We are now in the Three Weeks, a time of national mourning for the Jewish people. Of the numerous tragedies that occurred throughout history during this period, the central one we grieve is the destruction of both Temples; they were destroyed on Tisha B’Av, the culmination of the Three Weeks.
Many of us can compile a laundry list of what we feel is missing from our lives. However, the loss our souls most acutely feel is of a clear Divine Presence in our lives. The Divine Presence is the aspect of God when He manifests Himself in this world. When the Temple stood, God’s glory and providence were visible; we basked in the glow of His love. In exile, heavy clouds surround us; the guiding light of God’s presence is hidden.
According to Rashi (Sukkah 41a), the Third Temple already exists in Heaven. When the time comes, God will return it to us. This raises a question. The Torah teaches we are obligated to return a lost object. Is God not bound by His own law? Why has He not yet returned the Temple and the Divine Presence to us?
Perhaps the answer is alluded to in Deuteronomy (22:2), where God outlines a scenario when lost objects are not returned right away. “If your brother is not near you and you do not know him, then you shall bring it inside your house, and it shall remain with you until your brother’s seeking of it, then you shall return it to him.”
We can interpret this verse with God as the subject, the Jewish people as the brother who lost the item and the Temple as the lost object.
“If Your brother is not near You” – if our relationship with God is distant – “and You do not know him” – because we do not ask God in fervent prayer for all our needs – “then You shall bring it inside Your house and it shall remain with You” – the Temple will remain with God in Heaven – “until Your brother’s seeking of it” – until we realize how lost we are without the Temple and the Divine Presence that rested in it.
Then, we will tell God that we want to have a close relationship with Him. We will plead with Him to return the Temple and His Divine Presence to us. When we do that, then God, “shall return it to him.”
There are two ways of asking God for our needs. The first is formal prayer found in the prayer book. These holy and powerful words were composed by the Sages through divine inspiration. The second, said in addition to the written prayers we recite, is informal prayer, which emanates straight from the heart – in your own words, in your native language and preferably out loud.
This form of prayer – frequently called hitbodedut – was popularized by Rebbe Nachman of Breslov. Daily hitbodedut gives us an unparalleled opportunity: the chance to talk privately with the Almighty, sharing with Him whatever is on our minds.
The following are some suggestions for how to use these precious moments: Thank your Father for the blessings and help He gave you, both ongoing and recently. Share your problems and struggles, and ask for His assistance. Tell Him about the challenges you encounter in living up to your potential, confess when you stumble and ask Him to strengthen you to do His will. Plead with Him that you merit studying and living His Torah, that you merit coming close to Him and witnessing the redemption. Also include prayers for others in need, the Jewish people and the world.
With all of the above, be as specific and detailed as possible.
Keep asking God for help until you are answered. He may answer our prayers by changing the situation or by helping us accept the circumstance. Acceptance will enable us to focus on the blessings God has already given us and the many opportunities we have to come closer to Him, which is the purpose of life.
It can take time to get used to talking out loud to God. To help you open up to Him, imagine that the only blessings you will receive are those you ask Him for. In addition, make a list of the issues weighing on you. During hitbodedut, unburden yourself to your Father; express your concerns about each item on your list and ask for His guidance and assistance. For a fascinating exploration of the power and possibility of hitbodedut, read Where Earth and Heaven Kiss by Rabbi Ozer Bergman.