©2019 by Applied Jewish Spirituality, powered by Or HaLev. Calendar image by Federico Parolo used with permission of Deuteronomy Press.

    Hitbodedut literally means self-seclusion, and the practice consists of simply speaking to G!d in our own words. The crucial thing is to just let the words keep coming, even if there is nothing to say except, “I have nothing to say!”; “This is a waste of time!”; “I don't believe in you!” and so on – just keep talking!

     

    Just like many forms of verbal and written therapy, the flow itself opens a channel to our unconscious and allows things to surface that we were not previously aware of.

     

    Hitbodedut was greatly emphasized by Rebbe Nachman of Breslov (1772 – 1810), the great-grandson of the Ba'al Shem Tov. He originally attracted a small but ardent following, and his followers are now a large grass-roots mass-phenomenon with great influence across the Jewish world. One of Rebbe Nachman's primary teachings is to practice Hitbodedut – if possible, for an hour every day.

    In both our Torah, Kabbalah and Meditation for Our Daily Lives course, and our Revolutionary Ideas & Practices from the Chasidic Masters course, we explore this subject in depth.

     

    Below are some classic teachings from Rebbe Nachman about Hitbodedut, to inspire and direct your practice, followed by some practice instructions.

    Likutei MohaRan 2:11

     

    Know that when a person prays in a field, every blade of grass enters into their prayer and helps them, giving strength to their prayer.

    Likutei MohaRan 2:25 (translation adapted from azamra.org)

     

    Hitbodedut is of the greatest value.

    Set aside an hour or more each day to meditate alone in a room or some meadow and express your innermost thoughts and feelings and personal prayers to G!d. Use every kind of appeal and argument. Use words that will endear you to G!d and win His favor. Plead with G!d to draw you closer and let you truly serve Him.

    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 because we are not so accustomed to the language. It is easier to pour out your heart and say everything you need in your own language.

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

    ...

    If at times you find yourself unable to speak to

    G!d 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 G!d 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.

     

    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 Tzadik, make a prayer out of it.

    לקוטי מוהר"ן תנינא יא

     

    דַּע כְּשֶׁאָדָם מִתְפַּלֵּל בַּשָּׂדֶה

    אֲזַי כָּל הָעֲשָׂבִים כֻּלָּם בָּאִין בְּתוֹך הַתְּפִלָּה וּמְסַיְּעִין לוֹ וְנוֹתְנִין לוֹ כּחַ בִּתְפִלָּתוֹ

    לקוטי מוהר"ן תנינא כה

    הַהִתְבּוֹדְדוּת הוּא מַעֲלָה עֶלְיוֹנָה וּגְדוֹלָה מִן הַכּל דְּהַיְנוּ לִקְבּעַ לוֹ עַל כָּל פָּנִים שָׁעָה אוֹ יוֹתֵר לְהִתְבּוֹדֵד לְבַדּוֹ בְּאֵיזֶה חֶדֶר אוֹ בַּשָּׂדֶה

    וּלְפָרֵשׁ שִׂיחָתוֹ בֵּינוֹ לְבֵין קוֹנוֹ

    בִּטְעָנוֹת וַאֲמַתְלָאוֹת בְּדִבְרֵי חֵן וְרִצּוּי וּפִיּוּס

    לְבַקֵּשׁ וּלְהִתְחַנֵּן מִלְּפָנָיו יִתְבָּרַך

    שֶׁיְּקָרְבוֹ אֵלָיו לַעֲבוֹדָתוֹ בֶּאֱמֶת

     

    וּתְפִלָּה וְשִׂיחָה זוֹ יִהְיֶה בַּלָּשׁוֹן שֶׁמְּדַבְּרִים בּוֹ

    דְּהַיְנוּ בִּלְשׁוֹן אַשְׁכְּנַז בִּמְדִינָתֵנוּ

    כִּי בִּלְשׁוֹן הַקּדֶשׁ קָשֶׁה לוֹ לְפָרֵשׁ כָּל שִׂיחָתוֹ

    וְגַם אֵין הַלֵּב נִמְשָׁך אַחֲרֵי הַדִּבּוּרִים

    מֵחֲמַת שֶׁאֵינוֹ מֻרְגָּל כָּל כָּך בְּהַלָּשׁוֹן

    וְקָרוֹב יוֹתֵר לְשַׁבֵּר לִבּוֹ

    כִּי הַלֵּב נִמְשָׁך וְקָרוֹב יוֹתֵר אֶל לְשׁוֹן אַשְׁכְּנַז

    מֵחֲמַת שֶׁהוּא מֻרְגָּל בּוֹ וּבִלְשׁוֹן אַשְׁכְּנַז

    יָכוֹל לְפָרֵשׁ כָּל שִׂיחָתוֹ

    וְאֶת כָּל אֲשֶׁר עִם לְבָבוֹ יָשִׂיחַ

    ויסַפֵּר לְפָנָיו יִתְבָּרַך הֵן חֲרָטָה וּתְשׁוּבָה עַל הֶעָבָר

    וְהֵן בַּקָּשַׁת תַחֲנוּנִים לִזְכּוֹת לְהִתְקָרֵב אֵלָיו יִתְבָּרַך

    מֵהַיּוֹם וּלְהָלְאָה בֶּאֱמֶת

    וְכַיּוֹצֵא בָּזֶה כָּל חַד לְפוּם דַּרְגֵּהּ

    ...

    וְאִם לִפְעָמִים נִסְתַּתְּמִין דְּבָרָיו

    וְאֵינוֹ יָכוֹל לִפְתּחַ פִּיו לְדַבֵּר לְפָנָיו יִתְבָּרַך כְּלָל

    אַף עַל פִּי כֵן זֶה בְּעַצְמוֹ טוֹב מְאד

    דְּהַיְנוּ הַהֲכָנָה שֶׁהוּא מוּכָן וְעוֹמֵד לְפָנָיו יִתְבָּרַך וְחָפֵץ וּמִשְׁתּוֹקֵק לְדַבֵּר אַך שֶׁאֵינוֹ יָכוֹל זֶה בְּעַצְמוֹ גַם כֵּן טוֹב מְאד

    וְגַם יוּכַל לַעֲשׂוֹת לוֹ שִׂיחָה וּתְפִלָּה מִזֶּה בְּעַצְמוֹ וְעַל זֶה בְּעַצְמוֹ יִצְעק וְיִתְחַנֵּן לְפָנָיו יִתְבָּרַך שֶׁנִּתְרַחֵק כָּל כָּך עַד שֶׁאֵינוֹ יָכוֹל אֲפִלּוּ לְדַבֵּר

     

    וִיבַקֵּשׁ מֵאִתּוֹ יִתְבָּרַך רַחֲמִים וְתַחֲנוּנִים

    שֶׁיַּחֲמל עָלָיו וְיִפְתַּח פִּיו

    שֶׁיּוּכַל לְפָרֵשׁ שִׂיחָתוֹ לְפָנָיו

    ...

    וְהוּא דָּבָר הַשָּׁוֶה לְכָל נֶפֶשׁ מִקָּטן וְעַד גָּדוֹל

    כִּי כֻּלָּם יְכוֹלִים לִנְהג הַנְהָגָה זוֹ

    וְעַל יְדֵי זֶה יָבוֹאוּ לְמַעְלָה גְּדוֹלָה

    אַשְׁרֵי שֶׁיּאחַז בָּזֶה

     

    גַּם טוֹב לַעֲשׂוֹת מֵהַתּוֹרָה תְּפִלָּה

    דְּהַיְנוּ כְּשֶׁלּוֹמֵד אוֹ שׁוֹמֵעַ אֵיזֶה מַאֲמַר תּוֹרָה מִצַּדִּיק הָאֱמֶת אֲזַי יַעֲשֶׂה מִזֶּה תְּפִלָּה

    Practice Instructions for Hitbodedut

    • Go somewhere that you can speak as freely as possible.

    • A meadow or forest is ideal, and Rebbe Nachman taught that the plants around us will help to awaken our hearts and join us in prayer.

    • If you're in an urban environment, just take out your phone and pretend you're speaking to a person on the other end. You'll feel crazy for a few minutes and then you'll realize no one else knows or cares about your holy secret!

    • Decide how long you want to practice for.

    • Start speaking.

    • Just keep talking. This is the key to Hitbodedut. Whatever comes: heresy, rage, love, indifference, passion, joy, jealousy, anguish, elation.

    • Everything you can share with the Unknowable Mystery that is the Ein Sof (Infinite One) will build another dimension to your relationship and your existence.

    • Take a moment at the end of your practice to offer gratitude for whatever happened. What has shifted in you during the practice? It it possible to express in words, music or any other medium?