Today’s learning is dedicated to the refuah sheleima of Simcha Nosson ben Zissel.
You must be very worthy to be able to meditate for a given time each day and regret what you must. Not everyone can have such mental tranquility each day. The days pass and are gone, and one finds that he never once had time to really think. You must therefore make sure to set aside a specific time each day to calmly review your life. Consider what you are doing and ponder whether it is worthy that you devote your life to it.
One who does not meditate cannot have wisdom. He may occasionally be able to concentrate, but not for any length of time. His power of concentration remains weak and cannot be maintained. One who does not meditate also does not realize the foolishness of the world. But one who has a relaxed and penetrating mind can see that it is all meaningless. — Lekutey Moharan II, 44
We briefly mentioned that through hisbodedus (secluded prayer), we can rid ourselves of all anxieties and fears. In this post, we will try to give a general overview of what Hisbodedus is, when and where it can be done, as well as some of the incredible benefits hisbodedus provides. (There is much to be said regarding each point, but we hope this provides a general overview.)
Hisbodedus simply means having a private conversation with Hashem. It is an opportunity to pour out our heart to Hashem, requesting assistance with all our needs, both material and spiritual. Rebbe Nachman teaches us to be completely open and honest with our emotions.
As Rabbi Chaim Kramer explains, “This practice is the ultimate level in our relationship to G-d. Likewise, hisbodedus is the tool with which to seek out and find our place; in the world at large; in our family; among friends and within the community; and most importantly, within ourselves. It gives us the opportunity to release all our inner feelings – the joys and depressions, the successes and frustrations, that greet us each day. Through hisbodedus, we examine ourselves and re-examine ourselves, correcting the flaws and errors of the past, while seeking the proper path for the future.”
Hisbodedus is a time to speak to Hashem about anything and everything. What you’re going through and the various pressures you face. Your mistakes and regrets, both intentional and unintentional. Your hopes and desires. Your thanks and requests.
Rebbe Nachman refers to hisbodedus as the “highest level of worship.” Setting aside time each day to speak to Hashem about everything on our mind, is the ultimate display of faith. We turn to Hashem, knowing that He is in control of all that transpires.
Rebbe Nachman teaches that when speaking to Hashem in this manner, it is best to speak in our native language, which makes it easier for us to truly connect on a deeper level. Rebbe Nachman says, “It has already been explained how great and powerful is the practice of hisbodedus. It is the path by which we can come close to G-d. Everyone should set aside fixed periods every day and express himself before G-d in his own native language. It is much easier to say what you need to say when you are using your own language. You should set forth whatever is in your heart. Plead with Him to draw you closer. Every individual knows his own personal pain and sorrow and the distance that separates him from G-d. It is impossible to convey the true greatness of this method. It is superior to all others. It is the way of serving G-d, and by following it everyone can attain the ultimate good in this world and in the World to Come.”
The Rambam speaks of hisbodedus in the beginning of his Code on Prayer. He explains that expressing our feelings before Hashem in our native language was originally the main form of prayer. It was only after the men of the Great Assembly that a formal order of prayer was introduced. Rebbe Nachman teaches that although we follow the order of prayers established by them, the “most beneficial” and “most fundamental” form of prayer is hisbodedus. (This is in no way meant to belittle or lessen the power of standard prayers. The men of the Great Assembly received divine inspiration and knew exactly which words to use and the order in which they should be said. Both forms of prayer are necessary.)
Rebbe Nachman teaches that this is also how Dovid HaMelech composed the Book of Psalms. It was through his open and honest conversations with Hashem, where he beseeched Hashem for help and assistance in all areas of life, and thanked Hashem for all that he possessed.
Rebbe Nachman teaches that hisbodedus provides us with a clear and settled mind. It’s very easy to get caught up with our hectic schedules. There are countless thoughts running through our mind, which makes it difficult to reflect and focus on what is truly important. Because of this, we tend to react rather than respond. Hisbodedus provides us with time to concentrate; time to plan and strategize.
Our mission in this world is to draw closer to Hashem, to see Hashem in our daily lives, and to take the seemingly mundane and elevate it back to Hashem. This is accomplished through hisbodedus. Rebbe Nachman teaches that we are granted daas (holy knowledge) through hisbodedus. With peace of mind and increased knowledge, we can focus on what is essential and everlasting.
Hisbodedus is a time for self-introspection. By speak it out, we begin to truly learn about ourselves. In this way, hisbodedus is the ultimate therapy session. As Dovid HaMelech writes regarding Hashem, “He is the Healer of the brokenhearted.”
Also, hisbodedus saves a person from Heavenly judgement. We’ve previously quoted Rebbe Nachman who teaches, “When one judges himself and there is judgement below, then there is no judgement above.” This is based on the Zohar, which states that there is no double jeopardy in Heaven. When we take the time to honestly examine our actions and behaviors, Hashem no longer needs to judge us from Above. As the verse states, “I will acknowledge my sins before Hashem, and You have forgiven my sin and transgression” (Psalms 32:5). Similarly, the Talmud states, “One who sins and is ashamed is forgiven.”
Rebbe Nachman teaches the best time for hisbodedus is at night, when the world is asleep. Then we are free from the daily rush. But in truth, any time is fine. The morning is also effective, as there is a clear difference in a person’s day when they begin with a settled mind, rather than rushing into the day. Regardless of the time of day, the main objective is to do hisbodedus when you can separate from all distractions.
It is best to preform hisbodedus in a place completely secluded from others, without any distractions. Rebbe Nachman teaches that the optimal setting for hisbodedus is outdoors, in a place not travelled by others. He explains that when we pray among the trees and grass, they join in our prayers. While walking through a grassy meadow, Rebbe Nachman told the person accompanying him, “If you could only hear and understand the language of the grasses. Each blade of grass sings its praise and prayers to Hashem.”
The outdoors may not always be practical, perhaps due to weather conditions or safety concerns, etc. When it’s difficult to find an outdoor location, Rebbe Nachman suggests using a private room that can be designated for prayer and torah study.
That said, Rebbe Nachman teaches us that we can seclude ourselves even in the presence of others. He says we can make our own “private room” by lifting our tallis over our face or by looking inside a book as if we are reading. “You can also seclude yourself with G-d in bed under the covers. This was Dovid HaMelech’s custom, as he said, ‘I speak every night on my bed in tears.’”
Similarly, the Baal Shem Tov says, “There are times when you can be so attached to G-d that you can seclude yourself with Him even in a room where there are many people.”
While certain times or locations are more conducive to hisbodedus, we should know that it can be performed by anyone, at any time, in any place.
Hisbodedus requires great effort and determination. There will be times when we simply don’t have the energy. There will also be times when we can’t find the words to say. Rebbe Nachman teaches us that we should not try to force the matter. He says, “Even if you find you are unable to express yourself before G-d, even if you can say no more than a single word, this is still good. Even if you can nothing except ‘Master of the universe,’ it is also good. The mere fact that you make an effort, that you prepare yourself to speak, that you feel a longing to speak – even if you find you can say nothing – all this is precious in G-d’s eyes.” If you are determined and persistent and make yourself speak before G-d, in time G-d will help you and then you will be able to express yourself with words filled with vitality, freshness and grace. Your words will bring blessings down from the heavens and you will attain true and enduring good.”
Rebbe Nachman also teaches that we can make a prayer out of this as well. “You can ask Hashem to have mercy on you and open your mouth so that you should be able to express your thoughts to Him.” As we say before the Amidah prayer, “Hashem, open up my lips so that my mouth may declare Your praise.”
We may not see the fruits of our labor immediately, but with time, we will reap the rewards and will see a drastic change in our life. Rebbe Nachman teaches, “Even if the days and years pass by and you think that all your words and meditation have accomplished nothing, don’t let yourself be thrown off course. The words have left their mark. There is no doubt about it.” Similarly, Reb Noson assures us, “Test it out. Practice hisbodedus for forty days straight. I guarantee you will see results.”
Above all, it’s important to know that Hashem wants to hear from us; He wants us to build a connection with Him. Rebbe Nachman teaches that Hashem gets more pleasure from the devotions of even the lowliest of people, than from all the devotions of the loftiest of angels.
In the Torah we find that Hashem counted the Jewish nation numerous times; at the time of the Exodus, after their punishment for worshipping the golden calf, and again after the inauguration of the Mishkan. The reason for this is because we tend to count that which is precious and important to us. As Rashi explains in is his opening comments on last week’s torah portion, “It is because of Hashem’s great love for them, that He counted them repeatedly.”
The verse states that Bnei Yisrael are considered Hashem’s children. We must call out to Hashem just as a child calls for their father. Hisbodedus is an opportunity to place our troubles in Hashem’s hands. Hashem wants to help us in our times of need, but first we must call out to Him. As the verse states, “Cast your burden upon Hashem and He will support you.” Similarly, Rebbe Nachman teaches that when we experience pain, the Divine Presence cries out with us and will provide the necessary relief.
The verse states, “Hashem is close to all who call upon him – to all who call upon Him sincerely.” When we genuinely open up to Hashem and ask for guidance and mercy, our prayers will be heard, and we will receive support from above.
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