It is important to know that all worlds [dimensions] and all creatures [that inhabit those dimensions] were created through permutations of the holy names. The supernal root of all [these names] is the name Havayah.

It has 4 letters and 12 permutations, 3 for each letter. Thus, from 4, we obtain 12.

The 12 permutations of the Havaya:













Each of the 12 has [another] 6 [permutations] yielding [a total of] 72 Names. These are the 72 triads that emerge from the three verses, "Va'yisa," "Va'yavo," and "Va'yet." (Ex. 14:19-21)

The three verses are:

1) "Va'yisa…" : "G‑d's Angel [that manifested as a pillar of cloud] - which had been moving in front of the Israelite camp, now traveled and went behind them. The pillar of cloud thus moved from in front of them and stood at their rear." (Ex. 14:19)

2) " Va'yavo…" : " It came between the Egyptian camp and the Israelite camp. There was now cloud and darkness [for the Egyptians] while [the pillar of fire] illuminated the night [for the Israelites]. Neither one approached the other that entire night." (Ex. 14:20)

3) " Va'yet …": "Moses extended his hand over the sea. Throughout the entire night, G‑d drove the sea back with a powerful east wind, transforming the seabed into dry land. The waters were divided." (Ex. 14:21)

These three verses are consecutive and, as written in the Torah Scroll, each one contains exactly 72 letters. They are thus the basis for what is called the Name of 72 (triads). The first triad is formed by taking the first letter of the first verse, the last letter of the second verse, and the first letter of the third verse. This same pattern - straight, backwards, and straight - is followed for the remaining 71 letters in each verse, to form 72 triads.

Corresponding to these, there are four banners [i.e. angelic camps] in the Supernal Merkava [Chariot]. They are: Michael, Gabriel, Raphael and Uriel. Each of these 4 consists of 3, again making a total of 12.

When we multiply each of these 12 by 6, this yields 72. These 72 are the Heavenly Tribunal, which the 70 Angel-Princes of the Nations depend on [to receive their sustenance]. Therefore, on Sukkot [when the Torah commands us to offer 70 oxen, one for each of the 70 nations (Num. 29:12-34; Sukka 55b)], we take the lulav, whose numerical value, together with its four letters [68 + 4] is 72. There are 4 basic directions from which 12 sub-directions emerge…

Rabbi Reuven Margoliot (in his commentary to Bahir #94, note gimel) suggests that the discrepancy between 70 and 72 can be made up in one of two ways. The 70 nations (mentioned in Gen. 10) become 72 when Israel and G‑d are counted. Alternatively, as mentioned in Bahir #167, 70 nations become 72 by adding Israel on one side, and the Satan on the other. Paralleling this, the 70 languages become 72 when Hebrew (the language of Israel) and Aramaic (the language of the forces of evil) are counted. Similarly, there are two ways to add to the 70 Elders to make 72: either Moses and the Shechina are added, or Moses and Aaron (as indeed the Arizal does below in our text).

Corresponding to these [either to the 4 letters of lulav, or to the 4 species that we join together: palm, myrtle, willow and etrog], were the three Patriarchs [Abraham, Isaac and Jacob], plus David. [From them, came] the 12 tribes of Israel, and the 70 souls that accompanied Jacob down into Egypt. Corresponding to these were the 4 banners [camps] in the Desert. Each banner represented 3 tribes. Again, 4 x 3 = 12 tribes.

The 70 Elders together with Moses and Aaron totaled 72. Similarly, the 70 members of the Sanhedrin, plus two scribes, totaled 72. One scribe recorded everything in favor of the defendant, and one scribe recorded everything against.

Corresponding to these, there are 4 basic directions [South, North, East, West] from which 12 sub-directions emerge. Each basic direction has two sub-directions. For instance: All the different types of animals and birds…were brought into existence through the 72 triads…

With due east, there is northerly-east and southerly-east.

With due west, there is northerly-west and southerly-west.

With due north, there is easterly-north and westerly-south.

With due south, there is easterly-south and westerly-south.

And if you should ask: What is the difference between southerly-east and easterly-south? As southerly-east is a sub-direction of East, East dominates. As easterly-south is a sub-direction of South, South dominates. The same is true of all the other sub-directions. There are thus 12 sub-directions, each of which bifurcates into 6, yielding a total of 72.

Corresponding to these, there are 72 types of creatures in the world, and 72 types of vegetation. All the different types of animals and birds also total 72. Why? Because they were brought into existence through the 72 triads.

[Translation and commentary by Avraham Sutton from Likutei Torah, parashat Bereishit (Chumash HaAri, Bereishit, p. 7-9)]