27 Kislev 5782 / Wednesday, December 01, 2021 | Torah Reading: Mikeitz
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HomeFoundations of JudaismHitbodedut (Personal Prayer)Pray for – What?
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Pray for – What?    

Pray for – What?

How can I focus on praying on only ONE thing in my life? I need to fix so much! How do you know what to choose?


Dear Rachel, 


I have a question about teshuva and personal prayer and I would greatly appreciate your clarification. From listening to Rabbi Arush's lectures and reading his books, in particular A New Light, I am supposed to choose one topic that needs correction and do personal prayer on that one topic exclusively on a daily basis - and only move on to the next area that needs improvement after this first area has been completely rectified. 


For example, Hashem shows me that I need to work on gratitude and I do a half an hour of personal prayer each day on that aspect, as part of my daily hour of personal prayer. It could take months or even years of personal prayers, learning about gratitude and implementation until ingratitude would be completely nullified or at least I would be able to say that gratitude has become my first response to everything in my life. 


What if, during those months or years of prayers for gratitude, Hashem sends a tribulation to show that I need improvement in proper speech and then another challenge in my life brings me to personal prayer and clarity that I need to work on modesty and humility, etc. 


Do I need to put everything else on hold and just focus on gratitude or every time I get a new awakening I add on more to the list of what I pray for and learn about (which becomes overwhelming to focus on so many things). On the other hand if Hashem is sending me tribulations He surely wants to awaken me and not ignore His calls because "now I am only focusing on gratitude." Or maybe I am not understanding the Rabbi's instructions correctly... 


Thank you for listening to my question and I would greatly appreciate guidance.  


May Hashem bless you with all that you need to serve Him with serenity. 



M.M., NY, NY, USA 



This is a question I've also struggled with. It can take time to figure out the real core issue which must be worked on. 


Personally, there are two sides to this coin which constantly need to be balanced: 


  1. 1. On the one hand, perhaps you've worked on one issue for some time and you really feel that you've made major progress. Even if you aren't perfect 100% of the time, maybe it's gotten really very good - and Hashem sends you something else that you realize needs serious work and is very foundational. So you might choose to switch topics. 

  1. 2. On the other hand, the idea of the 30 min cheshbon nefesh (spiritual accounting) is that this is your time to put out the "burning fires" of today. So, if today you realize wow I spoke lashon hara (evil speech), I need to pray about this - maybe you dedicate more of your cheshbon nefesh time to that. Even if it’s a particular issue that you are tested in for a period of time, you can still discuss it daily in your first 30 minutes when you review what you did from yesterday’s session through today. 
    If it isn't a deep, routine and foundational issue, then you can and should deal with it as it arises in your cheshbon nefesh time, without needing to change the topic for the second 30 min of the daily hour. 



Essentially, both parts of the hour are the same thing - vidui (feeling regret and admitting to our mistakes) and especially wanting and praying for the future to do better. It's just that in the first 30 minutes we cover the burning fires of the last day, and the second 30 minutes we cover one big, screaming fire that needs daily work to contain it more and more... and in this way we pray on all the major topics in our lives every day! 


Lastly, this feeling that "wow I need another half hour on this and another half hour on that" is actually fantastic. This is one of the best results of regular personal prayer - we start to see ourselves in a more realistic and humble light. We have a better handle on our strengths and weaknesses. We see our patterns and "dances" of behavior more clearly. Even if we generally cannot pray on it all, just the recognition and the humility is a great accomplishment. And generally, just this recognition alone, even if we only pray on it for a few minutes here or there because in the meantime we're still focusing those 30 minutes on something else - you'll get a lot of seata Dishmaya (Heavenly assistance) in this other area too! And even if you can't pray on each topic for 30 minutes, maybe at some other part of the day you can pray on it for 5 minutes? 10 minutes?  


Either way, you start to understand why Rabbi Arush says you can easily get to a place where you have such emuna, you want to pray every day 6 hours hitbodedut! Sure you can't do that, but just the recognition and the desire is HUGE. You can't imagine! 


Don't forget either that Rabbi Arush promises that when you do your hishtadlut – your personal efforts, which in this case is half an hour of daily cheshbon nefesh and half an hour on one specific problem - Hashem forgives you for ALL of your sins. Even those you didn't have time to discuss!  


Hashem knows we have major time limitations. He doesn't expect us to do what we cannot. It's our job to put in serious effort - and then He finishes the work for us! 


I hope that helps! Happy to be here for any more questions you might have! 




I cannot even begin to describe my gratitude for receiving your answer. My eyes teared up as I read it and things are beginning to fall into place in my mind. I see myself in the email and finally I feel like I am not alone in my experiences. 

M.M., NY, NY, USA 

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