone, and the sea of Wisdom, corresponding to the blue in the tsitsit. Rabbi Me’ir thus said: Why is blue chosen above all other colours? [‘Whoever fulfills the mitsvah of tsitsit is as though he greeted the face of Shekhinah,] for the blue resembles the sea, and the sea resembles the sky, and the sky resembles the Throne of Glory’ (Sifrei, Numbers 115) [cf. BT Menaḥot 43b: ‘(Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai taught:) Whoever is diligent with this mitsvah merits receiving the face of Shekhinah‘]. Therefore it is written And they saw the God of Israel, and beneath His feet was like a fashioning of סַפִּיר (sappir), [blue] sapphire, pavement and like the very heavens for pureness (Exodus 24:10). It is furthermore written [And above the firmament that was over their heads was] the likeness of a throne, as the appearance of אֶבֶן סַפִּיר (even sappir), a (blue) sapphire stone: [and upon the likeness of the throne was the likeness as the appearance of a man above upon it] (Ezekiel 1:26)” (Bahir §96).
“Ḥokhmah—expanding in thirty-two directions and issuing from the Concealed Brain, from the radiance within. That which the Holy Ancient One shines into Ḥokhmah is the beginning of what is revealed. It becomes three heads, with one head encompassing them. These three expand in Ze’eir Anpin, and from these all shine” (Zohar 3:289b, Idra Zuta).
“חוּטִי הַשֶׂכֶל (Ḥuti ha-sekhel), threads of the mind [i.e., tsitsit], expand from the blessed Holy One, each one emanating to watch over Israel” (Berit Menuḥa: Sixth Way, Way of the Intellect, cf. BT Menaḥot 43b).
“And what is ן (nun) [in אֹזֶן (ozen), ear]? To teach you that the brain is the root of the חוּט הַשִׁדרָה (ḥut ha-shidrah), spinal cord, and from there it draws constantly. If not for the spinal cord, the brain would not exist, for the entire trunk is for the sake of the brain, and if the entire trunk were not to exist, the brain would not exist. The spinal cord is the channel from the brain to the entire body, and this is the bent נ (nun). But this ן (nun) [in אֹזֶן (ozen), ear] is elongated! The elongated ן (nun) always comes at the end of a word to teach you that the elongated ן (nun) comprises the bent and the elongated, but the bent is the foundation. This teaches you that the elongated ן (nun) comprises male and female” (Bahir §83).
“Seventh is east to עוֹלָם (olam), eternity, whence comes the seed of Israel. For the spinal cord draws from the brain of man and reaches to the אַמָּה (ammah), cubit [i.e., phallus], whence comes seed, as is written, מִמִּזְרָח אָבִיא זַרְעֶךָ (mimizraḥ avia zarekha), From the east I will bring your seed (Isaiah 43:5) [מִזְרָח (mizraḥ), ‘east,’ shares a root with לִזרוֹחַ (lizroaḥ), ‘to shine,’ and sounds like זַרְעֶךָ (zarekha), your seed. Cf. Bahir §73, §155, §159 ad loc.; BT Bava Batra 25a: ‘Rabbi Abbahu said, Shekhinah (receives) in the west’]. When Israel is good before the Omnipresent, I will bring your seed and you will have new seed. But when Israel is bad, the seed is from that which has already come into the world, as is written, A generation goes and a generation comes (Ecclesiastes 1:4), teaching us that it has come already” (Bahir §155).
“Wisdoms cry aloud outside, in the squares she lifts her voice (Proverbs 1:20)? This verse is difficult: first it is written Wisdoms cry aloud outside, and then, in the squares she lifts her voice—its beginning does not match the end, nor its end the beginning! However, Wisdoms cry out in the the streets—when it flows from the concealed brain of Arikh Anpin to the brain of Ze’eir Anpin through those strands, it is as if two brains join outside, becoming one brain. And when there is flow from one to the other, it is written she lifts her voice—in the singular.
Because of the flow from brain to brain through those strands, they are not coarse. Why? Because if they were coarse, nothing could flow through them to the brain. Thus, no wisdom emerges from a person who is coarse and angry, as is written: Words of the wise said gently are heard (Ecclesiastes 9:17). From here we learn that if the hair on a person’s head is coarse, wisdom does not settle within him [see BT Pesaḥim 66b: ‘Regarding any person who becomes angry, if he is a sage, his wisdom departs from him; if he is a prophet, his prophecy departs from him’].
Consequently, they are long, to bring benefit to all. What is meant by ‘all’? To enter חוּטָא דְּשִׁדְרָה (ḥuta de-shidrah), the spinal cord, which drinks from the brain. Therefore the hair of the head does not overhang the hair of the beard; for the hair of the head hangs and rises over the ears, behind, not overhanging the beard, because one must not mingle with the other, since each branches out on its own path” (Zohar 3:131b, Idra Rabba).