Thursday, April 26, 2012

Hisbodedus Customs

From “Breslov Eikh she-Hu: Breslov Customs and Practices, Past and Present” compiled by Dovid Zeitlin and Dovid Sears.

Rebbe Nachman urged his followers to seclude themselves, preferably in the fields or forests, for at least one hour a day in order to meditate and express themselves in their native tongue before HaShem. The best time for this is at night, while most people are sleeping.


(Likutey Moharan I, 52; ibid. II, 25, 95-101, et al.)


However, if one finds it impossible to practice hisbodedus for a full hour, one should do so even for a shorter time—even in a private corner of one's home or under one's talis—rather than let a day pass without hisbodedus.

(Sichos ha-Ran 274, 275)


Reb Levi Yitzchok Bender stated that one should not practice hisbodedus in the fields or forests at night without a companion within audible range.

(See Si'ach Sarfey Kodesh IV, 186.)


However, Reb Elazar Kenig took issue with the reason printed in Si’ach Sarfey Kodesh. There is a tradition that the Rebbe once said that if he had a young son, he would allow him to practice hisbodedus alone. The reason why one should have a companion is not because of any ordinary danger, but rather because of a terrible incident perpetrated on a follower of Reb Noson by certain opponents of Breslov in Reb Noson’s day.

(Heard from Rabbi Elazar Mordechai Kenig)


A Breslover woman has no obligation to practice hisbodedus for a full hour on a regular basis. Rather, her hisbodedus may consist of speaking to HaShem in the midst of household and other daily activities, or when she finds some spare time. As a rule, women should not practice hisbodedus in the fields or forests at night, but in their own homes, backyards, or in another safe, private place.

(Heard from various Breslov teachers)


Reb Gedaliah Kenig taught that one should always begin hisbodedus with praises and expressions of gratitude to HaShem, and only then engage in rigorous self-examination, vidui devorim, appealing for divine assistance, etc. One should always conclude on a positive note, confident that HaShem will surely help.

(Cf. Mishneh Torah, Hilchos Tefillah 1:4, re. the structure of the daily prayer service)


Before hisbodedus, Reb Gedaliah was accustomed to say "Hareini mekasher…" (see elsewhere in this compilation under "Hiskashrus / Binding Oneself to the Tzaddik and to Klal Yisrael") and "Le-shem yichud Kud’sha Berikh Hu u-Shechinteh, bi-dechilu u-rechimu, le-yached Shem ‘Yud-Heh’ be-‘Vav-Heh’ be-yichuda shelim be-shem kol Yisrael . . . For the sake of the unification of the Holy One, blessed be He, and His Presence, in fear and in love, to unite the Name Yud-Heh with Vav-Heh in perfect unity, in the name of all Israel." He made both declarations before performing many mitzvos and avodos.


Reb Elazar Mordechai Kenig once defined improper hisbodedus as when one focuses on asking HaShem for things. This leads to anger, as stated in Sefer Alef-Beis A 35 (“Improper hisbodedus leads to anger”).


When several Breslovers go to hisbodedus together, it is customary to dance afterward. This reflects the Rebbe’s statement that one knows that he has achieved a lev nishbar (a “broken heart” in the positive sense) if he subsequently experiences simchah.


(Sichos ha-Ran 20)

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