Spending time immersed in the prayerful-meditation called hisbodedus, where we talk directly to God as one would to the most loving of friends or parents, changes how we experience the world. Suddenly ordinary objects glimpsed in passing offer up rich meaning.
On a sunny day this past June in Uman, Ukraine, on the way to the Tziyun (the holy burial place) of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, I saw a door, splashed with shadow and light. It looked like the kind of door the princess in a fairy tale is told not to open…but does anyway.
But suppose the one telling the princess not to open the door doesn’t have her best interests at heart? What if the warning came from the yetzer hara, the evil inclination? Suppose the yetzer hara not only giving the princess a false warning, but is actually trying to prevent her from moving into holiness? Suppose what lies beyond that door is hisbodedus?
Later, I passed another building, this time with an eye-catching window. The sages teach that whenever possible, one should daven (pray*) in a room with windows, so if one’s attention lapses, she can look up to Heaven and regain inspiration. We may have to create our own window, maybe even knock a big old hole in one of the walls of our house, especially if that house has become a fortress. Remember, if you can’t see Heaven, light can’t enter.
Doors and windows are sometimes meant to be shut and sometimes meant to be open. We get to choose.
*The sages were referring to the central prayer of the service, as written in a siddur (prayer book.)