middot truth meditation hitbodedut as diligence

hitbodedut as diligence

Written by  rabbi benjamin ehrenfeld

art-hitbodedutRebbe Nachman of Breslov is well known for his promotion of a practice called hitbodedut (make-oneself-alone). Hitbodedut is the practice of taking one hour (or however long you can) every day and pour out all of yourself before God.

This must be done alone, preferably in nature, in any place where you will not be interrupted by others. Rebbe Nachman explicitly taught that the main thing is to do it every day, even if you cannot do a full hour.

Over the past few months I have begun to slowly return to this practice after an unfortunately long hiatus. I am beginning incrementally because one of the reasons I fell off of the hitbodedut wagon in the first place was because of the difficulty I had in maintaining it. Earlier in my path with God I went for a few months with a consistent, one hour daily hitbodedut routine. The problem is that it became so difficult to go days and days in a row without having much new to say. When you think about it, the seasons of life in which there is enough change and transformation to make hitbodedut easy are few and far between. It’s not supposed to be easy, but it’s good.

It is one thing to daven the same thing every day. It is a different thing altogether to be similarly diligent in speaking to God in one’s own unique words and experiences. I have found that when I do, I am a better man for it, but it is very challenging. Hitbodedut demands diligence in a unique way. It demands the diligence to seek out God in the utter nakedness of our unique being every single day. This is like open-heart surgery for the soul and mind every day!

Diligence requires consistency, and this is why the practice of hitbodedut can be so helpful in proper balance within the middah of diligence. Hitbobdedut provides a mechanism for avodah (service to God) that requires us to face our personhood, and God’s role in it. In a hyper-individualized society hitbodedut stands as the ultimate challenge to the post-modern, 21st century person: Can you be alone with yourself in complete honesty for an hour every day? Hitbodedut requires us to face ourselves and our God diligently. May we all pursue diligence in ways that bring us closer to God, ourselves, and one another.

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