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Kavvanah

Kavvanah (Heb., ‘directed intention’). Concentration in Jewish prayer and when performing a mitzvah. Maimonides taught that ‘prayer without kavvanah is no prayer at all’, and the Shulḥān Arukh insists, ‘better a little supplication with kavvanah than a lot without it’. Kavvanah is also required of those performing mitzvot, but here there was more controversy: while all agree that kavvanah is desirable in fulfilling an obligation, is it necessary? In Ḥasidism and devotional Judaism, kavvanah is of such importance that it is deliberately cultivated in preparations before religious duties and prayer. In kabbalah, kavvanah is also a special concentration on words and letters in order to discern an inner meaning. Cf. niyya in Islam.

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