Poem in Spirit Voyages
A glimmer of hope coming out of Hebron

Ana b'Koach / Untie our Tangles (a melody for the Omer count)

The words of "Ana B'Koach" in Hebrew and transliteration.

Back in 2010, I posted about a prayer called Ana B'Koach:

My friend Reb David Seidenberg calls Ana B'Koach  one of the 'masterpieces of mystical prayer.' (Here's the NeoHasid page on Ana B'Koach, which features some explanation, some history, and the words of the prayer in Hebrew, transliteration, and English.) I first encountered this prayer when I started hanging around in Jewish Renewal circles. It's a favorite prayer in that community because of Renewal's neo-Hasidic roots.

Nowhere in the prayer do any traditional names of God appear -- but the prayer itself is considered to be one long name of God, which is why it ends with the line "baruch shem k'vod malchuto l'olam va'ed," "Blessed is God's glorious kingdom forever and ever" (or, in Reb Zalman's translation, "Through time and space, Your glory shines, Majestic One.")

In his book All Breathing Life (which I posted about a while back) Reb Zalman writes that "[This prayer] is considered by many to be a very potent passkey that takes our prayers directly to God, even when other avenues are blocked," he writes. It's also traditional, as NeoHasid notes, to sing this prayer every day after counting the Omer.

Here's Reb Zalman's translation, which can be found in All Breathing Life. It's singable to the same melody as the Hebrew. Like Reb Zalman, I like to sing it using the melody which comes from the Rhiziner Rebbe (the great-grandson of Rabbi Dov Baer, the Maggid or 'storyteller' of Mezritch).

Source of Mercy,
With loving strength
Untie our tangles.

Your chanting folk
Raise high, make pure
Accept our song.

Like Your own eye,
Lord, keep us safe
Who union seek with You!

Cleanse and bless us
Infuse us ever
With loving care.

Gracious source
Of holy power!
Do guide Your folk.

Sublime and holy One,
Do turn to us
Of holy chant.

Receive our prayer
Do hear our cry
Who secrets knows.

Through time and space
Your glory shines,
Majestic One.

(There's a more traditional translation alongside the Hebrew text at NeoHasid's Ana B'Khoach liturgy page.) You can hear Reb Zalman singing this chant to the Rizhyner's melody here at this compilation of melodies from All Breathing Life. And if you're so inclined, you can listen to me singing it, too -- I sing the first and last verses in Hebrew, and the remainder in English.


I love the idea of praying these words during the Omer journey. Spending these seven weeks contemplating God's qualities (of lovingkindness, boundaries and strength, balance, endurance, humble splendor, foundation / rootedness, and sovereignty) inevitably means also contemplating the ways in which these qualities do or don't manifest in us. It's easy to come away feeling tangled. This prayer reminds us that God can help us unsnarl our internal emotional and spiritual knots.


(This is cross-posted to the CBI From the Rabbi blog, since this melody is going to be our Song for the Month next month. To anyone who reads both blogs, apologies for the repeat!)