"If the essence of proper hitbodedut is seeking what HaShem wants from us, then improper hitbodedut is the opposite, when one fails to seek HaShem’s Will during his hitbodedut. Rather, he prays to HaShem to fulfill his own physical and spiritual desires, and this is contrary to HaShem’s Will. He actually asks HaShem to help them do what is contrary to HaShem’s Will". (In Forest Fields, page 180, Rabbi Shalom Arush)
The tragic truth is that we are all guilty of this. I am learning how much I do not know. Baruch HaShem! Truly the only thing that is worth doing is the continual pursuit of serving, worshiping, and submitting to the Will of HaShem …every other pursuit is entirely meaningless and utterly futile. As we strive to please HaShem rather than waste time on empty frivolity we cannot help being exuberant! The joy and pure contentment is impossible to describe. As we journey on a path that HaShem prepares for us we are privy to His presence in a way that goes beyond Master and servant… we begin to be his cherished child. Even though we are still sinful mortals He grants us grace when we obey Him, seek His Will, honour the Sabbath, HIS Sabbath, perform mitzvot because it is a joy to do His bidding and not merely go through the motions or even worse, ignore them altogether.
Every commandment in Torah is specifically for our benefit; we were created to bring Him pleasure not to pursue our own desires. Yet that is what everything on earth is geared toward: our own pleasure, every gizmo, every fashion, fad, frivolity and passing fancy is utterly vain and useless. We are continually bombarded with flashy advertisments that are contrary to a life lived in submission to HaShem. Certainly there are careers that may help humanity or serve the public in some significant way but in the grand scheme of things careers, status, wealth, beauty, power, education, fame are empty wastes of time. If what you are doing is not the Will of HaShem you are wasting your life ."Proper hitbodedut means that a person seeks to nullify his will to the Will of HaShem. All his hitbodedut and prayer focus on this" (In Forest Fields, 180). Our prayer life must be entirely focused on seeking the Will of HaShem. Sadly, what we tend to pray for is contrary to this fundamental truth. We pray for things rather than pray for what HaShem wants from us. Prayers that focus on the desires of our hearts are antithetical to the true purpose of prayer itself, therfore, we need to learn how to pray.
Please do not think that I am speaking down to anyone who is reading this article. Absolutely not! As a fairly new believer, approximately two years since coming into the light of the Truth, I am still basically an infant yearning for a deeper and far more intimate relationship with my Creator. One of the most powerful tools we have to use as we strive to know HaShem and His Will for us is hitbodedut, personal prayer. That does not mean we shun our ritual prayer life… on the contrary, ritual prayer is one way of drawing closer to HaShem. However, it is through hitbodedut that we begin to understand ourselves, our sins, and our shortcomings. Once we learn to search our own hearts for such flaws we can then pray to HaShem for nullification of these flaws and ask Him to show us His desire for our lives. Once again allow me to assure you that I do not presume to teach or preach, it is my hope to share my own challenges with you so that we can all move ahead together on our journey to HaShem.
"When a person strengthens himself in emuna, clinging to the steadfast belief in HaShem’s mercy, he begins to see big miracles. Nothing can obstruct a humble and heartfelt appeal to HaShem’s mercy! HaShem is honourbound to answer the cries of all who turned to him. One should not allow anyone to weaken his resolve to pray and pray until those prayers are answered" (In Forest Filds, 80). Yes, we MUST pray and pray and pray if we are to draw close to our Master, Adonai Eloheinu, Adonai Echad, A big problem in the churches (and I have been to many over the course of many years) is that they don’t teach people the proper way to pray. And yes there is a proper way and an improper way to address HaShem. This does not mean that we need to use flowery or formal language when we speak to HaShem neither does it mean that we can just speak to him in any old jargon or street talk nonsense. Let us always remember that HaShem isn’t just our buddy, someone we just shoot the breeze with casually as we stumble through the day, dividing our concentration between HaShem and whatever we happen to be doing at that moment. Many people I know take their streaming conversations to HaShem throughout the day and consider these casual conversations as a form of prayer. Perhaps that may be considered prayer I’m not an expert I don’t know, however, I do know that we must bow down before HaShem every single day and speak to him from our hearts without allowing anything or anyone to interrupt that time of prayer. As Rabbi Shalom a Arush indicates in his book, In Forest Fields, we need to be diligent, praying for at least one hour each and every day. I know that some of you will think that this is a task that is overwhelming because of your busy life, others will say that yes that stream of consciousness we have going on with HaShem all day is in fact prayer and that plus their bedtime prayers suffice. I’ve no intention of arguing these points because it is clear to me that that is not the case. I do not expect anyone to read this article and take it at face value. Why? Because we must investigate anything anyone tells us and ask HaShem for clarity and truth on every matter. My wish is that the reader ponders this information/opinion and then begins an investigation of this important issue on their own. Do not follow anyone blindly! Search Torah, read the Talmud, search the teachings of Rashi, Rabbi Nachman of Breslev, and any number of others who dedicated their lives to the study of G-d’s Word. Keep the Sabbath, delight in it EVERY week all year long. Embrace the Feasts of HaShem, He gave us everything we need to honour and obey Him throughout the year. Your joy will be boundless, you will find yourself on an intimate level with HaShem that you could not have imagined. Selah . . . . .
In conclusion I must admit that it baffles me why so many people reject Torah, reject strong personal prayer, reject the knowledge of the sages who spent their entire lives seeking HaShem . . . growing closer to Him thus furthering their knowledge of Torah, the Prophets and the Psalms. In order to fully understand HaShem we must understand Torah, the cultural context in which it was given and the historical context in which it was carried out. It is only when we understand these two factors that we really begin to understand what Torah really means. Of course one way to understand Torah is to study Torah. However, we must implore HaShem (via hitbodedut) to reveal to us the Truth of Torah and His Will for our lives. Therefore, we can only deduce one thing: we must pray and study, one without the other is useless. I urge everyone reading this article to set time aside every day without exception for in depth personal prayer. It does not matter who you are or where you live it does not matter what you do and whom you live with, if you truly want to seek HaShem, to please Him, and to truly understand everything He gives us through Torah, every blessing and every challenge He sets before us we must spend private time with Him. We must pray for the revelation of His Will and not for the trophies and whims of our own hearts. I also recommend two of Rabbi Shalom Arush’s books, In Forest Fields and The Garden of Emuna: A Practical Guide to Life.
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