kavanah

Pronunciations

kavanah (kah-vah-NAH) listen
kavana (kuh-VUH-nuh) listen

Definitions

  • n. "Attention to the meaning, spirit, and purpose of words." (Weiser)

  • n. Enthusiasm, especially during prayer.

  • n. A devotion recited at the beginning of a learning session or before performing a mitzvah.

Example Sentences

  • "You should daven with a lot of kavannah."

  • "As we place renewed focus on this simple act, the following kavanah—intention—can become a moment of mindfulness and gratitude. Before washing hands or sanitizing, take a moment to pause and recognize what you’re doing" (source)

  • "I spent davening on my own, lost in thought, unworried about being judged for expressing too much kavanah, something I had to consider each morning in Minyan X." (source)

  • "It is through kavana that the sefirot become properly harmonized and united, allowing the Divine efflux to flow down, and the soul of the person practicing the kavana (called a "mechaven") becomes a channel through which G-d pours out His benevolence." (source)

Languages of Origin

  • Textual Hebrew
  • Yiddish

Etymology

  • Heb כוונה kavaná, Ashkenazi Heb/Yiddish כּוונה kavóne

    • Who Uses This

      • Religious: Jews who are engaged in religious observance and have some Jewish education
      • Organizations: People involved in a professional or volunteer capacity with Jewish nonprofit organizations

      Regions

      • North America
      • Great Britain
      • South Africa
      • Australia / New Zealand

      Dictionaries

      • The JPS Dictionary of Jewish Words, by Joyce Eisenberg and Ellen Scolnic, (Philadelphia, 2001).
      • The Joys of Hebrew, by Lewis Glinert (New York, 1992).
      • Frumspeak: The First Dictionary of Yeshivish, by Chaim Weiser (Northvale, 1995).

      Alternative Spellings

      kavannah, kavanna, kavone, kavana

Notes

  • Different communities have different understandings of this term. In Orthodox communities it is generally understood as concentration or intention necessary for prayer to be halachically acceptable, while more liberal communities understand it as concentration or mindfullness more broadly defined. Kabbalistic interpretations of kavanah influence Orthodox and non-Orthodox usage. "Intentionally" or "with intent" is בכוונה- bekavanah, bekavone, or according to grammatically correct Hebrew, bechavanah, bekhavone.

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