I cannot think of a better time than the present to introduce a lesser known Jewish prayer practice, advocated by Rebbe Nachman of Breslov (1772 – 1810). It’s called Hitbodedut (Hebrew), meaning “self-seclusion.”
The Ba’al Shem Tov and other renowned Jewish mystics were devout practitioners.
May the Force Be With You!
Our greatest Tzaddikim have attributed their achievements to Hitbodedut, but it’s for everyone equally and anyone can reap supreme value through it, attaining the greatest closeness to God. Hitbodedut rises up to a very high place.Rebbe Nachman, Likutey Moharan II, 25
How can you get in on it? It’s simple, as the most powerful things usually are.
You have spontaneous, open and direct conversations with GD about anything and everything, in your own vernacular or any language you speak best. Nothing is too trivial or mundane.
Pray for everything. If your garment is torn beyond repair, pray for a new one. Do this for everything, large or small. Speak to God the way you would speak to your friend.Rebbe Nachman
Location, Location, Location — Nachman believed the best place to practice is alone in the woods or meadows, where Momma Nature has your back. No minyan of humans, just helpful foliage (and critters).
“When one goes out to the woods and meadows to pray, every blade of grass, every plant and flower enter his prayers and help him, putting strength and force into his words.”Rebbe Nachman
How cool and Kabbalistic is that? Very! Kabbalah tells us the Nitzutzei Kedusha ניצוצי קדושה (Holy Sparks) are in EVERYTHING animate and inanimate: i.e. animals, trees, rocks, plants, blades of grass, grains of sand.
Day or Night? The “middle of the night” was considered to be an ideal time to practice.
Moonlight is believed to be a powerful spiritual aid for energy healing and recharging the chakras in many spiritual traditions.
Don’t feel safe going out in woods at night? I get it. Who wants to be in the woods at midnight where Jason or Freddy Kruger might be hanging out?
No worries! You can use your own backyard, a private room, cover your head completely with a tallit (prayer shawl), or your own bed covers. King David wrote the Book of Psalms in bed, beneath the covers! (Sichot Haran #68).
Roots and Robbers!
Jewish prayer originally began with each person pouring out his heart to God in his own words and language. According to the law, the original form of prayer remains primary. Speaking to God from the depths of your heart in the language you know best is the essence of prayer. This is how all the great mystics attained their high levels.
There’s another advantage as well. When one recites scripted prayers, there are maligning forces lying in wait along the pathways of these prayers, for like highway robbers, they know the road all too well. But when a person takes an uncharted and spontaneous path that springs directly from the heart, they cannot ambush.Rebbe Nachman, Sichot Haran #229 / Likutey Moharan II, 97
Wow! There’s a lot to unpack in the second paragraph!
Formulaic Jewish prayers are in Hebrew, but the original and principal form of Jewish prayer is in your own native tongue/s, allowing your words to flow freely from your heart. (Rebbe Nachman, Likutey Moharan II, 25).
Tongue-Tied? Rebbe Nachman recommended saying one word repeatedly with all your might to be released from your subconscious blockages.
One word mantras, like Om or Buddho, are powerful spiritual tools in Hinduism, Buddhism and other traditions.
Just for fun, I’ll close with a delightful cat tale.
Rebbe Nachman told of a well-known Rebbe who would pray in his private room adjacent to his shul. Hearing sounds outside his door and thinking it was his congregants inspired his devotions, the rebbe prayed with increased enthusiasm. Later, he discovered the sounds were caused by a cat scratching at the door. “For nine years he prayed to a cat!” Rebbe Nachman commented.
😂😹 I’m sure the cat helped to amplify the Rebbe’s prayers with her direct line to Divinity, unobstructed by human dogma (pun intended).
©️2020 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED Shiur 11.09.19
My Modern Midrash:
GD, in my belief, is whatever you perceive Divinity to be — the biblical God, the Universal Life Force, the Divine Feminine, Mother Nature, Higher Consciousness, Enlightenment, The Great Spirit, The Infinite (a name for GD in Kabbalah) — it’s all up to personal perception.
I don’t see Divinity as an essence that can be boxed in. Maybe speaking to GD intimately, is speaking to your own self-compassion. Maybe the saboteurs along your familiar pathways of prayer are your own self-sabotaging narratives. Maybe praying spontaneously, from the heart, creates a paradigm shift.