The prayer Ana B’Koach was written by Rabbi Nechunia ben Hakanah and has profound mystical significance. Rabbi Nechunia ben Hakanah was a tanna who lived about 2000 years ago, and was the greatest known esoteric master of his generation. The prayer Ana B’Koach contains 42 words, the 1st letters of which form the mystical 42 letter Name of G-D. The Holy Divine Name of 42 letters is discussed extensively in the Kabbalah, and is described in great detail in the Zohar and the writings of the Ari z”l. These 42 letters are associated with 42 stages in the process of our spiritual development. These stages are the secret of the 42 places mentioned in the Torah where the nation of Israel camps during the 40 years in the Sinai Desert before entering the Land of Israel. There are 42 lines in each column of the Torah scroll paralleling this process. The prayer is divided into 7 verses of 6 words each. The 1st letters of the 6 words in each verse also form Divine Names. These 7 names together with the 42 letters are a total of 49. 49 has many mystical associations in the Kabbalah. 49 corresponds to the 7 lower emanations of the Tree of Life, each containing all 7. We have 49 years between each Jubalee Year representing a new era of freedom, 49 days in the counting of the omer, and 49 hebrew letters in the holiest of prayers- SHEMA YISRAEL HASHEM ELOKEYNU HASHEM ECHAD / BARUCH SHEM KAVOD MALCHUTO LEOLAM VAED. These stages are associated with the spiritual work given to creation to work towards reaching the place of pure giving and unconditional love. This work brings us to the 50th gate of BINA (state of pure love), which brings the revelation of G-D’s bestowal of infinite goodness to all creation. Each verse of Ana B’Koach contains 6 letters of the 42 letter name, which are Kabbalisticly divided into 3 groups of 2. These Holy Names correspond to the 2 wings with which particular angels cover their faces, 2 wings with which the angels cover their legs, and 2 wings with which the angels fly. The wings are associated with LOVE and AWE. The prayer is painted in a circle corresponding to the teaching in the Kabbalah that the circle dance is the holiest of dances. When dancing around in a circle, each person takes the place of every other person- the realization that we are all one soul. The 42 letter name is used extensively in Kabbalistic meditations and spiritual unifications. The prayer Ana B’Koach is included in the daily order of prayers and is found in the Siddur (prayer book). One possible translation of the prayer is as follows:
ANSWER US WITH THE STRENGTH OF THE GREATNESS OF YOUR LOVING KINDNESS AND UNTIE OUR SORROW.
RECEIVE THE SONGFULL PRAYER OF YOUR PEOPLE. RAISE US UP AND PURIFY US IN YOUR AWESOMENESS.
PLEASE! GREAT ONE, MAY THOSE WHO SEEK YOUR ONENESS BE PROTECTED LIKE THE PUPIL OF AN EYE.
BLESS THEM, PURIFY THEM, SHOW MERCY ON THEM, YOUR RIGHTOUSNESS ALWAYS BESTOWING.
POWERFULL HOLY ONE, IN YOUR ABUNDANT GOODNESS, GUIDE YOUR CONGREGATION.
ONE AND ONLY EXALTED ONE, ENLIGHTEN YOUR PEOPLE WHO YEARN FOR YOUR HOLINESS.
RECEIVE OUR CALL FOR HELP, AND HEAR OUR CRY – THE ONE WHO KNOWS ALL MYSTERIES!
[BLESSED IS THE NAME OF G-D’S GLORIOUS MAJESTY FOREVER AND EVER IN ONENESS]
from Avraham Lowenthal at https://www.marknaseck.com/store/category/art/kabbalistic-art/avraham-loewenthal/
In the Ana B’Koach Prayer Hakham Nechunya Ben Hakanah wrote a special prayer with forty-two words, the initials of which comprise the forty-two letter Divine name.
“We beg You! With the strength of Your Right Hand’s greatness, untie the bundled sins. Accept the prayer of Your nation; strengthen us, purify us, O awesome One. Please, O Strong One, those who foster Your Oneness, guard them as the apple of Your eye. Bless them, purify them, show them mercy. May Your righteousness always recompense them. Powerful Holy One, with Your abundant goodness guide Your congregation. One and only Exalted One, turn to Your nation, which proclaims Your holiness. Accept our requests and hear our cry, O Knower of all mysteries.”
Hakham Nechunya wanted to be able to pronounce the unpronounceable, to call out and call forth the reality of the whole, in order to deal with the stubborn sins that keep us stuck.
One of the Kabbalistic explanations of the prayer, Ana B’Koach – בכח אנא, suggests that the number forty-two is associated with the process of ascent, whereby we elevate the material context in which we live. Ana B’Koach corresponds to the forty-two letter Name of HaShem that prophets used to meditate on in order to go into a state of prophecy.
Hakham Nechunya specifically asserted that if you properly understand how to use the forty-two lettered name as a key to seasons and time, that this key reveals a lengthy period of time between the origin of the universe and the creation of man. In his view, the universe is thus not a mere few thousand years old as the text seems to claim on the surface, but is 15.3 billion years old, the very age arrived at only recently by the estimates of modern astrophysical theories of the big bang.
Whenever the concept of forty-two comes up, it usually alludes to an opportunity to become more spiritually elevated, to return to what we were before the fall. This is why the prayerAna b’koach is found in all siddurim before Pesukei D’Zimrei (Introductory Psalms), and Lecha Dodi erev Shabbat, and at other times that promote our spiritual elevation. And, as the Kabbalists point out, Ana b’koach is made up of seven stanzas each with six words, whose forty-two letter acrostic alludes to the forty-two letter Name.
HaShem created the world with this forty-two lettered name, and it facilitates a Jew’s endeavors to ascend spiritually from level to level. For this reason, every morning as we prepare to ascend spiritually, through prayer, we recite “Ana becho’ach” before “Eizehu mekoman.” Likewise for the ascent through the minchah prayers, before “Ashrei” we saykarbanot (portions dealing with sacrifices) and conclude with “Ana becho’ach.” Before going to sleep we recite “Ana becho’ach” in Kriat Shema al Hamitah, since the neshamahprepares itself to be rejuvenated and to rise to a higher spiritual sphere. And on Friday night, after reciting six Psalms corresponding to the six days of the week, as we prepare to enter the holiness of Shabbat, “Ana becho’ach” is also recited.