Are You There God? It's Me, Mobius…

äéúáåããåú (hitbodedut), literally “seclusion,” is the act of speaking directly to God. It is described by the Breslov Institute as such:

[H]itbodedut is raw, unadulterated prayer. Rebbe Nachman points out that historically, prayer referred to the communication between a person and God, spoken in one’s native tongue and in his own words. No prayer books, no formalized or ritualized service—just straight talk from the heart. Hitbodedut.

A couple of kitschy new websites aim to tap into this theme, though hardly from a place true outpouring, as so much as pure entertainment.
The first is HeyGod.org. Billed as “An Indirect Line to God, for the Godless,” the site allows visitors to submit photos of themselves bearing messages to the good Lord, much in the vein of SorryEverybody.com, a site through which thousands of Americans apologized to the world community for the “re”-election of George Bush. Many of the messages tend to be raucous and confrontational, and others downright silly, but one might argue the former is — if even unintentionally — hitbodedut in its truest form.
Likewise, though not nearly as gratifying, is iGod, an artificial intelligence bot which enables one to have a simulated conversation with a rather snarky and self-conscious deity. Personally, I lost my patience with iGod rather quickly, but it’s cute nonetheless.
If indirect communication is what you’re after, you’re better offing having Bezeq stick a note in the Western Wall for you, though I must admit, in all the time I’ve spent around the Kotel, I’ve never seen anyone saunter up with a ream of printouts to jam into the cracks. Hence, I recommend going for the direct line.
To read more of Rebbe Nachman’s writing on hitbodedut click here. Commentary from Rabbi Avraham ben HaRambam is available here as well.
Photo from Burning Man 2004 by Gabe Kircheimer.

13 thoughts on “Are You There God? It's Me, Mobius…

  1. Breslov ideology – specifically their approach to prayer, use of meditation and outward appreciation of artists/musicians – should be required reading/practice for all Jews. Dear God, it’s healthier than a 50 minute drash on some minutiae of halacha or holocaust education.

  2. Isn’t the whole point of being Jewish that we can so easily talk to God? That we can have a personal relationship with God, instead of going through an intermediary in a funny hat? And whether it’s a good relationship, with open lines of communication, or a bad one, in which we rarely speak and feel we are sometimes misunderstood, as least we have a relationship to work on.

  3. And then there’s the book “Conversations with God” where Neale Donald Walsch recorded his chats with the Boss upstairs. God comes across there as a Western Liberal post-funk christian. Not the God I’ve been imagining and talking to all these years.
    check http://www.cwg.org/index2.html

  4. The concept of always being able to talk to G-d is not so unique in Judaism. As an Ortho Jew, I regularly talk to G-d every time I eat or drink something, or go to the bathroom…
    I always thought the unique aspect of hitbodedut was that it is one of the few times when a later Jewish source talks openly about something that sounds like meditation. The literal meaning is “self-isolation” and the Hasidic masters are often described as wandering through forests and other areas – kind of like a young Moses or David shepherding their flocks.
    Since there are no Jewish monasteries, and Judaism discourages withdrawal from the world, it is very rare to see discussion of the positive aspect of such meditative practice. The other big mention of such things is the Talmudic saying that “the very righteous of earlier times would pause for an hour before praying” (hayu shohim sha’a achat lifnei tefilatam).
    During the mishnaic period, all such open-ended meditative practises were reserved for scholars, and were replaced with the Jewish “book of common prayer” in preparation for the long exile – just like the scholars of that age codified the various versions of the oral tradition and sealed the Biblical canon.
    Lot of this stuff now being rediscovered – especially here in Israel. I think the meditative/prayer end of Jewish mysticism is even more important than the philosophical end – at least to me as a balabatish Jew whose days in the study hall are over.

  5. i think that most jews don’t see reciting prayers as talking to god as so much as fulfilling an obligation. specifically in terms of brachot and daily tefillah. prayer, most often, feels like trying to squeeze your thoughts and emotions into someone else’s script.
    the idea of talking to god one-on-one from the depths of your soul, with your own language and on your terms is, thus, novel. particularly in terms of “artscrollized” judaism.

  6. mo, if you are ever in tzfat, give me a call. I suppose you should let me know here in the comments section first though… How about friday night meal shabbos?

  7. how about it? have we met before…? tzefat this weekend’s a little rough, and i’m heading back to the states for a month next week it looks like. so how ’bout when i get back?

  8. Mobi:
    “artscrollized” Judaism.
    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
    Oh yeah. You hit that one right on the (black suede kippah-covered) head.
    from adloyadah’s blog:
    …I was doing my usual thing of reading the texts we read or say as if they were poetry or philosophy. Both the siddur [prayerbook] and Chumash [Torah and prophets readings] are always full of passages that astonish me with their beauty and profundity…..
    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
    It’s there right in front of you!
    I tell my kids – don’t “daven”. I actually got them to translate the word into Hebrew and English – and convinced them that it REALLY means something like ‘mumbling” or “blah-blah”.
    On the other hand… part of the way meditative techniques work is by repetition. Showing up every day can prep you for the high moments – and it’s not realistic to expect a perpetual high. So sometimes prayer – especially Mincha during the workday – is the equivalent of calling my wife at home for a “how-are-you-need-me-t o-pick-up-anything-on-m y-way-home-just-touchin g-base” kind of conversation. That’s also part of maintaining a living relationship.
    Also – a lot of the growth and change I am praying for takes time. So the prayers must be repeated and internalized. That means there will be extended periods without woo-woo spritual fireworks.

  9. We havent met, but I do the 10+ people at my house thing, I would love to have you.
    Email me if you are intzfat, meals last about 2-3 hours, and we are mostly not dangerous. :). The food is good, the conversation is Kosher. er.. so is the food

  10. Nachman *does* come right out and say from your own speech and from the depths – and who can argue with that?
    Nachman and other’s also speak of studying and finding the depths of prayers from liturgy.
    Ultimately, i think one strengthens and deepens the other and so forth.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.