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Sukkat Shalom B'nei Noach





Hitbodedut is a Jewish meditation technique. Rebbe Nachman of Breslov (1772-1810) popularized the phrase. It is a form of prayer and meditation that is unstructured, spontaneous, and personalized. As a result, one builds a close personal contact with G-d, discovering G-d in one’s own life more and more.

This type of prayer is appropriate for a Noahide because Noahides do not have a fixed liturgy, although there are prayer booklets for Noahides[1], and are free to offer prayers to G-d in their own language, in their own manner, and at their own time.

While I recognize the value of hitbodedut, I was unable to do it in the manner that I desired. I tried multiple times before giving up. The words I intended to say did not come to me naturally, and I felt far less connected to G-d during hitbodedut than I did during prayer using a prayer booklet. I couldn’t focus long enough, and my mind wandered in all ways except the one I wanted.

Hitbodedut is, as previously stated, unstructured. I like structure, a lot of structure, so maybe that was the issue? Is it possible to develop a structure that allows me to pray and meditate in an unstructured manner?

Likutei Moharam Part II- 25 contains Rabbi Nachman’s teachings on hitbodedut it states:

Hitbodedut is the highest asset and greater than everything. That is, to set aside for oneself at least an hour or more for secluding oneself in some room or a field, and, using claims and excuses, speak one’s piece with one’s Maker; using words that evoke favor, placate and conciliate in order to entreat and plead with God that He bring one closer to Him—to genuine Divine worship. This prayer and conversation should be in the language one normally uses, one’s native tongue, because it is difficult for a person to say everything he wants to say in the Holy Tongue.

Set time

An entire hour? That is something I simply cannot bring myself to do, even if the desire is there. While I don’t mind praying “long” if I can use a prayer book.

When it comes to an hour, and therefore time, the best time for hitbodedut is at night. Either very early in the morning or late at night. When you are not distracted by the sounds and activities of the outside world. However, if a specific time does not work out during the night, do it when it is possible.

Whenever…wherever…remember: the quieter the better.

Set place

It is not necessary to pray to G-d in a certain location; nonetheless, doing so will make it easier. A calm spot in your house, a tranquil spot in nature. If you can’t find a quiet spot, you can practice hitbodedut in your bed under the cover of your blankets.[2]

Native language

When I pray from a prayer book, I like to say the prayers in Hebrew whenever possible. Because it makes no sense to pray using words whose meaning one does not grasp, I only pray the parts of Hebrew that I comprehend. The Hebrew text has a more emotional impact on me than the Dutch text. I’m not sure why, but that’s how it works for me. Hitbodedut, on the other hand, I do in Dutch, my mother tongue. But what if no words come to mind? Who am I that I might figure out the appropriate words to say to G-d? A prayer book is far more secure. Great Tsadikim who pondered the best method to praise and thank G-d.

However, it is not one of the worst things if no words arise; let’s continue reading in Likutei Moharan’s text:

Even if occasionally a person’s words are sealed and he cannot open his mouth to say anything at all to G-d, this itself is nonetheless very good. That is, his readiness and his presence before G-d, and his yearning and longing to speak despite his inability to do so—this in itself is also very good.

A fixed time, a fixed place, and not having to worry about words that may or may not arrive is already a type of structure.

I have a regular time – early in the morning when the world is still silent.

I have a permanent location – my study – and when I’m on vacation, I look for a place in the evening where I may pray in the morning. (Which, for example, becomes my regular location during a vacation.)

My structure to be able to let go of structure

I wondered what I was still practically running into that was preventing it from working.

The first lines of the sentence, ‘one hour,’ caused me trouble. A whole hour that didn’t work for me in the morning because I wanted to recite my “normal prayers from the prayer book for sure” and didn’t work for me in the evening because I was too exhausted. 

Hitbodedut also didn’t work for me since the words had to appear spontaneously, which they didn’t.

All of this was discussed with a friend. She said I was being too hard on myself. Why not begin with 5 minutes per day? It is more essential to perform it for a few minutes every day rather than an hour once in a while. She did it herself for a few minutes after her morning prayers, and while it wasn’t always successful, it was the best approach for her.

And she was correct; why not start small? Still, all I could think about during my hitbodedut was the time. Was the five minutes up, or was it still going on? I then decided to set an alarm clock. That was effective for me. Even so beautifully that the alarm clock startled me.

I thought that, since I had my prayer book with me and found the essential structure there, that I would just pick one random word from it and meditate on it and pray. And, thank Baruch Hashem – Thank G-d, the words are finally coming.

Rebbe Nachman said to Reb Noson: A person should practice hitbodedut in a simple, straightforward manner, as if he were conversing with a close friend (Tzaddik #439; Kokhavey Or p.12 #54)

My hitbodedut may not be as spontaneous as Rabbi Nachman intended, my language perhaps not yet as simple and normal as if speaking to a friend, but it is a good start, after 7 months of “failure”.

By Angelique Sijbolts


[1]Example of a prayerbook: Prayers, Blessings, and Faith for Noahides – 7th English Edition
[2] Breslov Article: Hitbodedut & Jewish Meditation: How To
Note: During prayer, however, it is important to be decently dressed.

See also the blog: Pirkei Avot 2:13 – How Should I Pray?

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