Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Modeh Ani: What Is It and How Do I Make This a Habit?

The practice of saying the bracha of Modeh Ani when you first awake in the morning is one of the easiest and hardest practices to take on when you're new to orthodoxy. It's short, can be sung, and you can literally do it while still laying in your bed (and you generally should). But you have to remember to do so when you've first woken up and are still probably groggy or your adrenaline is pumping in reaction to your alarm clock. It's not a situation very conducive to remembering something totally new. 

So first off, what's Modeh Ani? It's a blessing said in the morning, upon waking, preferably while you're still in bed. 
When waking up from sleep, before washing hands, one should say:
מוֹדֶה אֲנִי האשה אומרת: מודָה לְפָנֶיךָ מֶלֶךְ חַי וְקַיָּם שֶהֶחֱזַרְתָּ בִּי נִשְׁמָתִי בְחֶמְלָה, רַבָּה אֱמוּנָתֶךָ:
I am thankful before You, living and enduring King, for you have mercifully restored my soul within me. Great is Your faithfulness. (courtesy of Sefaria)
This is the only major bracha (to my knowledge) that does not include the name of Hashem in it, and that's because you've just woken from sleep and are not physically prepared to daven properly. You haven't yet washed your hands with the bracha of netilat yadayim. 

But when you begin, you will probably forget it sometimes. Be patient and know it takes time to create a habit under these less-than-favorable circumstances. Think about how to make this habit work with your brain instead of trying to do it the way you think you "should" do it. What would work for you? Having a notecard right beside your alarm clock? Maybe right beside your phone? If your alarm is your phone, maybe setting the text of the alarm to a reminder? Setting a separate reminder on your phone? Having your spouse or roommate remind you? 

Another thing to be aware of is that it can be very hard to fall out of this habit because it's so easy to get distracted by the enormity of your day when you first wake up. Don't beat yourself up if this happens. Do teshuva (repent), make a new plan, and get back on the horse. Every day is a new opportunity!

I always just said Modah Ani aloud, but now that I'm teaching my toddler, I've discovered the fun of using a song version. Highly recommend, A+. This is my favorite version, especially for kids:

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It's to the tune of "You Are My Sunshine," and I frequently have this song in my head all morning long. And I don't even mind it. It's very cheering when you're not a morning person but small humans force you awake anyway.

Chabad has a recording of a more traditional tune.

Other cultures have seen the value of a practice like Modeh Ani. I particularly like this quote from the Dalai Lama, who said, "Everyday, think as you wake up, ‘today I am fortunate to have woken up, I am alive, I have a precious human life, I am not going to waste it. I am going to use all my energies to develop myself, to expand my heart out to others, to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all beings, I am going to have kind thoughts towards others, I am not going to get angry or think badly about others, I am going to benefit others as much as I can.’ "

I'm sure a Jewish source somewhere has these ideas, but I've never seen one with all these values of Modeh Ani in one place.

1 comment:

  1. Love this. I love the concept that god puts such trust in us every day... day after day. I have not been consistent with doing this davin but your post inspires me.