Prayer Essentials

For the week ending 30 January 2016 / 20 Shevat 5776

Modeh Ani

by Rabbi Yitzchak Botton
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“I gratefully thank You, O living and eternal King, for You have returned my soul within me with compassion – abundant is Your faithfulness.”

It has become the accepted custom to recite the “Modeh ani” prayer immediately upon awakening from sleep each day. Since there are none of G-d’s holy names mentioned in this short prayer, it may be said even before one washes his hands in the morning. The precise text that we read was written by Rabbi Moshe Machir (16th century) in his book Seder HaYom.

The concluding phrase “Abundant is Your faithfulness” is based on a verse from Eicha 3:23, which states: “They (Divine kindnesses) are new every morning, great is Your faithfulness.” Each night we return our soul to G-d, tired from the day, like a battery whose charge has run out, and G-d returns it to us fresh and “recharged” each morning as if it were new. This is a display of G-d’s great faithfulness, in restoring our life back to us each morning, as well as a reminder of the revival of the dead, the ultimate expression of G-d’s faithfulness. (Anaf Yosef, based on Midrash Rabbah Eicha 3:8)

The Ya’arot Devash explains how joyous and grateful we should be for this act of kindness, based on an example from the Zohar: When a person has collateral for a past-due loan, the borrower often loses his collateral. However, even when a person is guilty of numerous transgressions and deserving of punishment, G-d nonetheless faithfully returns his soul to him each morning (Eitz Yosef).

The “Modeh ani” prayer is a hint to the unique connection of the Jewish People with G-d. The Torah states that G-d dwells with the Jewish People even when they are in a state of impurity and iniquity (see Vayikra 16:16). As a sign of our gratitude to G-d for this unbreakable bond and unconditional love we declare with our first breath each morning “Modeh ani” — “Thank you!”

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