Entering the Heavenly Halls of the Letters
Meditation on the Hebrew letters is not so much a human activity as a supernatural act, in which we break down the barriers of our natural existence and reach into the divine world. Each letter is a garment provided for our benefit, so the creation energy they house will be intelligible to us. Concentrating on the letters, their shapes dissolve and the Holiness in the letters is revealed. In Hebrew prayer, an extended meditation on the letters and their combinations, we carve them with breath and set them in the mouth in 5 places, to carefully pronounce each letter of the 5 families. We carve them with breath, contemplating each letter carefully, concentrating on the breath that is exhaled while it is pronounced. We set them in the mouth, meditating on the place in the mouth with which the letter is pronounced.
While speech itself involves Binah consciousness, the pronounciation of the letters is an automatic activity, and hence, it involves Chochma consiousness. With this exercise, the initiate learns to make use of the letters with Chocma consiousness, and by pronouncing them physically, clothing them in Binah. It is through this exercise that we learn to use the letters as Paths of Wisdom. The mouth speaks, while the Spirit provides the thoughts. Surrendering to the letters, the intitiate is like a torch, fueled by Holiness.
[Paraphrased from the Holy Baal Shem Tov z"tzl, Aryeh Kaplan, and Gutman Locks]
ILLUMINATE THE WORD
MENORAH OF EMANATION
The smaller blue letters in the image above are the initial letters of the 42 words of Ana B'Koach.
The words in bold letters above are designations for the "names of G-d," and are said to correspond to the "voices of G-d" mentioned in Psalm 29. Maimonides discussed Ana b'Koach in his Guide to the Perplexed, I:62
ANA B'KOACH MEDITATION
Each of the seven lines of Ana B'Koach corresponds to one of the lower sefirot on the Etz Chayyim, the Tree of Life. Each of the six words in each of the seven lines, in turn, also correspond to a sefirah [sphere].
This video highlights the various permutations. In the first recitation, the words are spoken in pairs, using each line for a full inhalation and exhalation. The second version uses the song that came in a dream to one of Rabbi Hoffman's students years ago.
In the first, the permutations are rapid, in the second, much slower. During the seven weeks of the Sefirat ha Omer, we spend a full week on each sefira, with each weekday corresponding to a permutation, so they each take a whole day. An example of this would be: "Today is the 3rd day of the 5th week, or Tiferet of Hod.
The note in the Artscroll siddur says this about Ana b'Koach: "Tradition ascribes this mystic prayer to the tanna Rabbi Nechunia ben Hakanah. It contains forty-two words, the initials of which form the secret forty-two letter Name of G-d. Moreover, the six initials of each of its seven verses form Divine Names. The Kabbalists teach that it should be divided into phrases of two words each."
Here are the lines in English:
1) We beg you! With the strength of your right hand, untie the bundled sins.
2) Accept the prayer-song of your people, strengthen us, purify us, O Awesome one.
3) Please, O Strength Itself, those who seek Your Unity, like the pupil of the eye, guard them.
4) Bless them, purify them, show them mercy, may Your righteousness always recompense them.
5) Powerful One, Holy One, with the abundance of Your goodness guide Your congregation.
6) Unique One, Exalted One, face Your people, those who proclaim Your holiness.
7) Our entreaty, accept, and hear our cry, O Knower of hidden things.
Note for line one: The accumulated sins are bound together forming a barrier that prevents our prayers from ascending to the Throne of Glory. We ask the Creator Before Time to untie the bundle. Iyun Tefillah.
Note for line two: "kabel" - recieve, like Kabala. This root also shows up in line seven.
The first letters of each word in Ana B'Koach are in lines below.
Each line is one verse, one color. The color corresponds to the appropriate sefira.
There are many ways to chant Ana B'koach. There are three versions I've recorded:
Ana B'Koach - The tune to this one was recieved in a dream by a student of one of my teachers, Rabbi Hoffman.
Ana B'Koach - This one has the words said in pairs, using breathing principles of Pranayama, exhausting the lungs for each line.
Ana B'Koach - This is a done to Carlebach tune.
More about the Menorah above here. More sound files here.