Hitbodedut – Prayer from the heart

From the teachings of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov

Hitbodedut – Prayer from the heart
February 14, 2016 Ron Caras

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Based on the teachings of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov

Imagine you had a special phone that was a direct line to one person. Imagine the person on the other end of this line had more money at his fingertips than the head of the World Bank. Imagine he had more military might than a world super power. Imagine he had more popularity than a Hollywood movie star. That he had better cures than the most highly trained doctor and more connections than a beltway politician.Try to further imagine that this individual on the other end of the line, despite all his power money and fame spent every moment waiting for you to call him so he could pick up.
…Despite all his power money and fame spent every moment waiting for you to call him so he could pick up.

This is what hitbodedut is all about

Of all of Rebbe Nachman’s awesome revelations, one of his greatest was the concept of hitbodedut, also known as Jewish meditation. Coming from the word “boded” or lone, hitbodedut is the practice of secluding oneself away from others to have a personal conversation with G-d.
This seclusion is twofold. First of all one secludes themselves away from the rest of the world in order that they should feel comfortable enough to truly open their hearts to G-d without embarrassment or worry.
Secondly, one secludes themselves away from the set prayers of the liturgy, and even of the psalms, instead turning inward and speaking their own words entirely from the heart. Through this one can turn their full attention and desire to G-d in order to truly connect with Him.
Hitbodedut is the practice of secluding oneself away from others to have a personal conversation with G-d

“Secluding oneself away from others to have a personal conversation with god”

Rebbe Nachman called hitbodedut the “new old way.” It’s an old way as it’s a continuation of the tradition of prayer leading all the way back to the patriarchs [1]. The Rebbe said that, “Even though it’s already a very old path, never the less it’s a completely new one.” [2]
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Physically when one secludes themselves with Hashem, they are creating their own place – a demarcation that in this space there is just me and G-d. Verbally, by using one’s own words to speak to G-d about whatever is in your heart, you are now making Him a part of everything you are going through. However for those who have tasted the sweetness that regular personal conversations with G-d can offer, they can truly soar. The Rebbe said about himself that the exalted levels of spirituality he reached were primarily through speaking to G-d and beseeching Him. As a child he spent years crying to G-d and conversing with Him using every type of argument he could to convince G-d to allow him to come close to Him [3].
“In this space there is just me and God”
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When one thinks about it, it might seem strange that speaking to Hashem in your own words could be so lofty. We already have a set liturgy organized for us by the Men of the Great Assembly. Through their divine inspiration they ordered the words of tefilat Shacharit (the morning prayer), tefilat Mincha (the afternoon prayer), and tefilat Marriv (the evening prayer). One who studies the works of the holy Ari will see that the set liturgy is filled to the brim with the deepest Kabbalistic secrets. So how on earth can “little ol’ me” compare with that? How can telling Hashem how my day went, my thoughts and fears, my joys and hopes… how can these minuscule little things coming from a simple person like me, possibly compare to such holy words imbued with the deepest mysteries of the creation?!
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However in truth, you can’t compare them because these two types of prayer serve completely different purposes. By praying the set liturgy we nullify ourselves to it and connect via the spiritual properties contained within it. No matter how much or little the liturgy speaks to us, the halacha mandates that we still try to pray these three daily prayers with the best concentration we can muster.
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However when you pray to G-d using your own words, instead of including your heart within the set paths, you are connecting yourself straight to G-d in a unique way that nobody in the world but you can do! An added bonus is that because you are making up the words as you go along, every session of hitbodedut is an entirely fresh and new prayer.
However when you pray to G-d using your own words, instead of including your heart within the set paths, you are connecting yourself straight to G-d in a unique way that nobody in the world but you can do!

“You are connecting yourself to God in a way that nobody in the world but you can”

Rebbe Nachman taught that the dark forces of spirituality sent to oppose our coming close to Hashem in order to maintain a balance of free will are likened to highway robbers. Highwaymen usually ambush people on the main roads as that is where they are most likely to find travelers. Therefore they hide out on the most traversed paths waiting for their victims.
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These well-traveled roads refer to the 3 set daily prayers which are so well traveled because every Jew uses these pathways to access Hashem multiple times a day. The evil spiritual forces wait until we embark on a set prayer service in order to attempt to snatch it away so to speak before it can arrive in heaven. Essentially they try to nullify the positive spiritual effects of our prayers before they have a chance to take root.
“The evil forces attempt to snatch it away before it can arrive in heaven”
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So how can one avoid the highwaymen? By traveling on roads never used before. If the road hasn’t been traveled on previously they don’t know to wait in ambush there in the first place. Every time you do hitbodedut, you are blazing a brand new trail to Hashem by speaking words that have never been spoken before. This type of prayer can sneak right past the negative spiritual influences! [4] Moreover, when one reads out of the prayer book it is all often all too easy to skim through the words without actually paying attention to what one is saying. However with hitbodedut, as you are the one coming up with the words your heart fully concentrates on it. Each and every word is literally coming from the heart!
“Each and every word is coming strait from the heart”
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Hearing of the awesome levels of G-dly connection one can attain via practicing hitbodedut, one might assume that the moment you start to talk to G-d you will instantly be flying amongst the heavens and become a perfected being. However, often when people try getting into hitbodedut they simply feel like they are talking to a wall. It’s hard to conceive that Hashem really treasures our simple words and it’s much harder to actually feel it! For others they may have been trying hitbodedut for a while already but have lack of success sometimes or maybe even most of the time. Yet don’t let this dissuade you. Rebbe Nachman said that even sitting in silence with the intention of connecting to Hashem is good.
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So just how does one go about performing hitbodedut? The first thing is to find a quiet location or a place of nature so that your mind can be at ease and free from distractions. This will help you to really open up. However if such a place isn’t available and you feel the desire to speak to Hashem right now where you are, just open your heart and speak. You can speak to Hashem in every place and at every time.
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Ok… so you’ve found a great little secluded spot in the woods, or you’re all alone in your room – just you and Hashem. Now what to talk about? The answer is anything! And everything! And anything in between. You can thank Hashem, you can make requests, you can detail everything you’re going through and your every thought and desire.
“Even sitting in silence with the intention of connecting to Hashem is good”

A few examples would include:
 


“G-d, I’m going through x, y, and z and I need your help to overcome it all.”
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“I feel lost confused… I need help”
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“You really helped me out today – thank You so much for being there for me!”
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“It’s so hard for me to feel You right now… are You really there?”
 


You will be surprised just how much Hashem responds. Sometimes it’s in the form of an actual material salvation. Other times it may be a though that suddenly enters your mind out of nowhere. Or you may speak to a friend a little while later and they randomly start speaking about just what you were praying about. One who approaches hitbodedut as a true conversation with G-d will see G-d’s responses through hints and divine manifestation.
When speaking you can either stick with one topic or jump around – the important thing is that it’s coming from you and that it’s your truth. Rebbe Nachman said that one should speak to G-d with simplicity like a child speaking to their father or a person talking to their friend [6]
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Sometimes Hashem may seem very distant and unrelatable. But by speaking to Him every day from the heart in our own words, we help make Him into our father and we start to see how He becomes our friend.
“Speak to God with simplicity..like a child speaking to their father”
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Please note: We spent much time and effort to bring the inspirational teachings of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov as accurately as possible in this article. If you find any mistakes in translation or have trouble understanding the article, please let us know! Feel free to comment below.
We bless the viewers to be connected to Rebbe Nachman and to his teachings, and to always be happy and inspired…


1) Michilta, Tanchuma 9, Rashi on Shemot 14:10
2) Chayey Mohoran Gidulat Hasagato 23
3) Sichot HaRan 10
4) Lekutei Mohoran II, 91
5) Sichot HaRan 275
6) Chayey Mohoran 439

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