Kavanot in Hebrew prayer, and the Bai Jia Xing (Hundred Family Surnames).
For the rest of the beginning section, we will be learning the traditional patterns and kavanot, or "intentions", in Hebrew prayer, and three particular prayers devoted specifically to them. The Tanach (Hebrew Bible) is full of plays on words, allegories, and patterns resembling mnemonic devices, which seem to create a kind of "inner logic" to the Hebrew narrative. The Mishna and Talmud (the oral traditions, written after the Tanach), discuss and clarify many of these patterns and allegories. For example, the pattern of the three fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, was seen as referring to other parallel patterns of three, such as the three daily prayers - the morning, afternoon and evening prayers, coinciding with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, respectively. Other examples are the pattern of khokhmah, binah, and daat (wisdom, understanding, and knowlege), which repeats numerous times, especially in the book of Proverbs, or the pattern gedulah, gevurah, tiferet and gadol, gibor, nora (greatness, power, and splendor/awesomeness), overlapping patterns with similar words describing qualities of God. The sages during the time of the Mishna and Talmud wrote about endless numbers of allegories and parallels for these patterns. Later still, these patterns were all eventually consolidated into one picture - a picture of ten, sometimes described as a "tree", which described a moving, ever-changing picture of God's various qualities, as portrayed in the Hebrew verses and narratives of the Tanach. There are a number of poems and songs in the Siddur, especially for Shabbat, that were composed to intentionally allude to various aspects of this "tree" of ten.
The Bai Jia Xing is a traditional list of Chinese last names which children would learn after learning the San Zi Jing. It is arranged as a poem in groups of four characters. Every 8th character rhymes. For example, in the first line, the eighth name in the line, Wang, rhymes with the last name in the line, Yang. Most of the last names are single-character names, but near the end, there are also some last names which are two characters long. Most of the characters in the Bai Jia Xing also appear in the San Zi Jing and the Qian Zi Wen, either as proper names, or simply as characters. The proper names that appear are in red, the other characters that appear are in green.
Notes: While perhaps looking complicated at first, this "tree" actually consists of the common Hebrew words and patterns we have already been learning in the prayers from the Siddur we have been reading. In the diagram of the tree of ten, the pattern of khokhmah, binah, and daat, found its place on the top group of three in the tree, while the group of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, found itself in the middle group of three, and so on. The right side was predominantly male, the left side female; the right could express more fatherly love, the left could express at times stern punishment and fear. The middle column was something like the peaceful unification of both sides. The third position down, called binah, and the tenth position, malkhut ("kingdom") were the two outstandingly female powers - something like a "higher" and a "lower" female, or the mother and the daughter. The seven beneath binah are sometimes described as her "children", and also the seven days of the week, parallel to the seven days of creation. Malkhut then becomes Shabbat, the seventh day. The four-letter name of God fits into the picture, with the two "hei"s being assigned to binah and malkhut, the "vav" (which in Hebrew also equals the number six) being assigned to the six between binah and malkhut, the very top point of the "yud" (which already is the smallest Hebrew letter) being assigned to keter (the "crown", the very top point of the tree), and the body of the "yud" being assigned to khokhmah. In the diagram above, some common patterns of ten in the tree are listed on the left side, while some patterns of three and five are listed on the right. Most of these words are those we have already been seeing in the Hebrew prayers we have learned so far - each blessing of the nineteen blessings, is also assigned a location in the tree (indicated by the vowel points of the name of God at the end of that particular blessing). As the last position in the tree (the female malkhut), was often described as being separated from the male powers above her, prayer was seen as a way to bring her into proper unity with the higher powers, and thus allow God's influence to flow into the world. Many songs of Shabbat (including lekha dodi, the most well-known Shabbat song) describe this unification, with the central power tipheret described as the husband, the bride-groom and king, uniting with malkhut, his beloved queen and bride, Shabbat.
The pronunciation of the Hebrew name of God:
In Judaism, the four-letter Hebrew name for God, spelled with yud, hei, vav, hei, is never pronounced. In its place is said ''Adonai'' (meaning "Lord", or "my Lord"). Adonai, then, is kind of an alternate name for God's real name. In the Hebrew Bible, however, there are vowel points under the four letters of God's name. These vowels are to indicate whether Adonai, or Elohim (in a few cases), is to be substituted during Torah reading. The vowel points in the Bible, then, are not intended to be an indication of how the name of God is pronounced. In the Hebrew texts we present on this site, there are kavanot presented with various vowel points under the four-letter name of God (listed in the above diagram). The question is, how were these various vowel points for God's name read during prayer? The answer is still, that Adonai was always pronounced when reading God's name. The actual pronunciation of the name, was only intended internally, in the imagination of the person praying, and never out loud.
Audio (mp3) of the Bai Jia Xing
Pronunciation page for Bai Jia Xing (1) Pronunciation page for Bai Jia Xing (2) Pronunciation page for Bai Jia Xing (3) Pronunciation page for Bai Jia Xing (4)