Hitbodedut by Rabbi Eli Mallon

Hitbodedut offers the great benefit to a wide range of people.
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Photo is of a Breslover Hasid(1) practicing Hitbodedut(2) in the Jerusalem Forest.(3) Hitbodedut is a form of prayer and meditation that can be performed indoors or outdoors, amidst nature, and alternatively day or night.

In Rebbe Nachman's Words
by Rabbi Eli Mallon


Of all the traditional spiritual practices available within Judaism, I think that Rebbe Nachman's “Hitbodedut” offers the greatest benefit to the widest range of people. It does not assume involvement in any single branch of Judaism. Rather, it is as applicable to Reform Jews as it is to Orthodox Jews; to Hareidi, non-Hasidic Orthodox Jews as it is to members of other Hasidic groups. Rabbi Shalom Arush has even taught it to groups outside of Judaism.

It requires no mastery of an unfamiliar language. It asks of you only that you make the time to do it. It requires no intellectual skill. Much the opposite. It is as available to the “Tam” — the “simple child” at the Passover Seder — as it is to the “Hacham” — the wise child.

You can begin Hitbodedut at the very moment you decide to do it. Yet, in the course of doing it, your attention gradually shifts from your problems to God. That's why Hitbodedut is sometimes spoken of as “meditation.”

I advocate it as something that every Jew can do; something that can lift all Jews, all of Judaism, to higher spiritual levels.)

Rabbi Nachman teaches:

“Set aside time each day to meditate and pray alone in a room or some meadow and express your innermost thoughts and feelings and personal prayers to God. Use every kind of appeal and argument. Use words that will endear you to God and win His favor. Plead with God to draw you closer and let you truly serve Him. This is Hitbodedut.

You should hold these conversations in whatever language you speak best. Our set prayers are said in Hebrew, but if this is not one's native language, it is difficult to use it to give expression to all one's innermost thoughts and feelings and the heart is less drawn after the words. It is easier to pour out your heart and say everything you need in your own language.

You should tell God everything you feel, be it contrition and longing to repent over the past or requests and supplications to come truly close to God from now on, each person according to his level.

Be very careful to get into the habit of spending time every day on your personal prayers and meditation. Fix a regular time for this and then be happy for the rest of the day!

Hitbodedut is of the greatest value. It is the way to come closer to God, because it includes everything else. No matter what you lack in your service of God, even if you feel totally remote from His service, tell God everything and ask Him for all that you need.

If at times you find yourself unable to speak to God or even open your mouth, the very fact that you are there before Him wanting and yearning to speak is itself very good. You can even turn your very inability to speak into a prayer. Tell God that you feel so far away that you cannot even speak to Him! Ask Him to have mercy on you and open your mouth to tell Him what you need.

Many great and famous Tzaddikim have said that all their achievements came only through Hitbodedut. Anyone with understanding can recognize the supreme value of this practice, which ascends to the most sublime heights. This advice applies to everyone equally, from the very least to the very greatest. Everyone is capable of practicing it and can attain great levels. Happy are all who persist in it.

It is also good to turn Torah teachings into prayers. When you study or hear a teaching of a true Tzaddik, make a prayer out of it. Ask God when you too will be able to fulfill this teaching. Tell Him how far from it you are and beg Him to help you attain everything contained in the lesson.

A person of understanding who wants the truth will be led by God in the path of truth, and he will learn how to practice Hitbodedut and offer words of grace and sound arguments to persuade God to bring him to true service.

Hitbodedut rises to a very high place. This applies especially to turning Torah teachings into prayers, which creates the greatest delight above.

Hitbodedut is the highest level: it is greater than everything.”

-Rebbe Nachman of Breslov

Photo: Rabbi Eli Mallon, M.Ed., LCSW.

For more of Rabbi Eli Mallon's writings, please see:

Hitbodedut: Beginning

Hitbodedut: Simply Talking to G-d

Hitbodedut I: Talking to G-d in a Forest

Hitbodedut II: Who Do You Think You're Talking To?

Thoughts on Hitbodedut

(1) “Breslov” is a branch of Hasidic Judaism founded by Rebbe Nachman of Breslov (1772–1810).
(2) Hitbodedut, (Hebrew) the term was popularized by Rebbe Nachman of Breslov (1772–1810) and refers to an unstructured, spontaneous and individualized form of prayer and meditation through which one would establish a close, personal relationship with God and ultimately see the Divinity inherent in all being.
(3) Photo credit: A Breslover Chassid secludes himself and prays to God in the Jerusalem Forest. Date 29 February 2008, Attribution: commons.wikimedia.org.

May the light and love of God prevail. Please let us know how we can help.

Tags: meditation spiritual traditions

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