Ana B’Koach – The Prayer
The Ana B’Koach prayer, as a whole, represents a movement from one state to another. It is made up of seven verses corresponding to the seven days of the week. The initials of each of the seven verses form Divine names. This mystical and lofty prayer is attributed to the first-century sage Rabbi Nechunyah Ben HaKana. It is a prayer that consists of seven passages, each corresponding to the seven emotional sefiros through which the Divine energy sustains and nourishes our universe. This energy itself was created in a seven-day cycle. Ana B’Koach represents the seven sefiros and, for this reason, is recited in prayers wherever there is a symbolic ascent of Divine energy from a lower plane to a higher one, or whenever there is any movement from one reality into the next.
The 42-Letter Name Connected With Creation
Ana B’Koach is also known as the 42 names of Hashem. As there are 42 words in this prayer, the initials of these words create the 42-letter name of Hashem. This Divine name is connected with creation and the first verses in the Torah that speak of creation. The authors of the Tosefos write inChagiga (11b) that this name is connected with the first two verses in the Torah. (See also R. Abulafiah. Chaye Ha’Olam Habba. p. 57) Years later, the Ramak (Pardes Rimonim, P’ratai Sheimos) explained that the 42-letter name corresponds to the first 42 letters of the Torah. He comes to this conclusion through various methods in gematria, such as At-Bash, A’Y’K and others.
The beginning of the Torah is a journey through the creation of time and space, and Ana B’Koach is deeply related to this unfolding process.
Six Letters Subdivided
There are six words in each of the seven lines that correspond to the six surfaces of a cube: up, down, right, left, front, back. These six directions are connected with the verse from the vision of Yechezkel that says, “With two they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet and with two they flew.”
Seven six-letter names are found in each line using the first letter of each of the six words in that line; it is to be scanned and visualized, but never pronounced. As each line corresponds to a specific day of the week, so each six-letter acronym gives us a meditation for that day. The first line/name is about Sunday; the second, Monday; the third, Tuesday.
The 42-Letter Name
This name is related to Moshe and the burning bush. When God first appeared to Moshe, he asked by what name he should use to call the Infinite. God responded, “E’heye Asher E’heye,” which has been translated to “I will be as I will be.”
The numerical value of the name E’heye is 21:
- Aleph = 1
- Hei = 5
- Yud = 10
- Hei = 5
The name E’heye is repeated twice for a total gematria of 42.
The holy name Mab also has this numerical value; this name expresses the Divine as timeless and eternal, forever with His people in their sorrows and tribulations. When recited from the heart, Ana B’Koach evokes this same kind of revelation from on high.
Forty-two is also connected with the 42 letters in the name of Hashem, the Yud-Hei-Vav-Hei.. This name has four letters which, when spelled out, become ten letters. When these ten letters are spelled out, there are 28 letters.
Yud – Hei – Vav – Hei = 4
Yud: Yud – Vav – Dalet + Hei: Hei – Yud + Vav: Vav – Yud – Vav + Hei: Hei – Yud = 10
Spelling the spelled out:
Yud: Yud – Vav – Dalet | Vav: Vav – Yud – Vav | Dalet: Dalet – Lamed – Tof | Hei: Hei – Yud | Yud: Yud – Vav – Dalet | Vav: Vav – Yud – Vav
Yud: Yud – Vav – Dalet | Vav: Vav – Yud – Vav | Hei: Hei – Yud | Yud: Yud – Vav – Dalet = 28
4 + 10 + 28 = 42
The name Mab (Mem + Beis = 42) is additionally connected with the sefira of gevurah/ restraint, restriction. Restriction is necessary for an elevation within to a higher level; therefore, this prayer is recited whenever we reach a place of elevation.
The 42-Letter Name Connected With Movement From Slavery to Freedom
There can be no elevation without this name as it embodies the ultimate movement of elevation, the progression from slavery, constriction to freedom, expansion. This journey of 42 is reflected in the story of our exodus from Egypt, a place of constriction and limitation. The etymological root of the Hebrew word for Egypt, Metzrayim, is metzar/constriction. In Metzrayim, the Israelites were literally slaves who were then given freedom. Internally, they were enslaved to their lower selves; leaving Egypt represents a movement into genuine freedom. Before they were able to reach their full freedom, to enter the promised land, they were engaged in 42 journeys (elaborated in the portion of Maasei). These are known as the 42 journeys which, according to the Baal Shem Tov, represent 42 stages a person goes through in life.
As the 42-letter name represents movement bridging one reality to the next, this idea is reflected in Kaddish, which is the bridge that connects to healing after the separation of death. In Kaddish, there are seven words beginning with the letter Vav, fromV’yishtabach to V’yishalal, as there are seven general names in Ana B’Koach. Vav is the sixth number, 7 x 6 = 42. Here, we also see that each of these words has six letters just as there are six letters in each acrostic name of Ana B’Koach.
Not to Be Pronounced
At all times, the full 42-letter name is present, but one line and one acronymic name of the seven is most felt each day.
This name is very sacred indeed and certainly should not be pronounced. In tractate Avodah Zara (17b-18a), the Gemara speaks very harshly in regards to those who pronounce this name in full. In tractate Kidushin, the Gemara reveals the following:
Rav Yehudah said in the name of the Rav: The 42-letter name is entrusted only to him who is unassuming, humble, middle-aged, free from anger, never gets drunk and is not insistent on his rights. And he who knows it is heedful thereof and observes it in purity, is beloved Above and popular below, feared by man, and inherits two worlds: this world and the future world.
As there is an inherent meaning to these names, they are only to be scanned and visualized. The Rishonim/ early commentators have different views on how these names should be read: one view sees each line as one whole name, another holds that there are three letters per name and two names per line. Thus the names should be said as two words together, as in the first line, “Ana b’koach, gedulas yemincha, tatir tzrurah.”
The Names & The Days of The Week
As mentioned above, the 42-letter name is connected with creation and is linked to the first verses of the Torah, which speak of creation. This is a name very closely associated with the weekly unfolding of time, the six days of the week and the Shabbas.
Rav Hai Gaon, (939-1038) one of the last sages of the Gaonic period, deciphers the names and how they relate to the days of the week.
Sunday: Avag Yatazt
- Av – father, implying our Father in Heaven
- Yud and Gimel - (our Father in Heaven who embodies the) Thirteen Attributes of Mercy (numerically, Yud is 10, Gimel is 3= 13)
- Tazt - breaks, as in breaks all levels of kelipa/ all concealment and constriction
On this Sunday level, there are little or no concealments. In the Torah, Sunday is called Yom Echad/ day one, not Yom Rishon/ the first day. Day one is only unity, oneness; the One, The Av (Father), and the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy coming from the crown, the sphere of Keser, Arich Anpin. This is a time of perfect and complete unity coming from the holiness of Shabbas, before plurality, before work mentality.
The meditation for Sunday is to bring the consciousness and idea of unity of Shabbas into the weekdays. Instead of being pulled down by the ensuing week to come, we meditate, have kavanah / intention and feel lifted by the Shabbas that has just completed.
- Chesed – Kindness – Openness – Giving
- Consciousness: Tree of Life, Unity
- Energy: Unity
Monday: Kara Satan
- Kara – to rip asunder, to break apart
- Satan – consciousness of duality, otherness and separation
The Torah discusses the second day as the creation of separateness and division. On this day, there is the division between higher and lower waters. The Midrash adds that it is the creation of gehenom/ hell. The second day is so much related to division that the words, “It is good” which appear in all other days of creation are omitted on this day. Hell is the opposite of unity. Inwardly, it is a state that arises from not living in the complete reality of unification with our Source, of being separate. Consequently, this is a name for breaking the kelipa of separation, ripping it open to reveal that even the Satan is a Divine force.
Sam-El, another name for Satan, is spelled with the closed letters Samech and Mem, indicating that in this closed, cut-off state, Divine energy cannot reveal itself. When these closed letters are open, their Divine root is exposed and we understand that Sam-El is actually E-l/ God and the attribute of chesed.
Monday is the beginning of many peoples’ workweek. Even when people work on Sunday, that day is still very much connected with the modality of Shabbas. Come Monday, we must once again interact with a world of duality, concealment and a satanic consciousness of me, not you, this, not that, where time and space seem separate and our lives are compartmentalized by palm pilots and appointments.
Due to the powerful forces of separation on Monday, we need to meditate on opening our blockages. Instead of feeling stuck, closed, shut out, we can break the strength the kelipa of duality and remain connected.
- Monday - Gevurah – Strength – Concealment – Separation
- Consciousness: Break and destroy all Satan/ disconnections and separations, remain connected
- Energy: Strength
Tuesday: Negdi Kash
- Negdi – in front of me
- Kuf – stands for kavod, indicating glory
- Shin – stands for Shamayim/ Heaven and indicates the Shechina/ the immediate, immanent presence of God within the world. The glory of Hashem is before me.
The third day, Tuesday, corresponds to the Shechina, residing in the Malchus of the third pillar, the middle column of balance and harmony. If the middle column is the trunk of the tree, Malchus is its life giving fruit. On the third day of creation, the Torah tells us that the earth gives over her fruit, the physical fruit of creation, just as Malchus, the kingdom is the manifestation and result of all the higher branches of sefiros that flow into and animate it. This is the idea of Malchus, the Shechina, the mother earth giving offspring, life.
Tuesday represents routine: the same as Monday, just another day. It is a double day, thus in the Torah the word tov / good repeats itself twice on this day. Our Tuesday’s meditation is to realize the majesty and glory in our actions, in nature, in the whole, in the routine of life and how the entire world is filled with Hashem’s glory, even that which seems trivial.
Instead of being bored or jaded by the routine and redundancy of the week, realize that within everything is Hashem’s glory.
- Tuesday - Tiferes – Middle Column – Harmony – Beauty
- Consciousness: Balance, beauty
- Energy: Middle column, assisting us to make the right choices with compassion
Wednesday: Ba’tar Tzatag
- Tar - atara/ crown
- Beis and Tzadik – numerically equaling 92, indicating 92 angels on high.
- Tag – crown
On the fourth day, there is allusion to two crowns, which rule over and guide the earth and angels (angels being the mazal/ guiding forces of creation). “There is no blade of grass that does not have a Mazal (angel) over it that gently taps it and (continually) says grow.” (Midrash. Bereishis Rabba. 10:6)
The double sets of crowns refer to the two great rulers of the earth, the sun and moon, both of which were fully created and began functioning appropriately on the fourth day.
Wednesday embodies circular motion, orbit, sun and moon and the mazalot/ stars, planets. On a personal level, if Tuesday is the beginning of routine, Wednesday is deep routine, the third day in a row of repetition. It is apparent circular motion, which also allows us to have a sense of perseverance.
Wednesday’s meditation is on all of the crowns above our head. We meditate on how we need to be the crowned ones, the rulers, the masters of our life, not to get stuck in routine and be mastered by the work that we do throughout the week. Instead, we must be our own masters with the power of the Master of the Universe to master our own lives.
- Wednesday – Netzach – Victory – Perseverance
- Consciousness: Perseverance and Mastery
- Energy: Endurance
Thursday: Chakav Tana
These six letters form an acronym:
Chosem ketz, bo tamun (v)nistar ayin/ the seal of the end in which is hidden the seventy (-two-letter sacred name of Hashem).
There are two types of seals: chosem shoke’a/ receding seal and chosem bolet/ protruding seal. For example, if one were to seal with wax and the letters of the seal are hollow, the letters on the wax will protrude. If the letters of the seal protrude, the impression on the wax will be hollow. Inwardly speaking, when there is arousal from below, we are a protruding seal bringing ourselves to outward creativity and a sense of self and there is a recession Above, the Light which is reflected is dimmed. However, when we enter into a state of receding seal, hod/ humility, bitul/ nullification of separate ego, we generate the deepest hidden Lights to be unclothed and revealed.
Thursday is the last full weekday and a seal of the week as Friday is already Erev Shabbas/ before and preparing for Shabbas. There can be a shift from an outward, aggressive modality to a mood more inward and reflective, a mood of thanksgiving.
The idea of hiddenness is also reflected in the creation on the fifth day: fish. By their very nature, fish are hidden away in the depths of water.
Hiding is generally a gesture of humility, the attribute of hod, which is related to gratitude. Angels were created on Thursday (according to one opinion in Midrash), and their image is of singing praise and thanks-giving.
The Gemara (Rosh Hashanah 31a) tells us that the Song of the Day, in the Temple, for Thursday is a chapter in Psalms that begins with, “Let us sing praise to Hashem since birds and fish were created to offer praise to His name.” Rashi explains that when a person sees all the various types of birds, he offers praise to the One Who created them.
Thursday is deeply connected with being grateful and offering up praise. Inwardly, the feeling connected with the week winding down is that of being grateful and, for some, a sense of relief. Thus Thursday is the colloquial night of celebration.
The natural tendency, when a successful week comes to a close, is to offer praise. Sometimes that praise can be directed at oneself, thinking it was one’s own skills and genius that brought about the success. Instead of feeling smug and arrogant, like protruding seals, we need to meditate on how everything we have in our lives is truly a gift; even our skills and genius are gifts from Above.
- Thursday - Hod – Humility – Thanksgiving – Praise
- Consciousness: Introspection, deeper insight and gratitude
- Energy: Inner Insight
Friday: Yagal Pazak
- Yagal – to reveal
- Pei - stands for pisron/ the interpretation, revealing
- Zayin - stands for z’man/ time
- Kuf - stands for ketz/ the end
Hashem will reveal the Ultimate purpose of creation during the end of time. This is the sixth day of creation in which the human being was created. The purpose of creation is potentially realized through our actions, as co-creators of our creation. On Shabbas, we connect with our spiritual selves, the purpose, as during the week, we connect with our outer physical selves, the actions. One completes and compliments the other.
We move from weekday outward activity to Shabbas inward restfulness on Friday. We can realize our work’s purpose on this day as work is acute and Shabbas is very palpable. Friday serves to connect (Yesod) work with rest and rest with work.
The workweek is now completed. If a person finds him or herself to be preoccupied by the work load, now is the right time once again to further connect with one’s family, friends and community.
Friday’s meditation is to bring everything we have done during the workweek to its realized purpose and to become attuned and ready for Shabbas. Instead of remaining connected with work and dragging it into the home, bringing the weekday into Shabbas, we need to channel our Yesod/ connections and intimacy towards inner selves, family and friends.
- Friday - Yesod – Foundation– Intimacy – Purpose
- Consciousness: inward focus, inner peace and tranquility with oneself and with one’s family and friends
- Energy: Connecting
Shabbat/ Saturday: Shaku Tzis
- Shin - stands for sheish, the number six
- Yud - the letter looks like a point and stands for Center of All Existence, Hashem, Point of Life
- The remaining four letters spell the word - k’tzovos/ directions. Hashem is the center of all reality.
Within the six directions, up-down, right-left, back-front, is the midpoint, which is Malchus. Shabbas is Malchus, the middle point of the cube, pointing to all of the outer directions. The midpoint is not a direction as it is not a movement, or doing. It is a being state, a space to come from.
The meditation for Shabbas is that everything revolves around Shabbas, the Yud within the cube of time, the center of time. Not only is Shabbas the culmination of the week that past, it is the harbinger of the week to come, the center of the week that passed before and the week that will follow. We should aspire for our doing to come from a deep place of being, and our weekday doing should flow naturally from and into our Shabbas being.
- Shabbas - Malchus – Non-Doing and Being
- Consciousness: Being, the eternal moment, immortality
- Energy: Being
Blessing After The Name
After we have completed this name, the pronouncing of the words and the visual scanning of the letters, we say “Baruch Sheim/ May His name be blessed,” much like we say this after pronouncing the name of Hashem. In the Temple, every time the high priest was heard saying the Holy Name, the people responded with Baruch Sheim. Today, if one of the Divine names is pronounced in vain, we say Baruch Sheim.
The Divine names in Ana B’Koach are connected with elevated Temple consciousness, as the Gemarah explains. We therefore conclude the prayer with Baruch Sheim, the response given in the Temple when the name of Hashem was heard.
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