I admit, thank, surrender before You, to Your essential being, O King, He who speaks the world into being and who is the source of all being, who is alive and the source of life, and who is enduring, sustaining, and unchanging. Because You have returned within me and You are recharging me with my breath of life by and with Your gracious compassion. Great and magnificent is Your faithfulness.
Modeh anee lifanecha melech chai vikayam, she-he-chezarta bee nishmatee b’chemla, raba emunatecha.
You just woke up. I just woke up. It’s a new day and we’re alive!
I’m continuing to follow the path of preparing a day before God. I’ve written about the activities that ideally lead up to this moment including An Introduction to a Prayer, Dream Not of Today, and Morning Rebirth, to mention just a few of the most recent blog posts in this series. In preparing for this moment, you have allowed yourself (again, ideally) to dedicate your evening to reading, and studying, and meditating on God and His eternal Word, and praying the Bedtime Shema. Then, within the confines of His arms and blessing, you have fallen asleep.
And now it’s morning. And now you’re awake. What are the first thoughts that come to you? According to Rabbi Freeman, those thoughts should be of God, which is what you’d expect, and how grateful you are for returning you to this life, since sleep is where you approach the realm of death. You are reborn for another day. The breath of life has been restored to you, much in the same way God breathed life into the first man (Genesis 2:7). I can’t imagine what Adam must have thought in those first few moments of his existence, and if he really understood that prior to that moment, he did not exist at all, and then he was alive and the first living man. If he could possibly have comprehended all that God had done, how God had created the entire Universe for the sake of a man, how grateful would Adam have been?
There’s no way for us to understand the experience of the first man, but we can understand our own experience upon awakening, when we realize we are alive and we have lived to see another day.
I realize that most of you take that for granted. When you go to sleep, you expect to wake up the next morning. You expect to get up, use the bathroom, get a cup of coffee, check your email, take a shower, brush your teeth, get dressed, and so on, and so forth, just like you have a thousand mornings before.
Just like the sun is supposed to rise in the east every morning like clockwork. You don’t even worry that it won’t.
But what if you were severely ill? What if your living from day to day wasn’t such a sure thing? What if you had a medical condition that might result in you dying in your sleep. Even trying to go to sleep might make you anxious or even terrified, if you thought you might not wake up again…ever. If you expected that you could die in your sleep and then found yourself awake the following morning alive and feeling well, wouldn’t you be grateful to God for returning your life?
It is said that each beat of our heart requires the will of God, and should God withdraw His will, our heart would stop in an instant. We really take our beating heart for granted because it’s never let us down yet, has it? If it had, we would be dead. So we assume that if it’s worked all of this time without a problem, then it will just keep on going and going and going, like the Energizer Bunny.
Frankly, if we worried second by second all day long about whether or not God was going to extend our life into the next minute or the next hour, we probably would be a nervous wreck and would never be able to just get on with our day to day routine.
So, for the most part, we don’t worry. But then, are we grateful?
If you do so at no other time, the moment when you first wake up is a terrific time to express your gratitude to God for who you are and the fact that you made it to the start of another day. And just as you pondered the ancient texts and the oft-repeated tales of the greatness of God and all that He has done while you were getting ready for sleep, you can allow the awareness of Him to enter into you, and to fill you with His light as you wake up.
In today’s study, Rabbi Freeman presented a detailed, step-by-step breakdown of Modeh Ani, from which I took my rather literal translation of the Hebrew at the beginning of today’s meditation. While we won’t always be aware of the full weight and import of this deceptively short and easy morning blessing each time we say it to ourselves and to God, we should at least be aware of what we are saying before we commit to using these words to express our gratitude.
Depending on who you are, and how you conceive of God and your relationship to Him, you may never choose to adopt this particular blessing as part of your process of waking up each morning and re-entering the world that God has made.
But I hope and pray you choose (if you haven’t already done so) something similar. It’s not only because God deserves our gratitude and praise, but because we need to make the effort to integrate who we are into who He is. Otherwise, what is our life without His love?
“While there’s life, there’s hope.” -Marcus Tullius Cicero