Could someone explain the terms of kavanah, hitbodedut and hitbonenut in relation to Tefilah (prayer)? I know that these are all forms of meditation of some kind; but are they integrated in the way one prays?

I try to figure out these concepts around prayer and the way they tribute to it.

I read the following online:

There’s a teaching in the Gemara about the Hasidim rishonim (anyone who knows the source?). In the first generation of pious Jews, who before sitting down to pray the morning service would first meditate for an hour in order to be able to bring full concentration and intention to reciting the prayers words – and after the morning service, would meditate for an hour in order to let the prayers fully percolate into their hearts and souls. Two hours of contemplative practice for every hour of liturgical prayer; wow.

Much later in our history, the movement we now call Hasidism, inherited those meditative practices along with the kabbalistic aspiration of seeking devekut with G’d. A variety of contemplative practices arose in Hasidic communities. One is hitbonenut (contemplation), another hitbodedut (self-seclusion)

  • "Yihudim" ??? That means "Jews". Are you sure you are transliterating (somewhat) correctly? Do you mean, perhaps "yichud" which means "confineness"? This term would make a bit more sense in terms of prayer. Also, if you can edit in where you saw or heard these terms, that would help a lot.
    – DanF
    May 24, 2016 at 14:24
  • @DanF: I meant the term unifications, but i removed it out of my question, which i adjusted.
    – Levi
    May 24, 2016 at 14:34
  • I also read that hitbodedut is attitude to bring one into a condition of kavanah or hitbonenut. And that a prayer needs kavanah. But because I don't really grasp the meaning of these words, i asked my question as stated above
    – Levi
    May 24, 2016 at 14:46
  • 1
    Where did you read that online? (Google isn't finding it for me, though velveteenrabbi.blogs.com/blog/2014/02/jewish-meditation.html is similar.) You should probably give edit the question to credit to its author, as a courtesy.
    – msh210
    May 24, 2016 at 15:38
  • The source for meditation before prayer is Berakhot 30b
    – mbloch
    May 24, 2016 at 18:15

3 Answers 3


Hisbodedus means to seclude. One secludes himself psychologically. In the Breslov tradition this opens one up to an expieience of Hashem the purpose of davening is similar to a mantra to help ones focus and clearing of the mind. See R Aryeh Kaplan's book jewish meditation.

Hisbonenus comes from binah, to understand. In the chabad teachings the order goes first one learns than one is hisboded (as per the Halacha that one must "walk two doors into the shul before prayer) to remove all outside distractions. But this in of itself is just divesting oneself of the world, one must then be misbonen, to analytically think about Hashem am his relationship to the world. This allows one to daven with kavanah. Kavanah is often translated as intent but it can also be used as awareness focus or passion depending on the context. So the basic requirement of kavanah in davening is to be aware that you are talking to Hashem (because he has thought about it he has come to a recognition of hashems presence) . By shema one intends to accept upon them self the yoke of heaven. And I one has thought about what one is saying to the point where it inspires him he can pray with passion. (So according to chabad all 3 are part of one system of prayer, not sure how others see it)


I am condensing some ideas from a long wikipedia article on this topic. There are various ideas of how to apply these terms, so you should read the article further.

According to Chaba"d philosophy

The word "hisbonenut" derives from the Hebrew word Binah (lit. understanding) and refers to the process of understanding through analytical study

I assume that a basis for hisbonenut is understanding the meaning of the words so that you can gain a better understanding of both the prayer and what G-d expects from man.

Hisbodedus (alternatively transliterated as "hitbodedut", from the root "boded" meaning "self-seclusion") refers to an unstructured, spontaneous and individualized form of prayer and meditation taught by Rebbe Nachman of Breslov. The goal of hitbodedut is to establish a close, personal relationship with God and a clearer understanding of one's personal motives and goals.

I didn't find anything in that article regarding "kavanah" that seems quite in depth. But the term "kavanah" means "intent". There is a general debate in Talmud brachot whether the performance of mitzvoth requires kavanah or not. The concept behind kavanah involves both the intent to pray and fulfill one's obligation, as well as the meaning of the words.

The Shulchan Aruch (I'll edit the place, later) mentions that while reciting Shema, one should have kavanat 'Ol Malchut Shamayim - the intent of accepting the yoke of the kingship of heaven.


Prayer does not necessarily mean standing in shul, if a person concentrates on a elevated concept (hisbonenus) the whole day they are in a state of prayer the whole day.

Hisbodedus (seclusion) is also not necessarily associated with 'prayer', it means finding the inner stillness which is muffled by the madding crowd.

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