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From Sefer Kavanos Halev, By Moshe at ilovetorah.com
“I’m going to go out and scream this in the streets and tell the world that I know the secret how to come close to Hashem.” Rabbi Noson of Nemorov
Hisbodidus is the practice of spiritual meditation performed on an individual basis for the purpose of drawing closer to Hashem. Almost since the beginning of time, people reached their high level of Avodas Hashem – service to G-D - through hisbodidus. Without this private, personal communication with one’s Creator, it is unforeseeable how even the greatest sage could come close to Hashem and grow spiritually. This practice is the root and foundation of holiness and repentance, above all else. Therefore, hisbodidus should become standard practice for all.
When first learning about hisbodidus, many people realize that they have been using it, either consciously or subconsciously for years. Whether walking or sitting in rush hour traffic, one could naturally start talking to Hashem in his own words expressing personal troubles to Him. Sitting alone at night affords the best opportunity to start conversing with Hashem. Rebbe Nachman teaches that hisbodidus is the highest path of all and he encourages everyone to reserve an hour or more each day for this purpose. Considering our over-scheduled lives, it may seem difficult at first to set aside this time, but the benefits of better organization and increased productivity that come as a result, far outweigh the time spent.
If possible, Rebbe Nachman suggests that one meditate alone in a room specifically reserved for Torah study, prayer and meditation with Hashem. If you do not have a special room available, you can still meditate and converse with Hashem. A man can create his own special room under his tallis by draping it over his eyes and secluding himself from his surroundings. One can sit with an open sefer (book) and instead of studying, speak to Hashem.
Dovid Hamelech used to practice his hisbodidus, “Each night I meditate in my bed.” (Psalms 6:7). It was a comfortable and private place in which he could reflect and pour out his heart to Hashem. Moshe Rabbenu went out at midnight and spread his hands to Hashem. He went into a private place and meditated. (****Source needed for Moshe***) Some people prefer to meditate in a quiet field, alone with nature. The Baal Shem Tov used to practice much of his hisbodidus in the forest where it was quiet and secluded. The atmosphere itself is beneficial to this process. It is taught every blade of grass has a malach (angel) above, watching it grow. When talking to Hashem in such a place, surrounded by the grasses and the malachim (angels), a person’s hisbodidus reaches an elevated state. The malachim take on the roll of messengers; they help elevate ones words and in a sense, join in ones prayer.
Hisbodidus is the key to mussar (character correction) and coming closer to Hashem. Every moment of hisbodidus is precious to avodas Hashem; this simple devotion can lead a person to the greatest levels of spiritual purity. Although our greatest tzaddikim (righteous people) have utilized Hisbodidus to reach their elevated madreigas, every person, regardless of age or degree of religiosity can employ it. Ironically, people completely removed from Torah who do not routinely pray, will often practice hisbodidus to get closer to Hashem in their own, personal way.
Unlike formal prayer, hisbodidus is an individual’s personal communication and should be spoken using one’s own vernacular. There is, however, a basic formula to hisbodidus that, if followed, empowers a person’s prayers to draw Hashem closer. It is best to do it at the same time each day, preferably at night, after chatzos (midnight). At this time, the world is asleep but the gates of heaven are wider for our prayers to enter. The truly righteous are awake when the rest of the world is fast asleep. Our minds are also clearer spiritually so we can think about our lives with the utmost of clarity.
One of the goals of hisbodidus is to nullify ones ego and selfishness. At first, a person should talk to Hashem about every little thing important to them, trying to focus primarily on their avodas Hashem as much as possible. One should tell Hashem about each character trait that needs improvement. It takes practice, introspection and many sessions of hisbodidus to be able to present oneself before Hashem with complete humility. Boruch Hashem, practiced the right way, hisbodidus will lead a person to the level of bitul. When that occurs, ones heart will burn with love and fear of Heaven to such an extent that nothing come between them and Hashem. A person’s mind will be focused with a clarity that has never before been experienced and performance of mitzvos will take on a new meaning and passion untouchable by the yetzer hara (evil inclination). Every day will be one of spiritual growth and purification. No sefer (book) or drosha (sermon) will do anything for a person unless they apply this learning in a practical and productive manner. One hour a day of reflection, of thinking and speaking to Hashem about ones life and the world around them, is all that is needed.
One of Rebbe Nachman’s main tasks in this world was to remind us of the importance of this overlooked, important devotion. He said, “One who does not meditate cannot have wisdom. He may occasionally be able to concentrate, but not for any significant length of time. His power of concentration will remain weak and cannot be maintained. A person who does not meditate won’t realize the foolishness of this world. But one who has a relaxed and penetrating mind can see that all around him is vanity.”
For some of us, talking to Hashem in our own words is easy, while for others it can be a struggle. Even throughout our lives, at certain times it will come naturally while at others, we will find it difficult. At times, we might sit in our special place and draw a blank, unable to think of anything to say to Hashem. We might find that the spot in which we did our hisbodidus previously only brings us to a lack of concentration. Move to another place when this happens, but do not give up. Sit in a new place and repeat the words, ‘Ribono Shel Olam’ (L-rd of the Universe) and ‘it is still very good.’ Even concentrating on one word will allow a person to remain mentally strong. Repeat that word over and over; meditating on that single word itself is very good. Hashem will show his mercy and open ones mind and mouth so that he will be able to express his thoughts.
My friends, I know from the bottom of my heart that hisbodidus has helped me in ways I cannot even express. It does wonders for my soul and increases my emunah and betachon (trust and faith in Hashem). There was a time in my life when even the simplest things I tried to accomplish were insurmountable. I gave in to laziness and sleep and and became too impatient to do hisbodidus. I had to fight my way back to regular practice of hisbodidus and when I did, I realized that I did not fear or complain over the hardships of my life. I could unburden myself of all the difficulties and struggles I was experiencing. It made me content with my family, friends and myself and they found me easier to be with as well. If I committed a sin, I removed the pain of having done so by confessing it to Hashem during my hisbodidus. My health and emotional stability improved. I felt nullified compared to Hashem and this helped me to realize that my life should be devoted to Hashem and Him alone.
Chazal teach us that Hashem helps a person to follow the path they want to follow. If the path in your heart is Torah, Hashem will help you follow it and nothing will stand in your way. If you push yourself to do hisbodidus for an hour a couple of times, it will become easier to incorporate into your regular daily routine and you will be successful. You might attain such a degree of happiness and contentment in your life that an hour of hisbodidus each day will not be enough; on your own accord you will want to add more time. As with anything we find helpful in our lives, you will want to reach out to teach this important practice to others, and im yirtza Hashem, you will. When Rav Nosson zt”l first heard this teaching from Rebbe Nachman, he said, “I’m going to go out and scream this in the streets and tell the world that I know the secret how to come close to Hashem.” The Rebbe responded, “They won’t listen to you, you have to teach it carefully.” (***Source needed for this conversation) The Jewish people knew that the Torah and commandments were true and said, “We will do as we have heard.” I’m not asking you to take my word for it: See for yourself how hisbodidus will make your avodas Hashem more meaningful.
When formulating our prayers, the Great Assembly specifically tried to begin each section with praise to Hashem and only then to beseech Him for our needs. We begin Mincha (the afternoon prayer service) with the prayer ‘Ashrei’, which is full of praise to Hashem. We end Mincha with the prayer ‘Aleinu lishabeach’, which discuses our obligation to praise. Our hisbodidus utilizes the same format, starting with praise, then covering our personal topics, which should include introspection, repentance, requests for fulfillment of our physical, material and spiritual needs, and finally, more praise.
A person must pray for everything. If, for example, a persons garment is torn and they have no money to replace it, they should pray for a new one. One should pray for all their needs, large and small. Hashem gives us food, clothing, and everything else we need, even if we do not ask for them. We are similar to the animals in that, “Hashem gives food to every living creature.” (Psalms 147:9), but a human being must receive all of life’s necessities only through prayer. Rabbi Nathan once mentioned to Rebbe Nachman that he needed something small. Rebbe Nachman instructed him, “Pray to Hashem for it.” It is important to ask Hashem for all of ones needs. Do you need a new car? Is your dining room table broken? Are you struggling financially? It doesn’t mean that when you ask Hashem, the requested items will magically appear on your doorstep. He might help you get an increase in salary or a better paying job. You may find that an item you’ve needed is on sale at a price you can afford and, to make it easier, you might get a check in the mail you were not expecting. Some people would attribute this sequence of events to ‘coincidence’ but we know in our hearts that it all came together because Hashem orchestrated it for our benefit.
There is an old joke that tells about a man who had complete faith in Hashem. It started raining heavily and the river overflowed, flooding the streets. The man’s neighbors came banging on his door and shouting for him to evacuate his house, but he refused saying, ‘I’m waiting for Hashem to save me.’ The water rose above the first floor so he went to the second floor and sat by the window, waiting. Rescue workers came by in a boat, urging the man to join them in the boat, but he refused, asserting that he was going to wait for Hashem to save him. The water continued to rise and the man had to climb out the window onto the roof of his house. A helicopter came by with a ladder extended down to the man. The pilot shouted for him to grab onto the ladder so he would be saved, but the man stubbornly refused. With no place left to wait for Hashem, he drowned. His day of judgement came and Hashem asked the man why he drowned. The man said ‘I had complete faith that You were going to come and save me, so I refused help from all the people who came.’ Hashem replied, ‘Who do you think sent your neighbors, the rescue workers in the boat and the helicopter pilot?’
Although we must have faith that Hashem will send us what we need, we have to be aware of its arrival and accept it. The things we need don’t have to come wrapped as a miracle to show us that Hashem sent it. Sometimes, it can be difficult to see the hand of Hashem in what we receive, but it’s always there.
Are we supposed to think that Hashem has no idea what we need unless we ask Him for it? Of course he knows! The purpose of asking Hashem for the things we need and want isn’t so we can get them fulfilled. Rather, we have to ask Hashem for them so we recognize that everything comes from Him. When do most people resort to prayer the most? Given the nature of human beings, when everything is going well, when we have everything we need and want and when we are healthy, we ‘forget’ to acknowledge Hashem’s hand in keeping the order in our lives. He sends us our troubles and difficulties specifically so we will pray. If you do not plead to Hashem about all your problems and needs, you might miss the point of the difficulties you’re experiencing. Turn to Hashem for everything. We must pray for His assistance, put our faith in Him and be patient. Only Hashem knows what is best for us. We might pray for something that we think we really need, but we don’t get it. The natural reaction is to think that Hashem didn’t answer our pleadings. He always answers us, but sometimes the answer is ‘no’. Maybe you asked for a new car, because the one you’re driving now is old and lacks some of the newest comforts and technology. Nothing occurs to allow you to get the car, so you assume that Hashem ignored your request. In fact, in His infinite wisdom, Hashem sees that if you get that car, you will drive to a certain place at a certain time and He knows that at that exact time and place, there will be a fatal car crash. By saying ‘no’ to your request for the car at this time, Hashem is saving your life.
Something occurred quite a few years ago that sends a chill up the spine of anyone that hears this story: A couple rented a house, not far from the husband’s job, where he was a mid-level executive. They were expecting their first baby and wanted to buy the house they were renting. They worked out the terms of the purchase with the owners and signed the contracts. One day, the wife called the landlord/owners in tears: Without warning or reason, her husband lost his job. The couple didn’t know how they would buy the house, let alone manage with a baby on the way. The owner of the house told her not to worry about the house, they could suspend the contract if necessary. More importantly, the owner told the wife to realize that although she couldn’t see the reason for it at this time, her husband lost his job for a reason and something good would come of it. Approximately two weeks later, there was a fire in an area restaurant - there were no survivors. It was reported on the news that the people who perished in the fire were all the management of the company from which the husband had been terminated. Had he not lost his job, he would have lost his life. The owner of the house called the couple to see how they were faring. The wife was again in tears, but this time, tears of relief that her husband was spared and she would not have to raise their child alone. He found a new job at a higher salary in a new location and they moved.
Frequently, we don’t get what we pray for but we should still pray for things we feel are important to our avodas Hashem. Whatever it is, no matter how unimportant it may seem, pray to Hashem for it. Take all your health, money and family problems, offensive neighbors, whatever is causing you hardship and lay it all out to Hashem. Pray that He help you in your devotion, that you should be worthy of drawing close to Him.
People often think that hisbodidus is done mentally, without speaking. This is not correct. Some people have the mistaken impression that they are supposed to shout to Hashem. It is important to talk quietly to Hashem and listen to what you are saying. Thinking positive thoughts is always beneficial. Hisbodidus should be practiced in a modest way. The entire purpose of this practice is to become completely bittul - nullified. Therefore, it is best done privately and that few people know the exact time this devotion is performed.
When a person does their hisbodidus, they should choose their words carefully and think before uttering each word. At the same time, speaking to Hashem should be as comfortable as speaking to a close friend. Rebbe Nachman teaches, “When a person speaks to Hashem and uses every kind of argument and appeal to ‘conquer’ Hashem, then Hashem Himself has great joy and pleasure from this. He will send words to this person’s mouth so that he will be able to ‘conquer’ Him. How else could flesh and blood win a victory against Hashem? It is only because Hashem Himself helps us.”
Hisbodidus follows the format of our conventional tfillos (prayers), starting with praise, followed by requests. One should express thoughts and troubles to Hashem like a child complaining and pestering his father. “ You are children to Hashem.”(Deuteronomy 14:1).
You might wish to say, ‘Hashem,
thank You for creating me as a Jew and giving me the opportunity to serve you.
You do so much for me that I often overlook it and take it for granted. Even
when I sin, You sustain me and allow me to repent. There are no words sufficient
enough to praiseYou. If all the seas were ink and all the land paper, I could
not possibly write down all the praises I owe you.’ Your personal hisbodidus
should be your own words brought out from the recesses of your heart.
· The ‘body’ of hibodidus will differ with each person. It should cover introspection, repentance and prayer for ones physical and spiritual needs.
· Speak about your day, narrating what you did and how you handled situations that you faced. By going through the events of your day and how you dealt with them, you will be able to improve your midos (character traits). Discuss with Hashem the difficulties you currently face and how you might improve in the future. After reflecting on your day, you might occasionally wish to reflect on past days.
· Ask Hashem to forgive your sins and mistakes, recounting them individually. You should even discuss a simple thing like omitting modeh ani in the morning or having said it without the proper intention and ask Hashem for help.
· Review your whole life with Hashem on occasion; try to recall events for which you might not have repented completely. This way, you will remove all Divine Judgments against yourself and your fear of Hashem will be pure, not clothed in phobias. You will not be drawn down by self-recrimination because you know that you have placed your sins before Hashem as Dovid Hamelech taught, “My sin I make known to you” (Psalms 32:5).
· Go through your attributes such as anger, pride, depression, lust, jealousy, hatred, laziness, etc. This part of hisbodidus should be done with the intention of nullifying ones ego and surrendering oneself to Hashem. Begin with one character trait such as anger and stay there as long as possible to cover all of its aspects. This way, you can truly reflect on your errors and find solutions to make the necessary changes. You might wish to say, ‘Hashem, anger is a character trait that leads a person to sin. When people lose control over themselves by getting angry, they hurt themselves and many people close to them. It causes a person to become sick when they have constant anger in their heart. Hashem, I have such a problem and I’m not sure how to rid myself of it. I get angry quickly and I barely have time to think of ways to save myself from this anger. I’m always upset with my wife and friends and it takes me far away from you. So many people are being hurt by my anger that it pains me. Hashem, I need Your help to remain calm and think first. Help me emulate Your ways; You are slow to anger even though we challenge You on a regular basis. I’m asking for your assistance so I can do better and deal with situations in a more appropriate manner. Someone once challenged Hillel to see if being asked ridiculous questions over and over would anger him. Hillel did not lose his temper. I want to follow in the ways of Hillel, our sages and You, Hashem.”
· When you have completed talking about one topic, go on to the next. After thoroughly exploring each character trait, you will find yourself feeling completely refreshed with a new confidence in your ability to make necessary character changes. Soon you will feel yourself becoming bittul – nullified - in emunah – faith - in Hashem and fear of Him. Self-reflection in the form of hisbodidus is valuable to our midos.
· Now that the basics have been covered, you are free to talk about your spiritual and physical needs. Spiritual needs are most important and should take precedence, though a person’s physical needs must not be neglected. When talking about your spiritual needs, set your heart on fire and beg Hashem to draw you near to Him. Tell Him of your struggles trying to serve Him and how much you sincerely want to be infused with His holiness. Appeal to Hashem and tell Him how important it is to you to learn Torah for its own sake. Make your way through the mitzvos you want help to fulfill. Tell Hashem all that you wish to accomplish and how much you want to come close to Him. Pleading to Hashem about attaining spiritual heights is very holy and purifying. Yearning and praying is not enough; after our hisbodidus, we must work harder physically to attain that which we seek. You might wish to say, ‘Hashem I love you so much. The Torah is so beautiful and I thank You for giving me the opportunity to learn it. I forget so much of what I learn and it’s challenging for me to put it all into practice. Hashem, please help me to learn Torah and apply it to my life. I am so far away from You that I cannot bear the pain. I am not happy at my current madreiga. True happiness comes from following the Torah and being close to You. That is all I want Hashem and I need Your help. Draw me close to You, Hashem. I have so much work to improve my midos and I am trying desperately to correct my actions. Please Hashem, I yearn to be a servant in whom You take pride want close to You. I know I don’t deserve more than I already have but please shine Your countenance upon me. This is what I truly yearn for more then anything. There is so much I want to accomplish spiritually but I struggle Hashem. Please help me to be a good Jew. I want to become a tzaddik and have purity of mind. It is important to me to be a holy person.’
· Do not forget to pray for the spiritual and physical well being of the entire Jewish nation. This thought should come naturally if one has properly nullified their ego through some of the above practices.
· Having addressed ones spiritual needs, it would be a good time to go through all of ones physical needs.
· We end hisbodidus in the same manner as we started, with praise. You might wish to say, ‘Hashem, thank You for giving me the opportunity to speak to You about my needs. I cannot thank You enough for being there for me through all my ups and downs. Without You I would be lost. You care so much about every one of your creations. I know I have not begun to open up my heart properly to You so I hope that You will help me to do hisbodidus again soon. Thank You, Hashem, for drawing me close to You and hearing my prayer. There is no one else besides You, Hashem. ‘You open your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing.’(Psalms 145:16). Hashem, I love You and Your Torah. Thank You for the opportunity you have given your nation to draw close to You and for giving us the Torah.’
The importance to our daily life of practicing hisbodidus should now be obvious. It would be unfortunate not to take advantage of this gift from Hashem. There are many vital messages that you should have gotten from this chapter. The first is that you must pray to Hashem for everything. Reb Nachman Chazan was once hammering a nail and the hammer slipped and he hurt his hand. Reb Noson said to him, “Why didn’t you practice hisbodidus before swinging the hammer? You should have prayed to hit the nail and not your hand.”
The second message to remember is that Hashem is with us at all times, waiting for us to ask for His assistance. Third, hisbodidus is the vehicle through which many tzaddikim reached their high madregos and it can help you do the same. I hope that you understand the importance of making your hisbodidus at a set time daily, not rushing through it in five minutes but taking at least an one hour to really examine, reflect, think, meditate. You will develop peace of mind, knowing that the Creator of the universe wants to hear from you and help you. Most important is that you pass this teaching on to all those who may benefit from it.
Hashem I love
You so much. The Torah You have given
us is so precious and dear to me. When it is cold outside I still feel Your
warmth. As much as darkness manifests itself in the night, there is so much
light stemming from all of Your mercy towards me.
Everyday as I awaken from my slumber, I am created
anew. Unfortunately, I do not feel very new. This is not Your fault, Hashem,
as I am the one that takes little time to reflect upon the things that I should.
This is why I need to institute a proper regimen of hisbodidus
into my schedule.
Hashem, I try
to do hisbodidus but it seems like the
channels to heaven are blocked for me. This is only a mirage – a false vision
from my imagination - but being mere dust and ashes that I am, I lose hope and
patience with my prayers. I am begging You for help, Hashem. I know the gates are open for me though I choose to ignore
them. Help me set aside the proper time for hisbodidus
and during those times please keep open the gates of Heaven and help me pour out
my heart to You.
Assist me, Hashem,
that I should say the right things to You once I start speaking, to pray for all
of my spiritual and physical needs without confusion as too what my real needs
are. Help me to confess all of my sins from today and the mistakes of the past
to You. Let my ego be nullified as I stand before You, pleading to be forgiven
and to drawn closer to you. Let me not forget the needs of others during my
prayers. Hashem, You give me so much
hope and joy and I feel so loved. Aid me please in expressing my true love and
feelings for Your commandments. Do not allow day and weeks to pass with my
palette remaining empty. Thank You, Hashem,
for teaching me about hisbodidus. For
this alone I am indebted to you.
 Sichos Haran 274
 Likutey Maharan 2:11, Rebbe Nachman’s Wisdom#163
Hishtap’kus Hanefesh, Outpouring of the soul #2
 Rebbe Nachman’s Wisdom #47
 Tzaddik 440
 Likutey Moharan Tinyana 97
 Yoma 38b
 Exodus 19:8
 Outpouring of the Soul #36
 Likutey Etzos, Hisbodidus 6
 Likutey Etzos, Hisbodidus
 Rabbi Nachman’s Wisdom #7
 Siach Sarfei Kodesh I-687