The Jewish Spirit Journal
A Journal of Jewish Mysticism and Spirituality
Vol. 1, No. 7 October 2003

HANHAGOT


(SPIRITUAL PRACTICES)

1. Cleaning the House

When one cleans and sweeps the house on the eve of the holy Sabbath, one should remember to sweep away and clean oneself of one's own filth and rubbish. (Z'chut Avot, p.63) One may have this as an intention not only before Shabbat, but whenever one cleans the house.

2. With Soul

A note was found that the Peasetzner Rebbe had written to himself when he was forty years old. It said: What good kabbalah (resolution) can I accept on myself? As for studying Torah, it seems I study to the limit of my capacity. As for davvening, I davven to the limit of my capacity. So what can I add? It is like a picture of a man who has all his limbs and actually seems to be alive; all he needs is a soul. So the Peasetzner resolved to accept on himself to infuse soul into his Torah study, his praying, and all his divine service. (Kovetz Sichot, pp.12 and 127) [A kabbalah is a resolution one commits oneself to without making a vow.]

3. A New Path in Tshuvah

Rabbi Noson of Nemirov said to Moshe Breslover, "I'm creating for you a new way in tshuvah (repentance): to dance every day!" (Siach Sarfei Kodesh [Breslov], p.291, #660) It was the custom of Rabbi Noson to dance every day. (Ibid., p.131, #574) Can't we too do tshuvah this way?

4. Learn Gratitude from a Chicken

Rabbi Eliyahu once said, "Let's reflect, and learn from a chicken. When drinking, it lifts its head after each sip-- because it's offering praise and thanks to Holy One, blessed be He, and expressing its gratitude for each and every drink!"

Having passed my PhD. exams in Zoology, I might wonder at Rabbi Eliyahu's explanation of the chicken's behavior (although he may not have meant his comment to be taken scientifically). But we can appreciate his pious spirit and learn a good lesson about eating and drinking. (Ish Hasid Haya, p.384) As we see from the following anecdote, this practice is a hasidic custom.

When Rabbi Avraham Berenyu (the great Breslover hasid) ate, after each biteful of food, he would put the spoon down on the table, and lift his eyes to heaven with great yearning. And so on after each spoonful of food. (Siach Sarfei Kodesh [Breslov], vol.3, p.100, #224)

This is a wonderfully effective practice and must be tried to be appreciated. To understand the spiritual dynamics behind this custom and for more about other eating practices, see my book Jewish Spiritual Practices.

5. Pray the Whole Day

Someone once described to Rabbi Nachman of Bratzlav his life and livelihood and told him that he worked exchanging money. He stood in the marketplace the whole day and asked everyone passing by, "What are you exchanging? What are you exchanging?" and on and on with this same cry. The rebbe said, "You can turn all this into a prayer. In the morning, before you go to work, urge God in prayer, saying, 'Master of the world, have pity on me! Don't let me exchange good for bad!' And continue that way during your day at work, saying, 'What are you exchanging? What are you exchanging?' [God, don't let me exchange good for bad!] on and on. While passersby think that you are calling out to them, you are really calling out to the Holy One, blessed be He. As a result of this, you'll be able to pray before Him the whole day." (Siach Sarfei Kodesh [Breslov], vol.3, p.50, #109)

This story may make us aware of similar possibilities for such a practice in our own life.

Rabbi Nachman of Bratzlav told his top disciple, Rabbi Noson, that to have complete faith in the sages he also had to have faith in himself and in his own teaching and writing.

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Copyright 2004-2005, Yitzhak Buxbaum. All rights reserved.