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Kavanah or kavana (also pronounced /kaˈvonə/ by some Ashkenazi Jews) (כַּוָּנָה; in Biblical Hebrew kawwānā), plural kavanot or kavanos, (Intention or "direction of the heart") is the mindset often described as necessary for Jewish rituals (mitzvot).
Once the subject of great debate among medieval commentators, traditional Jewish sources now accept that fulfilling mitzvot without at least minimal kavanah is insufficient.
Different Jewish authorities see various levels of kavanah required for various rituals, and especially for prayer. Some prayerbooks (siddurim) list kavanot for particular prayers. Some particular kavanot are associated with particular holidays, for example Sukkot, Pesach, Shavuot, and others.
Kavanah in prayer may require understanding of the words of prayer, and not merely reciting the sounds. Some perceive this as especially difficult to achieve for many Jews today when they pray using liturgical Hebrew, which many Jews outside of Israel do not understand.
Some kavanot are particular to the tradition of Kabbalah, as a meditation, or in Hasidic Judaism. In Kabbalah, Kavanah often refers to the permutations of the divine name that aim at overcoming the separation of the forces in the Upper World.
Chovot HaLevavot (Duties of the Heart) by Rabbi Bachya ben Joseph ibn Paquda (section 8, chapter 3), gives 3 general categories for kavanah under the rubric "the different ways of serving God":
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