Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Mystical Prayerbook III: The Kabbalah of Ana B'khoach

Having looked at prayers of Jewish liturgy composed by German Pietists and Hekhalot ecstatics, we now turn to a prayer composed by a medieval kabbalist, Ana B'khoach. Supposedly the composition of a 2nd Century sage, R. Nechunyiah, it is more likely a 13th-14th Century work. Again, there are signal elements that mark all mystical thought - the idea of esoteric knowledge (God is called Yodeia taalumot, "Knower of secrets"),

[An amulet with the 42 letter name of God around the border]

mathematical symmetry (seven lines of six Hebrew words each), but most of all here, an allusion to secret divine names: 6 x 7 +42 -- not referring to the answer to the universe without a question, ala Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, mind you, but to the 42 letter name of God that can be constructed from the opening verses of Genesis and is the key to creation. This poem is an acrostic, but not of the alef-bet as the earlier mystical poems were. This is an acrostic formed from those 42 letters of God's name. So this is a prime example of Kabbalistic name mysticism:

By the the great strength or Your right hand [1], release the bound [2].
Accept your people's song, elevate and purify us, oh awesome one.
Mighty one, those who foster your Unification [3], guard them as the pupil of an eye [4].
Bless them, purify them, pity them, may your righteousness always reward them.
Powerful and Holy One, in goodness lead your congregation.
Unique exalted one, turn to your people who remember your holiness.
Accept our pleas, and hear our cries, oh knower of secrets.
Blessed is the name of His noble kingdom forever and ever [5].

Ultimately, the semantic meaning of this prayer is secondary to the talimanic performance of the concealed/revealed name, invoking its power to heal the fractures in creation and restore life to its fullness at every level by simply reciting it.

Zal G'mor: To learn more, consult the Encyclopedia of Jewish Myth, Magic, and Mysticism - http://www.amazon.com/Encyclopedia-Jewish-Myth-Magic-Mysticism/dp/0738709050

[1] God's "right hand" is an emblem of salvation. See another poem of God's power and revelation (Ex. 15:6)

[2] The term ts'rurah has multiple connotations, both negative [bound in exile, bound by material existence] but also positive [Jews pray that the newly deceased be "bound up in the bonds of eternal life"]. Given these connotations, this could be understood as a plead on a personal, national, and metaphysical level simultaneously.

[3] While God may be "One" at the level of Ein Sof (beyond positive existence), here in Asiyah, the world of action, God is in need of those whose deeds will bring together the masculine (The Blessed Holy One) and feminine (Shekhinah) aspects of the godhead and end its fragmentation here on earth (This notion actually has a Biblical basis - see Zech. 14:9).

[4] The "apple" (KJV) or "pupil" of the eye is both a metaphor of protectiveness and of mystical [in]sight (look to guard those who desire to truly gaze upon the mysteries of the King in His beauty)

[5] This line is normally a congregational response to God's name being invoked. Here it is offered in response to the concealed/revealed 42-letter name.


Blogger Sara said...

Did you hear that new version that was on the radio a few years ago - with all these sort of famous folk singers - Ehud Bannai and the like? I think the project was called Minyan Kolot...

10:50 AM  

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