Wednesday, June 06, 2007

The Havdalah of Rabbi Akiba, pg. 2: Angelic Names, Occult Powers

The second page of Havdalah de Rabbi Akiva continues the ritual begun on page 1. Having recited Ps. 29 and a brief adjuration against the forces of woe and evil (verbs of release, like patach, heiteir, and shalach, are staple theurgic language in these formulae), the text goes on to

[The power of oppression is broken with the power of the Word - Maxim Gorki's personal bookplate by E. M. Lilien]

give a complete recitation of Ps. 91 [See my earlier entry on exorcisms of evil spirits], only here the psalm is fortified by the insertion of a angelic or divine name of power at the end of each stich.

We have already discussed how divine names are seen as possessing creative/constructive potential. In Ps. 104:7, it appears God's word is also able to "rebuke" ungodly forces. Analogously, angelic names, especially of angels associated with protection and deliverance, have protective powers, in part because their names include a divine name (Ex. 23:20). In our texts, there are a lot of XXX-el names (the printed text breaks up the name with a diacritical mark). According to Hekhalot Rabbati (See Schafer, The Hidden and Manifest God, 49-53), Just knowing the names of angels - many of these names are unfamiliar and obscure, and therefore presumably more powerful - grants one access to their power (See also Janowitz, Poetics of Ascent, pp. 25-28; 51). So the translation continues:

[Then] ‘Untie the fetters of wickedness, loosen the binds of tyranny;
send away liberty crushers[1] and all oppression

(Page 2)

(15) be cut off. He is as a groom going out from his huppah, he rejoices as a hero runs [to greet] a guest;[2] a groom goes forth from his chamber and a bride from her huppah.[3]
And the delight of the Eternal our God is upon us. The work of our hands, it is established upon us; the work our hands, it is directed [to] Him.
O You[4] who dwells in the secret place of Elyon- Bea’v - who abides in the shadow of Shaddai, - Tzevao’t - I say to the Eternal, my refuge and stronghold, - Michae’l - my God in whom I trust, - Gavrie’l - that He will save you from the fowler’s trap, - Maltie’l - from the destructive plague - YHV’H -.
(20) He will cover you with his pinions; - Ameie’l - you will find shelter under His wings -Amnie’l-. God's faithfulness is a protecting shield - Amtie’l -. You shall not fear the terror of the night - Nitnae’l -[5] nor the arrow that flies by day - A’nae’l -.[6] Nor the pestilence that roams in darkness - Y’hie’l - , nor the plague that ravages at noon - Surie’l -.[7] Though a thousand fall at your side - ? -, ten thousand at your right hand -Tzurie’l-[8], but near you it shall not come -Samae’l-.[9] You will see with your eyes -Gadie’l-; the punishment of the wicked you will see -Azae’l-. You have the Eternal for
(25) my refuge -YHV’H Tzevao’t-; you have made Elyon your stronghold -Y’rav’a’ta’h-. No evil shall befall you -Tzadie’l-, no disease come near your tent - Azkie’l Chazkie’l-. For God commands His angels -Shomrie’l- to guard you in all your ways -Shalhie’l Sartie’l-. In their hands they shall bear you -Malach’ei ha-Shar’t-, lest you strike your foot against a stone -Adonie’l-.[10] You shall tread upon asp and viper -Adrie’l-, trample lion and dragon -Malkie’l-. Whoever clings to me I will deliver him (30)-Avaro’t-[11]; whoever knows my name I will set on high -Ch’ai Ach’t’rie’l-. He who calls upon me I will answer -Y’H Sat’y’va’h-; I will be with him in distress -Metatro’n-; I will deliver him and give him honor -Rachu’m Zeev’tae’l Z’vurie’l-. With length of days I will satisfy him - Chanu’n Rua’ch Piskoni’t-[12] and show him my saving power -B’rachami’m-.[13]

Continue on to pg. 3 - Habdalah of Rabbi Akiba, page 3

[1] Yeah, I know, that’s hardly a felicitous translation. I am open to any more elegant phrasing of v’sh’lach r’tzutzim chofshim.
[2] This is most likely an oblique reference to Abraham (Gen. 18), who rushes out to greet wayfarers who eventually reveal themselves to be angelic messengers. Since the purpose of the Havdalah appears, in part, to be the summoning of angels, this invocation of Abraham’s example serves to remind the heavenly powers that the children of Abraham may expect such visitations on the strength of his merit.
[3] The function of this elaboration on the earlier line is unclear. It may simply be meant as a poetic parallelism (incantations, like poetry, are forms of ‘heightened speech’ and often employ the same techniques). The wedding motif is an allusion to Sinai, where according to the Midrash, angelic forces also were drawn down among the people to help them.
[4] Here begins a recitation of Ps. 91, the classic anti-demonic psalm of Jewish tradition. The unmodified Biblical text already has a lively array of divine titles – Elyon, Shaddai, Elohai, and the Tetragrammaton – but is here further fortified with the frequent, patterned insertion of divine and angelic names.
[5] This name appears in an amulet (Naveh and Shaked, 1993, p. 93).
[6] This name appears in an amulet (Naveh and Shaked, 1998, p. 50)
[7] An ‘angel of the Countenance,’ (T.B. Ber. 51a) He also appears in amulets (Schiffman and Swartz, p. 153)
[8] This name appears in amulets (Ibid., p. 50 and Schiffman and Swartz, p. 123)
[9] T.B. Sukkah 10b
[10] This name appears in an amulet (Schiffman and Swartz, p. 93)
[11] This name appears in an amulet (Naveh and Shaked, 1993, p. 73)
[12]This appears to be a feminine version of ‘Piskon,’ an angelic spirit who defends Israel (See T.B. Sanh. 44b)
[13] Some of these angelic names are familiar to exoteric tradition (Michael, Gabriel, Metatron), others obscure (Y’rav’a’ta’h). A few are hypostatic entities (Chanun - ‘Graciousness, the spirit of Decision’), while others are regarded as ‘severe,’ ‘destructive’ angels or even as demons in other sources (Azael).


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