Even though I was born Jewish and had a Bar Mitzvah, my true Jewish journey started in 2014 with my very first, and so far only, trip to Israel. I was ignited and inspired and set out to learn as much as I can. It lead me to a variety of Rabbis, teachers and mentors. I began to voraciously read and study and basically play catch up. But we come to things when we come to them, and perhaps I was not ready when I was younger. Hashem puts us all on the path when we are meant to be there, and knows far better than me.
The past is the present, and one of the Rabbis that I truly connected with was Rebbe Nachman of Breslov. Every time I would hear a lesson or quote I really identified with, it would turn out to be from Rebbe Nachman. As I delved deeper into his life, I was also profoundly affected by the fact that he apparently suffered from great depression, and yet his idea of prayer was based on joy. His whole life and approach to Judaism was joyous and based on joy. Just look at that photo!
And his approach to prayer made such visceral and logical sense to me. It was pure and spontaneous. It could happen anywhere and any time, especially out in nature. You speak to G-d as if you were talking to your Father or a friend, in whatever your native language is… and you could ask Hashem for anything!
This style of prayer is called Hitbodedut (התבודדות) and it is an “unstructured… and individualized form of prayer and meditation.” It is practical and powerful and oh so potent.
Since I have started a daily, inspirational quote on Facebook, I thought this would be a good time to break out some of the Rebbe’s best quotes. The first come translated by Rabbi Avraham Greenbaum. His website is called Azamra and on the front page it says”
“AZAMRA means “I will sing” (Psalms 146:2). “And the way to sing the song of joy is by seeking the good in all people, especially in ourselves. Each good point is one more note in the song of life!”
Here are a few standouts he highlights:
“Prayer is the root of all attachment and devotion to God. Prayer is the gate through which we approach God, and through prayer we may come to know Him.”
Likutey Moharan II, 84
“It is best to pray early in the morning. Prayer is of supreme importance – who knows if you will be able to pray later? Make every effort to pray as early as you possibly can.”
Sichot Haran #31
“Prayer helps for everything. Even if a person is unable to study Torah, he will be able to do so if he prays for it. Everything good can be attained through prayer: Torah, devotion, holiness… everything good in all the worlds! Amen.”
Likutey Moharan II, 111
“The secret of prayer is to be bold. We must have the audacity to ask God for everything we need – even if we need to ask Him to work miracles for us. Only with boldness and daring can we stand up and pray to God.”
Likutey Moharan I, 30
That last one is something we can be so shy about. But being bold and asking for what we need and even what we want is key.
Here are my five of my most favorite Nachman quotes:
“If you are not a better person tomorrow than you are today, what need have you for a tomorrow?”
“We need to start over every day. And sometimes many times each day.”
“Let the good in me connect with the good in others, until all the world is transformed through the compelling power of love.”
“Whoever is able to write a book and does not, it is as if he has lost a child.”
As a writer, this one is both painful and prodding. I so need to follow the advice of the quotes I identify with and share… Why is it so easy to give advice and oh so hard to take it ourselves?
“You are wherever your thoughts are, make sure your thoughts are where you want to be.”
What amazes me is that two of my bucket list trips are now March Of The Living and Uman for Rosh Hashanah… (and okay, yes… A World Cup, Game 7 of the Stanley Cup and Australia and New Zealand!)
Here’s to being inspired… to not only learning the lessons, but to actually following them. Here’s to us… all of us… May we connect and find the good that is in all of us… and change the world to love. And with that let us all say… AMEN!