Tuesday, September 11, 2007

R' Nachman of Breslov on Prayer

I was in the Stern library and stumbled upon a little book half-hidden between two larger books. I took it down and read it tonight; it's entitled Outpouring of the Soul. I feel like it was meant for me or that I was meant to find it; it's a little strange how much I connect to what he writes.

Here are some excerpts that I find particularly meaningful, intriguing or relevant.

2. Meditation

Meditation is the highest path of all. One must therefore set aside an hour or more each day to meditate by himself in a room or in the field.

Meditation should consist of conversation with God. One can pour out his words before his Creator. This can include complaints, excuses, or words seeking grace, acceptance and reconciliation. He must beg and plead that God bring him close and allow him to serve Him in truth.

One's conversation with God should be in the everyday language that he normally uses. Hebrew may be the preferred language for prayer, but it is difficult for a person to express himself in Hebrew. Furthermore, if one is not accustomed to speaking Hebrew, his heart is not drawn after the words.

However, in the language that a person normally speaks, it is very easy for him to express himself. The heart is closer to such a language, and follows it, since the person is more accustomed to it. Therefore, when one uses his native language, he can express everything that is in his heart, and tell it to God.

One's conversation with God can consist of regret and repentance. It can consist of prayers and pleading to be worthy of approaching Him and coming close to Him in truth from this day on. Each one should speak to God according to his own level.

One must be very careful to accustom himself to spend at least one hour a day in such meditation. During the rest of the day, one will then be in a state of joy and ecstasy.

This practice is extremely potent and powerful. It is an extremely beneficial practice in coming close to God. It is a general practice that is all-inclusive.

No matter what one feels he is lacking in his relationship to God, he can converse with God and ask him for help. This is true even if one is completely removed from any relationship with God.

There will be many times that one will find it impossible to say anything to God. His mouth will be sealed, and he will not be able to find any words to say. Nevertheless, the very fact that he has made the effort and has prepared himself to converse with God is in itself very beneficial. He has tried, and is ready and prepared to converse with God, yearning and longing to do so, but he is unable. This in itself is also very good.

Actually, one can make a conversation and prayer out of this itself. He should cry out to God that he is so far from Him that he cannot even speak. He should beg that God grant him mercy and open his mouth, so that he will be able to express himself before Him.

Many great holy men have related that they reached their high spiritual level only through this practice. An intelligent person will realize that with this practice one can constantly reach higher and higher. Furthermore it is a universal practice that can be used by great and small alike. every individual can make use of this practice, and reach the highest levels. Happy is he who grasps it.

It is also good to make prayers out of lessons. Thus if one hears a Torah lesson from a true holy man, he should make it into a prayer. He should contemplate everything in the lesson, and pray to God that he be worthy of attaining it. He should tell God how far he is from such attainment, and beg that he be helped to achieve everything in the lesson.

If one then has intelligence and true desire, God will guide him along the path of truth, and he will understand how to reach his goal. He will speak with beautiful words and true arguments, pleading with God to draw him close to Him.

The concept of a conversation with God is bound to an extremely high spiritual level. This is especially true when one makes prayers out of Torah lessons. This results in great delight on high.

Likutey Moharan Tinyana 25 (pages 21-22)

6. Opening the Heart

Speech has a great power to awaken a person spiritually.

Sometimes a person thinks that he has no heart and cannot reach a meditave state.

Nevertheless, if he expresses himself with many words of awakening, supplication and prayer, this speech itself will bring a revelation and awakening of his meditative powers and his soul.

This is the meaning of the verse, "My soul came forth when he spoke" (Song of Songs 5:6). It indicates that speech itself is a revelation of the soul and the heart.

It often happens that if one speaks to God very much, even without any true meditation, he can arrive at a great revelation of his meditative powers and his soul. This is because speech itself has great power.

Likutey Moharan Tinyana 98 (page 25)

17. Pouring Out One's Thoughts

It is very good to pour out one's thoughts before God, like a child pleading before its parent.

God calls us His children, as it is written, "You are children to God your Lord" (Deuteronomy 14: 1). Therefore, it is good to express one's thoughts and troubles to God, as a child complains to his father and pesters him.

One may think that he has done so much wrong that he is no longer one of God's children. still, he must remember that God always calls him his child. We are taught, "Whether good or evil, you are always called His children (Kiddushin 36a)."

Even if God has dismissed you and told you that you are no longer His child, you must still say, "Let Him do as He wills. But I must do my part and still behave like His child."

It is very good if one can awaken his heart and plead until tears stream from his eyes, so that he stands like a child weeping before his Father.

Sichoth HaRan 7 (page 35)

24. Conquering God

The Talmud says, "Sing to the One who rejoices when conquered." This indicates that there are times when one must even conquer God.

One may feel that he is rejected by God because of his sins. But even if one feels that he is not doing God's will, he should still remain strong and depend on God's mercy. One should spread his hands before God and beg that He have mercy and let him serve Him in truth.

A person may feel rejected by God, but he still must cry out, "It doesn't matter! I want to be a Jew!"

This is how one can overcome God. God has great joy when He is overcome in this manner.

Sichoth HaRan 69 (page 39)

28. The Song of the Field

How wonderful it would be if one could only be worthy of hearing the song of the grass. Each blade of grass sings out to God without any ulterior motive and without expecting any reward. It is most wonderful to hear its song and worship God in its midst.

The best place to meditate is in a field where things grow. There one can truly express his thoughts before God.

Sichoth Haran 163

The best place to meditate is in the meadows outside the city. One should meditate in a grassy field, for grass will awaken the heart.

Sichoth Haran 227 (page 42)


You have no idea how much better this makes me feel.


Sara said...

Oh my gosh, me too.

I have a davening issue and I mostly sit around feeling guilty instead of doing anything about it.

You've been a tremendous help. Hope to talk to you before Yomtov.

yitz.. said...

i think you would like Likkutei Moharan 65 bet, i paraphrased parts of it here, but it probably pays to read it in the original hebrew, it's much more involved.

Scraps said...

I talk to G-d all the time, it's something I always try to do as I go about my day. If I'm not talking to a person or doing something that occupies all my concentration, chances are good that I'm talking to Him. And it's true, sometimes you just need to get away, sit by yourself somewhere, and talk. Just talk. People have a fear of talking to G-d outside of the parameters of normative tefillah--but Hashem understand English just as well as He understands Hebrew! And so I talk to Him however and whenever I can.

haKiruv said...

I love Rabbi Nachman's works. I have a little book called "The Empty Chair" that I read from time to time.

Neil Harris said...

It is an excellent intro to meditation. I would actually suggest the book "Jewish Mediation" by R Aryeh Kaplan z'tl (he was the one who also wrote OUTPOURING OF THE SOUL).

rabbi neil fleischmann said...

I very highly recommend a book called The gentle Weapon, which is a collection of brief poetic prayers based on Likutei Moharan.

Anonymous said...

Lol... I remember when I first read that little pocket book in English. (The Hebrew is somehow even better, though much more difficult for me to just pick up and read...) Anyway, if you ever want more of R' Nachman's literature, my library is open to you. Other chassidus too. There's a lot out there.

Purim Hero