From Rabbi Perets Auerbach’s “The Science, Art and Heart of Hitbodedut.” This work-in-progress may be purchased by contacting the author by email: email@example.com. We thank Rabbi Auerbach for permitting us to present excerpts from his writings here.
"Primal Scream" Hisbodedus
Rabbi Nachman taught: “The main thing is, ‘From the belly of She’ol [the deepest pit of hell] I screamed’ (Jonah 2:3)” (Likkutei Moharan II, 48). It is said that he went through the entire Tehillim saying only the verses about crying to God.
“I cry to God–I scream, I cry to God... I scream to You, O God” (Psalms 142:2, 6). “When I roar the whole day…” (ibid 32:3). “I roar from the crying moan of my heart” (ibid 38:9). “And it grieved Shmuel, and he screamed to God the entire night” (I Samuel 14:11). “And they screamed to God in their suffering, and He saved them from distresses” (Psalms 107:13, 19, 28).
The Zohar (II, 20b) tells that Shmuel abandoned all other types of prayer and only screamed. When things are difficult, a person groans. When they get more difficult, a person yells. When they get still more intense, a person screams. The depth of the scream depends upon the realization of how precarious the situation is. “And the children of Israel groaned from the servitude— and they screamed. And their cry rose to ELHYM (G-d) from the servitude. And ELHYM heard their wail...And ELHYM saw the children of Israel—and ELHYM knew” (Exodus 2:23-25).1
Why have we stopped screaming?
Sometimes the neshamah falls into such a state of concealment that a person cannot even cry and scream the way they need to. Here, too, one must use the “scream of the scream” to fix this problem. Cry out and ask to be able to scream.
“This entire world is a very narrow bridge,” said Rabbi Nachman (ibid.), and as long as the soul is here, it is in tremendous danger. Anyone who puts things in their proper perspective will be greatly concerned about how they will end up. If a wind begins to blow while you are walking a treacherous bridge, you will scream to be saved. Imagine hanging off a tall building—you hold on for dear life! Then an enemy comes and is about to step on your fingers... The more a person realizes potential injury, the more he will want to scream. The soul realizes the peril of being here. If you access it, it is possible to awaken a deep scream from the inner chambers of the heart. The more the one awakens the soul within, the more intensely he will cry for aid. This can reach to the very depths of existence and the entire tikkun (repair) of the universe; this is the “primal scream” of Adam realizing the damage he did through the sin of the Tree of Knowledge, and every soul’s portion in it (Sha’ar HaGilgulim, Hakdamah 1; cf. Shaar HaGemul, 9).
There are two ways that this primal scream can come out: in voice and in thought. The voice awakens the external world to realize its plight and also shout to God. Thought awakens the internal world to recognize the hazard and likewise cry for help.
Each has its own advantage. A voiced scream involves the body and its energy. Utilizing the body’s energies for a strong scream helps to redirect them above. A silent scream is bound up with a higher plane, the “World of Thought.” Its power is infinite. These are the “sounds of silence.” “Their heart screams to God” (Lamentations 2:18). Rabbi Nachman says that a person can mentally scream “from one end of the world to the other” (Chayei Moharan 241; cf. Sichot HaRan 16). The mind reaches to places that the body can’t go. There is a scream so deep from the depths of the heart that it transcends speech, cannot be voiced, and must remain silent (Likkutei Moharan II, 5). It is a most powerful sound, which can pierce the universe. “I call You from the depths, O God” (Psalms 130:1). From these depths, one can reach the Ein Sof. This is especially so during the Ten Days of Repentance, when the “ten depths” (Sefer Yetzirah 1:5) of existence are opened.
“Rabbi Yitzchak says, ‘[True teshuvah is when a person] returns before the Supernal King, and prays his prayer from the depths of the heart. That is what is meant by the verse, ‘I call to You, God, from the depths’ (op cit.).
“Rabbi Abba says, ‘I call to You God from the very depths’—this means that there is a hidden place above, and it is the ‘depth of the well’ [i.e., Ein Sof/the Infinite One]. And from this [source] flow out rivers [from the sefirah of Chesed/Lovingkindness] and springs [from the sefirah of Gevurah/Might] to every side [of the array of sefirot]. And that depth of depths is called ‘teshuvah.’ One who wants to return and be cleansed from his sins must call from this depth to the Holy One, blessed be He. That is what is meant by the verse, ‘I call to You, God, from the very depths’ ” (Zohar III, 70a).
One who screams from the innermost point of the soul awakens the Infinite Light to flow to the self and fill all aspects of one’s being with Divine goodness.
At times, one may feel so distant from God that He may seem not to be there at all. This is the time to utilize the “Ayeh” scream (see Likkutei Moharan II, 12). “Where (Ayeh) are You?!” This fixes the problem at its root. For as soon as you scream “Where?” this means that He must be present. It is the first step to taking off the veil, revealing the Godliness in the very place you have fallen, and reconnecting to it. This is a scream so deep that it reaches to the highest sefirah of Keter (“Crown”). The lowest fall becomes transformed into an ascent so high that it reaps dividends many times over. The whole reason for the fall is just to come to that special scream.
At times, the mochin (“mentalities,” potential states of mind) are in an embryonic state. One learns and doesn’t understand; or one doesn’t understand anything new in the material; or there is an unanswerable question. This is also the case when the flow of Divine inspiration stops. However, there is a principal that “voice awakens intention” (Kitzur Shulchan Arukh 6:1, citing Sh’nei Luchot HaBrit). Then it is good for a person to scream. This can bring the mochin back into active consciousness.
“And the voice is the voice of Ya’akov” (Genesis 27:22). Dovid HaMelekh mentions seven “voices” over water: “The voice of God is on the water...” (Psalms 29:3). The best thing is to scream seventy times4 - just as a woman screams seventy times before giving birth (Zohar III, 249b). There are seventy words in the psalm, “God will answer you on the day of suffering...” (Psalms 20:2). Therefore, it is beneficial for the husband to say this psalm while his wife is in labor (Likkutei Moharan II, 2). It draws the answer—birth. So do the seventy corresponding screams draw the “answer of answers” to all problems— the birth of awareness. It can reach so high as to draw in the birth of a new makif, a new level of the encompassing light.