When we have a bit of time to take a step back and contemplate our lives today and the world at large, it’s not hard to see that everything is sped up. Our lives are busy. Things move at a dizzying pace. People want everything to be done as quickly and as easily as possible. Instant. A person is consistently bombarded with messages, advertisements, images, clips, etc. YouTube, WhatsApp, Facebook… It’s hard to find inner peace and composure. It’s hard to find time to hear our own voice amongst all of the noise from the outside. Rebbe Nachman calls this power which influences our world today so strongly ‘a stormy wind’, ‘a spirit of impurity’. (Likutei Moharan I, 8th teaching) We are so used to being fed information and images from the outside. Today people are expected to multi-task, instead of focusing calmly on one task at a time. Personally this affects me also. When I’m working and I get a new message on my phone, I feel like I need to check it right away. We are always being distracted and drawn to different temptations and diversions.
How can we possibly find the composure and strength to stay connected to ourselves and to Hashem in such an intense reality? Rebbe Nachman gave us a powerful weapon and remedy which everyone can fulfill- hitbodedut, personal prayer. Personal prayer is setting aside time each day to breathe calmly, to reflect, to listen to myself, and to try to speak with Hashem in my words, in my own language. Just being able to calm down, take a breath and have some quiet can be very healing in this day and age. Personal prayer, says Rebbe Nachman is the main advice in our day and age, and something which anyone can fulfill. It does not require any special talent or spiritual level, just the will to set aside time each day to connect to ourselves and to Hashem. We want to hear our own voice, the voice of our soul.
Rebbe Nachman teaches in Likutei Moharan regarding personal prayer: “Hitbodedut is a very great level, greater than any other. This means that a person should set for himself a time every day to be alone in a room or out in the field, and to speak out his words before Hashem… asking and pleading before Hashem that He should bring him closer to truly serving Him… This practice is a very great level, and it is a very good way and very good advice to come closer to Hashem, because this is a general advice which includes everything…” (Likutei Moharan II, 25th teaching) Personal prayer is the main advice for coming closer to Hashem, because anything which we are lacking, in any area of our life, we can tell Hashem about it and ask Him to please help us. Prayer is the answer to any problem or anything which we are lacking in our life.
In the book Rebbe Nachman’s Wisdom (Sichot HaRan), Reb Noson says that Rebbe Nachman would give each person special advice that would help them achieve a rectification for whatever they needed to rectify in their lives, according to their unique soul. However, there were two things which he guided everyone to fulfill, every day of their life- learning halacha (Jewish law), and making time for personal prayer. Reb Noson quotes later on in the same lesson that Rebbe Nachman said in general, regarding all of the different pieces of advice which he gave people about serving Hashem: “He said in this language: every practice which I advise people to fulfill is a special remedy, a rectification, and is effective for what a person did in the past, as well as for the future, and even after a person passes away from this world.” (Teaching 185) Rebbe Nachman’s advice to make time for personal prayer is a healing remedy for the mistakes of the past, as well as for our lives today, and even for our future. Sometimes we feel healing by singing a song, sometimes when we converse with Hashem, or cry or scream or ask Him questions… they are all expressions of deepening our relationship with G-d.
Rebbe Nachman once told a parable about a king who sent his son off to distant places to learn different wisdoms such as science and math, etc. After some time, the prince returned home as a very wise person. Once, the king commanded his son to take a very large stone and to lift it up to the roof of the palace. The prince was unable of course to lift the stone and he was very upset that he was not able to fulfill his father’s will. The king then told his son, when saw that he was unable to lift the great stone at all, ‘I didn’t intend for you to lift such a great stone in one piece, could you even do that with all of your great knowledge? Rather my intention was that you should take a strong hammer and hit and break the stone into small pieces, and then you could lift them up to the roof.’ Rebbe Nachman then said to the student he told this parable to: ‘so too, Hashem commanded us to lift our hearts up to G-d in Heaven (Eicha, Chapter 3, Verse 41), and our heart is a heart of stone, a very great and heavy stone. It’s impossible to lift it up whatsoever. Only by way of taking a hammer, which is our speech, can we break and smash this heart of stone and lift it up to Hashem.’ (Chayei Moharan, Teaching 441) Our prayers break away slowly the stone, the layers which are covering our good, pure hearts.
In every prayer we recognize Hashem, we express our faith that He loves us and provides for us. We increase our faith and connection with Hashem when we turn to Him in prayer. This is the healing which our souls so desperately seek.
(Inspired by a class on personal prayer by Rav Erez Moshe Doron which I heard recently)
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