Friday, May 15, 2009

Question & Answer With Space Cadet - Davening In An Open Area

(Picture by S. Santikarn)

A Simple Jew asks:

Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 18:8 states, "One should not pray in an open area such as a field because when a person is in a private area, such as an enclosed space, the awe of the King comes over him, and his heart is broken and submissive. However, if he is travelling he is permitted to pray in a field; but if he can, he should pray among the trees."

How does your inner hermit relate to this halacha?

Space Cadet responds:

My "inner hermit" has no problem. It is my "outer hermit" that must come to grips with this halakha (which is actually stated in the Gemara in Berachos). Personally, I find that standing under an open sky arouses my feelings of awe toward the Infinite. It also creates a certain psychological spaciousness, which can put me in touch with the "space" surrounding the mental clamor of my busy thoughts and feelings. Chazal don't seem to be addressing this, but are more concerned that one who is standing in prayer might feel a certain arrogance if there were nothing physically over him to remind him of God's watchfulness.

Maybe this reflects the difference between prayer as scripturally mandated -- when we are in trouble and call out to God for help -- and prayer as understood by the Jewish mystics, as a way of communing with Hashem and ultimately experiencing deveykus. Feeling a physical presence over one's head, be it green and leafy or painted white and decorated with flourescent lights, is a lot less abstract than the mystery of the seemingly endless heavens. Despite the Rambam, maybe we need to "corporealize" G-d ever so subtly in order to set up a dialogue. Because we are human and mugbal and don't really know how to "converse" with the Creator, who is by definition bli gevul and totally beyond us.

I have gone out to the fields to do hisbodedus with the Breslover Chassidim several times, and seen that people are not particular to look for trees to stand under, unless they are readily available. Maybe this is because the halachah is not so strict about this, as your quote from the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch indicates. But it might also be that while hisbodedus tends to combine both types of prayer, personal and mystical, it leans toward the mystical -- at least the way Reb Nachman describes it in Likutey Moharan I, 52 ("HaNeor BaLaylah"). We're supposed to purge our inner being of all feelings and evil passions and ultimately even the least trace of ego in order to attain the realization Reb Nachman says awaits us after all this: that everything is an expression of the Mechuyav HaMetziyus -- G-d -- including what a moment ago we took to be "ourselves." This isn't the same thing as regular tefillah, when we are supplicating G-d about one problem or another.

Aside from this, maybe we could say that by using the Rebbe's teachings as guidance for our prayers during hisbodedus, he is the "big tree" we're standing under. In that case, there's no problem from either point of view!


At May 15, 2009 at 5:13:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Micha Golshevsky said...

Very nice piece.
Yet this question is a non starter, since this halacha is only discussing tefilas shemonah esrei, which has many halachic restrictions that do not apply to other prayers.

At May 15, 2009 at 1:15:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Space Cadet said...

Thanks, Rabbi Golshevsky!

At May 15, 2009 at 1:24:00 PM EDT, Blogger Menashe said...

And why can't a "regular shemone esrai" have the same dveikus? The lashon of shemone esrei is deceptively simple.

At May 15, 2009 at 4:32:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Space Cadet said...


Surely it can!

But Reb Nachman states that our regular tefilos in shul are like well-traveled roads. That's why the "robbers" (mekatregim) are always lying in wait there. So we need to take a "side path" to get to Hashem in order to elude them. That side path is hisbodedus.

Still, we have to try our best to daven b'minyan and with all the kavanna can muster. The two types of prayer are actually deeply connected, and each gives koach to the other.

At May 15, 2009 at 4:39:00 PM EDT, Anonymous yaakov said...

maybe the "open area, such as a field" refers to one's consciousness/awareness.

At May 15, 2009 at 4:41:00 PM EDT, Anonymous yaakov said...

meaning: one should be "open" to H' yisboruch...not to a physical "field". it may be referring to disctractions. this is why during shema we cover our heads with the tallis and cover our eyes for the first line. r' golshevsky also makes a significant point.

At May 15, 2009 at 5:54:00 PM EDT, Blogger Menashe said...

According to the effort is the reward. In that sense it's preferable to struggle harder to achieve this dveikus on the "well-traveled roads." Nevertheless, I do see Reb Nachman's point.

At May 16, 2009 at 10:26:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Smashed Hat said...


Don't forget, the Anshe Knesses HaGedolah only instituted the text of the daily prayers due to "quality control" -- people needed guidance as to what to daven for. It was not intended to make things harder!


BTW the Arizal says we should cover our eyes for both the first pasuk of "Shema" and for "Boruch shem kevod..."

That's not the way they taught me in cheder, either, but so it says in Shaar HaKavannos!

At May 16, 2009 at 10:48:00 PM EDT, Blogger Menashe said...

No, but just as everything is from hasghocha protis, how much more so something the chochomim were msaken like shomone esrei. We have to believe there's more than a little Divine Guidance going on in the formation of this essential tefilla. And just as it was meant to be said three times a day without (much) change, I certainly believe there's a reason in avodah for it as well.

That being said, I can appreciate the desire for an extra uplift from some steps that were instituted later on. I personally believe hisbonenus can affect a person in a deeper way but every kosher path to Hashem is certainly beautiful and I hope if it's working that you only increase in it!

At May 18, 2009 at 3:13:00 PM EDT, Blogger Unknown said...

Smashed Hat
Rav Hadaya Shlita, of Beit El in Jerusalem said that meIkar haDin its enough to close your eyes, and he knows a bit of the Arizal's writings.

Davening in a field. We are called, "beit Yaakov," not a mountain (avraham), and not a field, (yitschak.) As an Orthodox Jew who reveres the tomes but misses a few of its articles, I find that I like davening in the fields from time to time. As a guest Rabbi once in NYC, some congregants wanted to check me out after the meal, and quized me, "can you daven under Kipat HaShamayim? (the sky) I simply told him what it says in seforim that it was better to daven inside, and if outside under a tree in a clean place. He seemed to be grossly insulted. "WHAT DO YOU MEAN you can't daven outside under the sky?" whereupon he waved his hand in a "who the heak is this guy," gesture and walked away.

whatever, just daven and connect with Hashem.


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