Now let's attempt to delve into “Sepher Yetzirah” and try to understand the meaning of certain passages with help of the comments.
“Twenty-two foundation letters: three Mothers, seven Doubles, and twelve Elementals.” (2:1)
עשרים ושתים אותיות יסוד שלש אמות ושבע כפולות ושתים עשרה פשוטות
“Three Mothers, אמ"ש: A great, mystical, concealed secret, sealed with six rings. And from it emanate Air (Avir), Fire (Esh), and Water (Mayim), separating themselves as Male (Zahar) and Female (Nekeva).” (3:2)
שלש אמות אמ"ש סוד גדול מופלא ומכוסה וחתום בשש טבעות וממנו יוצאים אויר מים ואש מתחלקים זכר ונקבה
“Three Mothers, אמ"ש, are their foundation, and from them are born the Fathers, from which everything was created.” (3:2)
שלש אמות אמ"ש יסודן ומהן נולדו אבות שמהם נברא הכל
“Three Mothers, אמ"ש, in the universe are Air, Water, and Fire. Heaven was created from Fire, Earth was created from Water, and the Air was created from Ruah (lit.: ‘spirit’, ‘wind’), which decides between them.” (3:3)
שלש אמות אמ"ש בעולם אויר מים אש שמים נבראו תחילה מאש ארץ נבראת ממים ואויר מרוח מכריע בינתים
“Three Mothers, אמ"ש, in the year are Fire, Water, and Ruah. The Hot is created from Fire, the Cold is created from Water, and the Saturation (‘revaya’, רויה) from Ruah, which decides between them.” (3:4)
שלש אמות אמ"ש בשנה אש ומים ורוח חום נברא מאש קור ממים ורויה מרוח מכריע בינתים
“Three Mothers, אמ"ש, in the human (in Hebrew ‘nefesh’, lit.: ‘soul’, more exactly, ‘vital breath’) are Fire, Water, and Ruah. The Head is created from Fire, the Belly is created from Water, and the Chest (‘gviya’; lit.: ‘body’, ‘torso’) is created from Ruah, which decides between them.” (3:5)
שלש אמות אמ"ש בנפש אש ומים ורוח ראש נברא מאש ובטן נברא ממים וגויה נברא מרוח מכריע בינתים
“He made א king over Ruah, bound a crown to it, and combined one with another (i.e. the letters). And with them sealed Air in the universe, the Saturation in the year, and the Chest in the human; the male with אמ"ש, and the female with אש"ם.” (3:7)
המליך אות אל"ף ברוח וקשר לו כתר וצרפן זה עם זה וחתם בהם אויר בעולם ורויה בשנה וגויה בנפש זכר באמ"ש ונקבה באש"ם
Now let's turn to the comments. “Nefesh HaChaim” book of rabbi Chaim of Volozhin contains a section made by Maharitz, speaking a lot about אמ"ש. Before considering this subject, Maharitz resolves the contradiction between “Sepher Yetzirah,” which uses the model of three main elements (Fire, Water and Air), and the Book of Zohar, speaking about the four elements. “The Holy One, Blessed be He, when created the world, has created man exactly like Himself and gave him His structure, etc. Rabbi Shimon said, ‘“Come and See: Four are beginnings of the foundations of faith, and they are the fathers of all the worlds, and the mystery of the High Holy Chariot, and those are: Fire, Air (Ruah), Water, Earth (Afar, meaning ‘ashes’). They are the highest secret and they are fathers of all the worlds’” (Zohar, Va'era, 23b).
The contradiction is resolved with another quotation from the Zohar. “Come and see: Fire, Air, Water and Earth are the beginnings and roots from above, upon which the the lower world and the higher world stand... Earth is cold and dry, and thus it accepts all them, and all carry their function in it, and it takes from all of them to bring forth from by their power” (ibid., 24a).
Maharitz writes further. “And this, as said above, the major force that operates in the universe and within man are the three elements: Fire, Air and Water. And by means of Earth element, the operation of these three elements appears in the universe. And also in man, the operation of these three elements appears in the body, whose base is of the Earth.&rdquo
Maharitz often uses the word “forces” while describing the work of אמ"ש. Furthermore, he uses the אמ"ש model for the two directions: vertical and horizontal. He means the following under the vertical direction. Using the classical Kabbalistic model of Nefesh, Ruah, Neshama (and Yechida), Maharitz says that the bottom-up movement is classified as Fire category and the top-down one as Water category. In fact, the Complex approach of King David is described here in other words. While examining the horizontal direction, Maharitz notes that the אמ"ש model operates at every level, that is Nefesh, Ruah, Neshama.
The next important key to understanding “Sepher Yetzirah” is the comment “Kol Yehuda” to the fourth chapter of “Kuzari.” The author of the comment writes that מ should be replaced with י in אמ"ש , and מ with ה in אש"ם. The result is איש (“ish,” man) and אשה (“isha,” woman). I understand that the sense of this commentary is not clear to all, and, therefore, I'll focus on it in more detail.