D’var Tefilah: Ana B’khoach – Untying the Knots

There is a beautiful tefilah, called Ana B’khoach, that we sing at camp right before L’cha Dodi on Friday nights. It starts:

.אָנָּא, בְּכֹֽחַ גְּדֻלַּת יְמִינְךָ, תַּתִּיר צְרוּרָה
.קַבֵּל רִנַּת עַמְּךָ, שַׂגְּבֵֽנוּ, טַהֲרֵֽנוּ, נוֹרָא

“If you would, may Your mighty right hand undo the knot that ties us up.”

This poem was probably written in the second century. Jewish mystics believed that the “knot” referred to was the exile of the Jews from Israel.

Today, many think it is a plea asking God to help us shake free from the worries and difficulties of the rest of the week and truly embrace and enjoy Shabbat.

I think that all of us have knots that tie us up. These knots can hold us back. Sometimes I feel knots in my stomach from stressful situations. Sometimes the knots we feel keep us stuck and prevent us from seeing a way forward. With troubles on our minds, it is sometimes hard to enjoy the wonderful things around us.

I think that a basic tenet of Judaism is that we are to partner with God to make our world better. Being created in God’s image means that we should try to act like God would. I believe that we should work to help others untie the knots that are hurting or constraining them.

When I stand before our chanichim (campers) tonight I will remind them that I believe we have almost boundless power to lift up others. Simply by smiling and wishing someone a Shabbat Shalom you can start loosening the knots that are restricting them. By reaching out to others to ask them to join you in singing, playing or conversation, you make them more comfortable and enable them to feel the knots loosening.

The tefilah does not have a set location in the Jewish liturgy. I think many sing it right before L’cha Dodi because if we succeed in untying our own and each other’s knots, then we can truly joyously welcome the Sabbath Bride, as L’cha Dodi does.

One last thought. I find it interesting that only the right hand is used by God to untie the knot. What is the left hand doing? I think the left hand is reaching out to people to draw them into the community or group.

This Shabbat may we be able to untie the knots holding us back, help others untie their knots, and reach out to everyone to include them as we turn to welcome Shabbat into our lives. Shabbat Shalom.