Wednesday, August 22, 2007

"Reasons For Not Jumping Straight Into Hisbodedus"

(Picture courtesy of

Dixie Yid commenting on An Indirect Route? Hisbonenus vs. Hisbodedus:

Okay ASJ, as I promised you, I wanted to translate for you a few passages from Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh, chelek beis ch. 14 D"H "3 Levels: Machshava, Dibur and Ma'aseh", on his reasons for not jumping straight into Hisbodedus, but rather to first build up Machshava, a.k.a. Hisbonenus. I started the translation and then remembered that "My friend Yaakov" had already done the job at so I'm quoting here the most relevant passages in translation. Here goes:

Every level and every world must be properly built! If there is no solid process of thought before one comes to speak, a person falls too quickly from the world of thought to the world of speech. His thought is too weak, and thus, the speech based on it is not solid, and the entire structure is only like a castle built in the air.

What is the proper kind of thought? First of all, one must know that there is a Creator. He starts thinking about it. He doesn't say anything, but in his thought, he thinks, "Who created the world? There must be a Creator, etc." He contemplates this (each person according to the time needed), until the intellect clearly recognizes that there is a Creator.

In the second stage, he takes this point, and speaks about it to himself: "This is what I thought, and it became clear to me that there is a Creator, because if not, where did the moon come from? From where are the stars? From where are people?" and so on. Only in the third stage does he approach Hashem and speak to Him.

In other words, there must be three well-established phases. The first phase is real contemplation, spending a long time contemplating well about the matter. The second phase is that after the contemplation, one begins to speak to himself: "The world has a Master, He controls the palace, and I see His Divine Providence." The third phase is where he speaks to Hashem and says, "Master of the world, I have clarified for myself that there is a Creator, that You exist, that you control the palace, that every detail happens through You," and so on.

If one jumps immediately to the third phase, we can anticipate a total collapse! Even if one only skips over the first phase, the phase of thought, and jumps right away to the second phase, that of speech, it will still be difficult for his efforts to have any lasting value.


At August 22, 2007 at 3:27:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Bob Miller said...

This model is much like the process of doing an engineering or business project, writing the summary report, and making a presentation to upper management.

Things like:

1. Do your homework. Learn the needed concepts you don't know already. Gather and interpret the necessary information, in stages if necessary.

2. Draft and edit the report, presentation slides, etc. Get the needed review and approvals.

3. Rehearse the presentation. Bounce it off yourself and others.

4. Release the report. Make the actual presentation.

However, at some point, the analogy breaks down a bit. On some level, we need to communicate with HaShem BEFORE we've done all our homework, before we understand all the relevant ideas and theory, and before we really know how to say what we will say in the most organized way. In fact, we need to ask HaShem's help in doing all the necessary steps, before and during the time we do them.

Even kids are taught to daven, and not only as preparation for their Bar Mitzvah.

Later, we'll rise to higher levels and have higher level, more productive conversations with HaShem. But we shouldn't push off this vital form of communication until we think we have our whole act together.

At August 22, 2007 at 4:02:00 PM EDT, Blogger Adam said...

Perhaps we can understand the fact that we need to communicate with Hashem before we "do our homework" by Rebbe Nachman's statement of "daven, study, and daven". We should communicate with Hashem, use that to enable us to "do our homework" and then communicate with Hashem again, albeit this time on a higher level, and now mindful of "homework"we have recently done.

At August 22, 2007 at 4:13:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm sorry but I'm just having a hard time buying this thought process. Sounds too close to phylosophy to me. Of course I know there is a Creater - why else would I be talking to Him?

At August 22, 2007 at 4:20:00 PM EDT, Anonymous A Yid said...

The author of "Belevovoy" is familiar with psychology and modern philosophy (said by someone who researched his sforim). His own conclusions aren't always supported by sources and often seem to be his experimential ideas. In general I'm pretty uncomfortable from a "cholnt" of everything together (Ramchal, Gro, Baal Shem Tov and etc.). I'm not implying that he isn't a very knowledgeable person, but not me, to unravel his riddles, if he isn't willing to support his statements. I'll rather refer to sources that are more muscmach.

At August 22, 2007 at 4:28:00 PM EDT, Blogger DixieYid said...


I don't see the piece I quoted that way at all. It appears to me that he's talking about step-by-step interalization of the knowledge and consciousness of Hashem's presence. That seems to me to be a very warm and intense experience. I don't read it as the cold, calculated business report that you seemed to see in his writing.

Truthfully I'm not taking either "side" on this issue for two reasons. One is that I'm a nobody in terms of having any right to take sides between Gedolim and Tzadikim. It would be a chutzpah for me to take a side. The second reason is because I look forward to hearing R' Brody and R' Bergman's take on this question on one hand and the Bilvavi author's take on this question on the other hand.

IY"H, when the Bilvavi author is in America next week, I will try to get this question to him and hopefully I will find out his explanation of this dichotomy, especially as it relates to Hisbodedus. When I do, I'll IY"H report the answer!

-Dixie Yid

At August 22, 2007 at 4:44:00 PM EDT, Blogger DixieYid said...


He addresses your question directly. The quote I gave was from half way through the second chelek. He said a lot leading up to that point that puts everything in perspective. It is not philosphy, but is all rooted in sources. It is not so simple that I wouldn't be davening to Hashem if I didn't already know there was a Creator. I, at least know from personal experience that just because I "know" that Hashem is there doesn't mean that I truly *KNOW* that he is there. It's an avodah to turn consciousness of Hashem from a "V'yadata hayom" to a "V'hasheivosa el levavechah." I suggest learning cheleck alef and you will truly understand why avodah in the area of consciousness of Hashem's existance, presence, and hashgacha is necessary.

A Yid,

I'd have to disagree with you on the basis for his ideas. It is not psychology or philosphy. Perhaps the researcher was engaging in projection? I know personally from two gedolim who have learned through his seforim in detail that, in fact, everything that he says is rooted in mekoros in penimius haTorah. He says this himself at the beginning of chelek alef.


He also explains there the reasons why he did not cite all of his sources. In short, he did not want his seforim to be pored over for mekoros and as basis for intellectualistic study. That is not why he wrote the seforim. He wrote them, as I understand it, as a practical guide to kirvas Hashem. You may say that he should have included the mekoros he used just so that you and others would know that he even had mekoros. I can only surmize that he did not go that route because he has many haskamos from gedolim who saw the seforim and therefore didn't want to distract the reader with what he viewed were tangential, distracting, and unnecessary footnotes (relative to the purpose of his seforim).

-Dixie Yid

At August 22, 2007 at 6:39:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Bob Miller said...

Dixie Yid said,

"I don't read it as the cold, calculated business report that you seemed to see in his writing."

The process I described looks cold and emotion-free only to an outsider. That is not how the steps typically play out in practice (often involving interdepartmental warfare, self-serving back-stabbers, hogging the limelight, and other Dilbert-like factors). I brought it up it not because it mirrored the spiritual path in your article in all major respects, but because of some similarity of formal steps.

I think the root of the different approaches to dveykus is that there are various ways to get to a desired result, and each writer or teacher talks about the way he or his mentors used successfully. Even so, some approaches or sequences probably work better for more people than others. The individual may have to experiment.

If your chosen program works for you, by all means use it.

At August 22, 2007 at 7:10:00 PM EDT, Blogger DixieYid said...


I couldn't have said it better. Amen.

-Dixie Yid

At August 23, 2007 at 6:52:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Dovid Sears said...

I once asked Rav Kenig of Tzefat about the role of contemplation in hisbodedus, and he referred me to Torah 10 in the second part of Likkutei Moharan. This lesson discusses "yishuv ha-daas," gained through contemplation of the meaning of life and the futility of pursuing mundane desires. It also stresses the importances of simchah, in the sense of cultivating a positive frame of mind. Rav Kenig said that all this is part of hisbodedus, too.


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