March 4, 2009


From Dovid Sears, “The Chandelier of Imperfections” (unpublished ms.).

Down-to-Earth Hisbodedus

I once heard the story of how Rabbi Gedaliah Aharon Kenig (1921-1980), of blessed memory, became a Breslever Chasid. Prior to his marriage in 1940, Reb Gedaliah lived with his parents in the Givat Shaul neighborhood of Jerusalem. One of their neighbors was Rabbi Chaim Boruch Tarnovsky, a Breslever Chasid. At that time, Reb Gedaliah was more involved in the teachings of Chabad. However, for a long time he had felt that something was missing from his path of divine service. Eventually he became friendly with his Breslever neighbor, who invited him one afternoon to practice hisbodedus with him in a field not far away. This promised to be something new. So Reb Gedaliah agreed.

Standing alone in the tall grass, Reb Gedaliah could hear his friend crying out to God in the distance. After an hour, they rejoined and walked back home together. Reb Chaim Boruch's face seemed to shine, as if he were returning from the Garden of Eden! However, when he opened the door of his little apartment, he confronted a very "this-worldly" scene: his wife contending with a crying child, the room topsy-turvy, and unattended pots of food cooking on the stove. Without hesitating, he picked up a broom and began sweeping the floor with the same equanimity as he had exhibited a minute ago in the aftermath of hitbodedut. This is what most impressed Reb Gedaliah. Now he vividly saw that Rabbi Nachman's path not only led to deveykut (attachment to God), but also enabled one to engage in the mundane with greater consciousness and focus.