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Sefer HaKana contains the following excerpt (selected from Chapter 45, Paragraph 8). Hebrew text is from Sefaria, translation is myself and my chavrusa, parentheses are our commentary and translation notes. Emphasis mine. Disclaimer: neither my chavrusa nor I are especially qualified to write this translation and we will be seeking experienced individuals to help us refine it.

לתקוע ב' תקיעות ולהכניס הקשה והרפה ביניהם לבל יכה שרב ושמש, כי התרועות במקום א' עולות והם של כסף לרמוז בהם עמה ברחמים, אבל בר"ה צריכין לעמוד בדין ולהזכיר כל עונותיהן ואם לא יעשו בפועל ג' תרועות בזה ובזה לכוללן ברחמים והם פחד והוד ועטרה א"כ לא יניחו התפילות לעלות,

You are required to blow two tekiyah blasts, and to bring in the harsh and the soft (presumably the teruah and shevarim blasts) between them, lest they hit a heat wave(?) or sun, because the teruah blasts go up in one place, and they (the shofars) are of silver, to hint with them that their nation is with mercy. (The relationship between the color silver and mercy is not clear to us.) But on Rosh Hashanah, we must stand in Din to recall all of our sins, and if they do not do actively three teruah blasts, and in this and in this (the "this" is not entirely clear, but we think it means each tekiyah) to include them in mercy. They are Pachad and Hod and Atarah. If so, it will not allow the prayers to rise up.

The meaning of the bolded text is uncertain to us, especially Atarah, and we struggled with this section for some time. (Note that this triad appears again later in the same chapter). Here is what we have pieced together so far:

Pachad (lit. dread, fear): Pachad is not a common name for Netzach, but I believe I have heard them associated in the past. According to our local Chabad rabbi, whom I have relied on for help with some challenging terminology in this text, the name fits because Pachad is associated with judgement and fear of judgement.

That's odd, and leads to an odd side note given by the Chabad rabbi about this: Netzach is on the right line and Hod is on the left line, which means one might believe Netzach is of compassion and Hod is of judgement. However, this is not so, as Netzach and Hod each have characteristics of the line they are not on.

Hod (lit. splendor): Here for completeness. This is straightforwardly the sefirah of Hod.

Atarah (lit. crown, can also be euphemistic for genitals): I have never heard the word Atarah used in a kabbalistic context before. There are several possibilities for its meaning (the below assumes Pachad is indeed Netzach).

  • Yesod, because it fits contextually with Netzach and Hod above and completes the triad, as was done several times so far in this section. This seems reasonable, except that I can find no case in which Atarah has ever been used for Yesod. I briefly suggested the possibility that it is used for its euphemistic meaning, as Yesod is also associated with the genitals, but everyone I have talked to about this agrees the euphemistic meaning is unlikely.

  • Micrography ArticleAccording to this article (https://blog.nli.org.il/en/micrography/), Ramban and his students used Atarah to refer to the Shekhinah. This associates it with Malchut, and logically checks out because crowns and kingdoms are closely associated. This is readily possible, but it leaves the question of why it is being associated with Netzach and Hod in this context. Note that the article is from a historical and non-religious perspective and also mentions Christian and Muslim texts.

  • According to the local Chabad rabbi, Atarah is typically used in Chasidic texts to refer to Keter (also meaning "crown"). This is very simple linguistically, but it makes no sense in context why Keter would come up here.

  • Keter and Malchut: The Malchut of Atzilut is the Keter of Beriyah, and so too is the Malchut of Beriyah the Keter of Yetzirah and the Keter of Yetzirah the Malchut of Assiyah. This unites two of the above but is still odd in context, especially since we are most likely talking about the Malchut of Assiyah, which is not Keter of any world.

With all the evidence here, I have tentatively concluded that Atarah here refers to Yesod and Malchut as one unit, but that's at best an educated guess. This resolves the question of why it appears in the triad, brings in the word's usage by Ramban, and has at least some vestigial connection to the Chasidic meaning.

My question is: How sound is this conclusion? What other texts discuss this word, and which of the above possibilities (if any) are supported by those texts? Is there another possibility listed above that is more likely the case?

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See here:

Indeed, the period of time referred to as Yemos HaMoshiach, which incorporates the moment of time that Moshiach finally arrives until the year 6000 (thereby also including Techiyas HaMeisim – Resurrection of the Dead) is referred to in Kabbalah by the very same name to where Bris Milah occurs: Atarah HaYesod – Crown of Yesod:

The [ninth sefirah, when we also include Keser, Chochmah and Binah, called] Yesod divided into two “kings” (i.e., into two independent sefiros called) “Yesod” and “Atarah” (crown). The Atarah is relevant to Malchus (the tenth and final sefirah), since it is her crown, which is why it is called Atarah. Therefore, the Yesod and the Atarah became two [independent sections of the overall sefirah referred to as Yesod]; however, after the tikun (i.e., Creation itself), the Yesod and the Atarah became one [once again] in order to join together Zehr Anpin (i.e., Chesed, Gevurah, Tifferes, Netzach, Hod, and Yesod) and the Nukveh (i.e., Malchus) forever. This is the reason why Yemos HaMoshiach – Period of Moshiach – is at the end of the sixth millennium, when the Atarah governs and gives off light for Yemos HaMoshiach, whereas Yesod itself governs the time of exile until Yemos HaMoshiach. Since . . . the Yesod divided into two, the sixth millennium, which corresponds to Yesod, divides into two. During the time that corresponds to the Yesod there will still be destruction and exile. However, the time that corresponds to the Atarah will be Yemos HaMoshiach. (Hakdamos v’Sha’arim, p. 172) - [see second paragraph on the left side].

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  • Thank you very much! It seems that I was reasonably close in my feeling that it was Yesod and Malchut together, though I was missing some critical information about Yesod. This makes a lot of sense, while also raising many more questions, as good Kabbalah should.
    – Benyamin
    Oct 23, 2023 at 13:00
  • No problem @Benyamin! Keep shteiging! :-)
    – Dov
    Oct 23, 2023 at 13:14
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Pachad פחד is an alternate term for the Sephirah of Gevurah like is taught by Rabbi Yitzchok of Akko in his commentary to Ramban on the Chumash, Meirat Einayim.

He draws this from Rabbi Yosef Gikatilla in Sefer Sha'arei Orah.

Atarah עטרה, as used here, is referring to the Sephirah of Yesod of Nukvah (The feminine Yesod) which corresponds to the letter Tzaddi צ, as in the expression: צדיק יסוד עולם.

Because Nukvah is, in general, associated with the side of Judgement קו הדין היינו קו שמאל שהוא מפי הגבורה, Rabbi Nehuniah is listing Pachad, Hod, Atarah (פחד, הוד, עטרה), the feminine dimension of Gevurah, Hod, Yesod (גבורה, הוד, יסוד).

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