Share a Prayer: Modeh Ani

Hi

Welcome to “Share a Prayer” a quick look at a prayer that is found in our daily, Shabbat or Holy Day Prayer Service. Often during the course of the service we encounter some real gems that we don’t have time to reflect upon; this will give us an opportunity to select one prayer and take a closer look at it.

For many of us, the first prayer that we can recall, with the possible exception of the Shema is Modeh Ani “I am grateful to You.” This is part of a series of prayers that were originally intended to be offered at home immediately upon awakening but we transferred to the Siddur to be recited individually prior to the start of the morning services.  Modeh Ani expresses gratitude to God, our Eternal Monarch, for restoring our soul to us in the morning. In ancient times, many believed that the Almighty retrieved our souls at night time, (perhaps for maintenance or cleaning) and restored them to our bodies in the morning. So, for example, in the Haskivenu prayer of the evening service we ask God to help us to lie down in peace, to protect us from evil which may befall us at night and allow us to rise up again alive in the morning. Thus it is only fitting that we start the day with a sincere expression of thanksgiving. Thanksgiving, as I pointed out in my Share a Prayer edition just prior to the eponymous American Holiday, is an inherently Jewish trait; so to utter words of gratitude to our Creator for the good that God provides with our first breath of the morning is most appropriate.

Abram Milgram, a noted authority and author on the subject of Jewish Worship traces the origin of the prayer, Modeh Ani to a passage from the Midrash (Gen. Rab.78:1) based on a verse from the book of Lamentations (Lam.3:23). Milgram provides a quote from the Midrash attributed to Rabbi Simeon ben Abba, “Because Thou renewest us every Morning, we know that great is Thy faithfulness to redeem us.”

Modeh Ani then not only expresses gratitude to God but also teaches us that each day represents a brand new opportunity for renewal and redemption. As we get up in the  morning and prepare to face the day ahead, Modeh Ani instantly puts us in touch with our Neshama, (soul) that small part of the Divine that resides with in us and keeps us mindful of God’s constant presence in our lives.

Here is a link to the prayer in Hebrew and English. Here is a link to a moving musical setting of Modeh Ani by the wonderful contemporary musician Rick Recht.

Thanks again to all of those who gave me such positive feed back on “Share a Prayer!” I have received several fascinating questions and ideas for future editions.

I hope you enjoy this brief look at our prayers. If you have a suggestion or question or request, email me at cantor@sinaihollywood.org.

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