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Life for a New Day

by: Avraham Feder I wake up to a new day. Immediately upon waking I recite twelve Hebrew words: Modeh ani l’fanekha melekh ḥai v’kayyam she-heḥezarta bi nishmati b’ḥemlah rabbah emunathekha, “I acknowledge and thank You, O living and enduring Sovereign, for restoring my soul to me in compassion; great is Your faithfulness!” I have been reciting this short prayer ever since childhood. All through the years I have had an intuitive respect and affection for this prayer. It seems to express a fundamental religious feeling that one has, or ought to have, upon waking from sleep to start a new day. When I now examine carefully the four propositional elements that make up the prayer, my respect becomes more than intuitive. I now contend that the Modeh Ani is a gem-like articulation of what Judaism as a whole has to say about the privilege and responsibility of being a human being. Modeh Ani L’fanekha Tradition has it that ordinary sleep is one-sixtieth of death.1 This is why our liturgy prescribes that before we go to sleep at night we recite the Shema, our oath-of-allegiance to the God of Israel. We supplement the Shema with additional prayers that make up a mini-service called K’riat Shema She-al Ha-mittah, that is “The Shema To Be Recited at Bedtime.”2 As we prepare to close our eyes for the night, these prayers underscore our mindfulness of the reality of life and death. Prayerbooks begin or conclude this nocturnal worship with a b’rakhah (a blessing) that includes the words “Grant me light, lest I sleep the sleep of death.” These prayers include further allusions to the portentous nature of what we otherwise consider the restorative power of sleep. One phrase in particular from this prayer strikes me as having a special poignancy: b’yadkha afkid ruḥi, “into Your hand I commit my spirit.” Taken from Psalm 31:6, the turn of phrase is familiar to us as the phrase that opens the last stanza of the popular liturgical hymn Adon Olam—with one slight but significant difference. The word b’yadkha, meaning “in Your hand,” as correctly quoted from the psalm in the bedtime Shema, has been changed in the hymn to b’yado, “into His [i.e., God’s] hand.” The Adon Olam hymn can thus be read as an objective theological statement clothed in poetic meter and rhyme, reviewing in didactic fashion God’s attributes. And so it feels natural in that context to speak of God in the third person and to speak of God’s hand. But at night, as we ready ourselves for sleep—the sleep that is one-sixtieth of death—we are moved to join the psalmist in addressing God in the second person: directly, intimately, with deep subjective concern. This need for intimacy is understandable at such “life-and-death” moments. If not then, when? True, ordinary everyday sleep is not only necessary physically and mentally; it is also spiritually and emotionally therapeutic. What we call a “good night’s sleep” restores our spirit, our lust for life. At the same time, however, there is one characteristic of sleep that is troubling: our loss of control. In sleep, we experience an oscillation between anesthetic nothingness and the bewildering world of dreams. Dreams fascinate us. They may be pleasurable. They may upset us. When they invade our sleep as nightmares, they frighten us. The very thought of dreams in general makes us uneasy because dreams violate our sense of order. They undercut what normally constitute our waking criteria for coherence. Instead, as we lie in a state of relative helplessness, dreams are projected at us rapidly as a collage of images, sparking emotions that seem primordial. They make up a biblical tohu va-vohu, a kind of chaos that begs for creative light—in this case, a call to wake up. We may indeed compare our emergence from sleep to wakefulness with the opening verses of the Bible. There, b’reishit bara—the image conjured up by the famous opening words of the Bible, “In the beginning…”—provides a picture of chaos enveloped in darkness. A night without light! Absolute nothingness! The Creator orders: “Light!” And there is light! And the cosmos in all its potentiality comes alive! Similarly, for us, our personal pre-waking condition is one of chaos enveloped in darkness. And then we wake up! We come alive! Not that we have been dead…but in the sleep that is one-sixtieth of death, we have not been fully alive either. We have been waiting for life to begin again. In waking up we are like the biblical Adam, who emerges into a world of multitudinous things. Nature invites Adam to see, to hear, to smell, to touch, and to taste its gifts. He will learn soon enough that from his mortal vantage-point these gifts may be blessed or cursed. But even before becoming aware of his capacity to discriminate among “things,” he senses in himself a separateness from “everything.” He is an “I”! His sense of self is existentially pristine in that he knows instantly that he is not a rock or blade of grass, nor insect or bird or animal. His curiosity deepens: “What are these things, these creatures? What are they doing here? What am I doing here? Have I in some way been responsible for them being here? For my being here?” Adam can have no doubt that he is a creature—a product of creation. He may delude himself later into believing that he can hide from his Creator, denying his Creator’s presence. But even before he becomes aware of how limited he is, how vulnerable he is, how mortal he is, he intuits that creation cannot have been his own doing. Are we—Adam’s descendants—really like him, as he emerges in those first few moments of creation? When we wake up to a new day—unlike the biblical Adam—we take for granted the visual, auditory, and tactile reality in which we find ourselves. We take ourselves for granted. Over the years we’ve gone to sleep every night and awakened the next day to the same world that we had known for all the days and nights before. Unlike Adam, we’ve had a history! A life! But precisely like Adam, no matter how long our history, no matter how much life we’ve lived, waking up to a new day confirms for us three propositions: (1) each new day, we learn from observation that we are alive in a world we haven’t made; (2) each new day, we discover that each of us is an individual creature, an “I,” facing this world in all its multitudinous variety and complexity; and (3) neither by observation nor by discovery, we nevertheless conclude that if each of us is a creature, it is logical to assume that there is or has been a Creator. Such an assumption is not fanciful. Underscoring all three propositions is an incontrovertible truth: There is life! There is human life—my life—as there is other life “out there.” And my truth-claim that there has been a Creator, both of my life and of life “out there,” has a truth-value as necessary to my understanding of existence as my life itself!3 The biblical Adam cannot deny the light of intelligent design. Rebellious questioning and behavior will come later. But at the beginning of human life—his life, thrust as a naked creature into the blooming, buzzing swirl of nature—Adam surely knows he hasn’t made his own world, hasn’t made this thing of which he himself is part. Indeed, he is a tiny part of creation…with potential as yet unknown. But he cannot have made all “this” or any part of “this.” On that first day he cannot yet know that he and all of nature have emerged out of primordial darkness. But as the end of the first day approaches, he is overwhelmed with terror as shadows usher in a pitch-black night. But then, he is witness to the night giving way to the light of a new day. The appearance of this “second” day’s light signals for him a pattern—a pattern made, fashioned, created! This “second” day’s light is understood and appreciated by Adam as blessed. For this light bespeaks a Creator…and a concerned Presence! For Adam, the Presence is as real as the blessed light.4 Are we not like the biblical Adam? We may have a history, a past filled with sleep and awakening, and yet more sleep and more awakening. In its repetitiveness, the movement from night to day to night to day may have dulled our sensibility to wonder. We may no longer allow ourselves moments for contemplative reverie. True, we are light-years beyond primitive Adam in having revealed things about nature and having refashioned many elements of nature to enrich human life. But has our knowledge so jaded our imagination as to arbitrarily deny creation—and the Creator? Neither Adam nor Eve ever thanks God, their Creator, for giving them life. They may be excused for the “oversight” in that they have never known an alternative to life. We who regularly experience sleep that is one-sixtieth of death have no excuse to not acknowledge the Creator, and to give thanks for the core-gift of life. But, more pointedly, it is “I” who is acknowledging and thanking God for the gift of life that has been bestowed upon me, singling me out from among all creatures, as God singles out all creatures in their “I-ness.” At the same time, I cannot project my acknowledgment and thanks into an amorphous infinity. My sense of self as a singular “I” cannot but be addressing a Presence that is singular—a “You.”5 And so, every morning I begin my life again with the three words modeh ani l’fanekha. Melekh Ḥai V’kayyam I cannot prove empirically that God the Creator exists. Then again, no one can prove that God the Creator does not exist. Moreover, I can testify to a range of experiences that as human beings we know we have and that we variously describe as psychic, spiritual, mystical, devotional, religious, or aesthetic. These experiences are accompanied at times by awe and ecstatic joy; at other times, by dread and even trauma. Unless we shut off the flow of our imagination in a skepticism often sterile, we have to admit to the presence of “signals of transcendence.”6 These “signals” bespeak for me and my imagination the reality of a Presence that is the transcendent Creator-God, who has given life to me and to all parts of God’s creation. And so I awake each new day with acknowledgment and thanksgiving to my Creator. Is that enough? Is it enough to address my Creator as “You” without postulating additional attributes?7 Early in my Modeh Ani declaration, I address the Creator as my “living and enduring Sovereign,” which words acknowledge my belief in the Creator’s immortality. How can I not postulate the Creator of life as possessing the secret of life itself? God creates life and endures into eternity! “God was, God is, God shall be…!8 But why “Sovereign”? I do not use the term “Sovereign” as a metaphor; I mean it literally. It serves as my explicit recognition of the ultimate sin of the human creature, the source of all other sins: idolatry. I must proclaim God as Sovereign—immediately and unequivocally—for I know that the alternative to the exclusive rule of God over the universe and over the human creatures who inhabit the universe is the rule of human beings. The resulting idolatry—that is, the worship of human beings by human beings—is not only grossly in error, but is unconscionably abhorrent…as human history has proven over and over again. The problem with idolatry is that we don’t take it seriously. Emil Fackenheim argued that even in modern times, when we should know better, we continue to identify idolatry with fetishism—that is, the worship of material objects such as wood and stone, iconic statues, and sacred shrines. We thereby trivialize the very idea of idolatry. Or we casually identify idolatry with other sins—such as “idolizing” wealth, youth, sex, technology—and in so doing, we fudge over idolatry’s unique pathology. What is then lost, says Fackenheim, is modern idolatry’s “scandalous particularity.”9 What is this “scandalous particularity”? We worship ourselves or other human beings as gods! In both cases we plant the seeds for limitless self-indulgence. We allow ourselves-as-gods or others-as-gods to encroach upon or deny entirely the humanity of other human beings. Dare we forget that these grim conclusions are not groundless speculations! All of human history has shown the world to be a gory laboratory for confirming idolatry’s satanic relevancy! Turning again to Genesis, we find that the archetype of the self-worshiping idolater is the serpent in the Garden of Eden. In the biblical story, the serpent tempts Eve and Adam into disobeying God and eating from the forbidden tree. For this sin the serpent is punished. But if his only sin is tempting Eve and Adam into disobeying God, he is not yet guilty of self-idolatry. In the Talmud, the serpent is described as a creature who could have mounted a sound rabbinic defense before God, and thereby saved himself from punishment.10 He could have reminded God of the rabbinic principle: “When facing [contradictory] opinions from a master/teacher and a disciple, whose opinion does one follow? The master’s!”11 The serpent could have claimed that Eve and Adam should have rejected the serpent’s wily proposal, recognizing that he (the serpent) was only the “disciple” and God is the “master.” That Adam and Eve chose not to reject the proposal marks them as guilty, whereas the serpent was merely responsible for offering them an alternative opinion to the “master’s.” But the serpent refuses to consider this defense, since it would mean admitting that he—the serpent—has a master: God. This the serpent will not do! It is one thing to challenge God, to flirt with rebellion against God’s will. In the biblical story, the serpent is planted in the Garden as an integral part of God’s plan to create human beings as ethically sensitive shareholders in Creation. Human beings are meant to have free will, with which they can either obey or disobey God’s will. The primordial serpent, who in later Jewish theology will be identified as the yeitzer ha-ra (“the evil drive”), is the force intended to entice the human being to challenge and even to rebel against God’s creative order. But the act of challenging or rebelling—whether the agent is the serpent or the human being—is still not self-worship. When, however, the agent moves from challenging or rebelling against God’s order to setting up his own order and becoming his own “master,” denying any system of value-judgments beyond his own, he has then declared himself a god! And here, then, is the self-worship that lies at the core of idolatry at its most pernicious! If our openness to idolatry does not entrap us in the worship of ourselves, then we worship others. Tragic and perverse is the spectacle of human beings—and entire societies—offering allegiance blindly and absolutely to individuals, to ideologies, to institutions, and to governments that claim pseudo-religious omniscience and omnipotence. In all these cases, the human being may not be worshiping him or herself. But such people are nonetheless wholly committed to elevating other human beings to the level of divinity. We must remind ourselves that, in these cases of the scandalous particularity of idolatry, we are not concerned with non-lethal examples such as the infantile adulation of celebrities. We are considering the much more notorious historic cases, from the biblical Pharaoh to the modern Hitler, who were worshipfully adored by hordes of human beings…with horrendous consequences. Obviously, we need to elect human leaders who will have responsibility for regulating the social, economic, and political affairs of society. We hope and expect these leaders to be worthy of our respect and loyalty. But we should never elevate them in our minds to the point of worship! And so, rising every day to become engaged with the world and all that is in it, I not only acknowledge and thank the Creator for the gift of life. I insist upon addressing God as Sovereign, as the exclusive Sovereign of the world. This, despite the possibility that God’s presence may currently be in a state of eclipse.12 Or God may be mute, as was felt by many sages in ancient times, as well as by many moderns, today.13 Or God may be listening, may be saying “No!” to our prayers. Nevertheless, in the pristine moment of waking up to the new day, I must assert my rejection of all idolatries. I must pledge my singular loyalty—whatever God’s terms—to the truly immortal Sovereign, to the melekh ḥai v’kayyam! She-heḥezarta Bi Nishmati B’ḥemlah What is the n’shamah? Is it the “soul”? In the Book of Proverbs we find the phrase ner Adonai nishmat adam (“the candle of God is the soul of the human being,” 20:27). Does this help us to understand what the n’shamah is? A form of the word first appears in Genesis 2:7, where we read that “the Eternal, God, formed Adam from the dust of the earth, blew into his nostrils nishmat ḥayyim (‘the breath of the living’), and so did Adam become a living being.” In this verse, the word n’shamah means literally “the breath of life,” which the human being shares with every other living creature in God’s creation. Since the rabbinic period, however, the word n’shamah has come to refer to something else. The rabbis used n’shamah to speak of a special entity that endows the human being with an additional spiritual dimension beyond creaturely existence.14 Taking a hint from the phrase in Proverbs, the n’shamah represents a godly gift that is bestowed upon the human being in addition to the gift of creaturely life. It is something qualitatively beyond the physical body of the human being, and beyond the mental capacity of the human being as well. It is associated, to be sure, with the giving and taking of life; but it is clearly something that has transcendent dimensions beyond the physical and mental condition of the human being. It links us, as humans, to God’s mysterious attribute of holiness. The rabbis were seeking to distinguish the n’shamah conceptually from the physical and mental life of the human being. They understood that a healthy body and an intelligent mind can be responsible for bringing good to the world. But they also saw that individuals with healthy bodies and intelligent minds could be evil and could propagate evil—with great “creativity.” They believed, therefore, that God’s attribute of holiness was meant to engender in human beings a particular spiritual dimension that would raise them beyond conventional levels of utilitarian social behavior. The n’shamah, inspired with holiness, would thereby neutralize demonic anti-social behavior. While the n’shamah would never remove the human being from concern for his or her physical and mental “self,” it would sanctify one’s physical and mental efforts in dedicating the “self” to the service of God and humankind. There is an understanding in the Bible that the human being, otherwise blessed with sound body and mind, is capable of unspeakable crimes against one’s fellow. The very first sin following the expulsion from the Garden of Eden, after all, is reported as the fratricide committed by Cain. So what could Proverbs 20:27 possibly mean, when it proclaims that “the candle of God is the n’shamah of the human being”? It seems that it was anticipating the threat of an alternative view of life that would be articulated quintessentially by Shakespeare’s Macbeth: “Out, out, brief candle! Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more; it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”15 To counter such spiritual and ethical nihilism, is an enlightened humanism independent of God’s “candle” sufficient to inspire hope in the “poor player” that is the human being? Albert Camus (1913–1960), for example, was an atheistic existentialist whose life was undergirded by a deep commitment to humanistic values. He argued that life and human existence were essentially absurd, that suicide was a clear and present ethical option for the authentically free individual. Yet, Camus claimed that in spite of the absurdity of living, “the struggle itself is enough to fill a man’s heart…”16 Why? Camus’s own moral integrity may have been a powerful personal testimony to the possibility of individuals “redeeming” themselves in an otherwise absurd universe. Would it be sufficient, however, as a pedagogical model to inspire a critical mass of humanity to embody in themselves humane values—whatever the cost? In studying the Bible, we have seen the difficulties in understanding the human predicament. In his concluding address to the people Israel, as recorded in Deuteronomy, Moses is straightforward in describing for them a world that is open to blessings and curses, good and evil, life and death. Moses commands his people—or pleads with them—to choose life!17 In choosing life and the Torah-of-life, they will ipso facto be choosing the way of blessings and good, over the way of curses and evil. Among other books of the Bible, the author of Kohelet has studied life as it is lived by real people. In considering the human situation, the book exudes a joie de vivre—and at the very same time, it cannot hide a sardonic cynicism. It argues alternatively for stoicism and hedonism, moving back and forth between attitudes of devil-may-care lightheartedness and borderline despair. Then finally, with everything having been said, Kohelet’s advice is “fear God, keep the commandments, for this is the whole human being” (12:13). Why is “this” the whole human being? We return to our verse from Proverbs: “The candle of God is the n’shamah of the human being.” And we supplement it with another verse from Proverbs: “The candle of God is mitzvah through the light of God’s Torah; the way to life is the discipline of ethical striving” (6:22).These two verses from Proverbs, taken together, offer us a conceptual chain linking God’s “candle” or creative “light” with the n’shamah that God gifts to us, and through which we commit ourselves to God’s Torah and its agenda for spiritual and ethical striving. This n’shamah lifts us from what we would otherwise be: creatures blessed with creative capacities, but subject to negligible spiritual and ethical growth. Since our nightly sleep is considered a taste of the “big sleep,” our n’shamah is taken from us every night as a foretaste of that “big sleep” described at Kohelet 12:7: “the dust returns to the earth as it was; but the spirit returns to God who gave it.” Once we are fully awake and are reciting our formal early morning prayers, we pay a lengthy tribute to God and God’s gift to us of our n’shamah, in a prayer known as Elohai Neshamah: My God, the n’shamah You have given me is pure. You created it, You formed it, You breathed it into me and You preserve it within me. You will also take it from me, and You will restore it to me in time to come. So long as this n’shamah is within me I acknowledge You, O Eternal my God and God of my ancestors, Ruler of all creation, Lord of all n’shamot. Praised are you, Eternal, who restores n’shamot to lifeless bodies. In the earlier moment when we have just awakened from sleep, in that moment of our Modeh Ani salutation, we anticipate the later prayer—and so we express more succinctly (in Modeh Ani) our gratefulness to God for having mercifully restored our n’shamah to us for another day. In the words she-heḥezarta bi nishmati b’ḥemlah we are not just thanking God for being alive. After all, we are alive while asleep, aren’t we? Rather, we are thanking God for sharing with us the “candle of light”—that light which bestows upon us the possibility of sharing a bit of God’s holiness and thereby becoming, as Kohelet urged, whole human beings. Rabbah Emunatekha My Modeh Ani concludes with the phrase “Great is Your emunah.” The Hebrew word emunah is often translated as “faith,” which is defined in English as “strong belief without proof.” This definition is less than adequate as a translation of emunah, however, for it lacks any mention of crucial elements that are found in the word “faithfulness,” such as loyalty and steadfastness. A human being who claims to have emunah in God is assumed not only to believe theoretically in God as Creator. One is also expected to embody one’s belief loyally and steadfastly in all of one’s actions. The adjective ne•eman (from the same root as emunah) means loyal and steadfast—that is, unquestioningly faithful. In Numbers 12:7, Moses is called an eved ne•eman, a “faithful servant,” one whose faith in God and God’s purposes was actualized in absolute loyalty and steadfastness.18 So much for the emunah of the human being…but the conclusion of our Modeh Ani prayer speaks of God’s emunah. What do we mean when we say rabbah emunathekha (“great is Your emunah”)? Similarly, what is meant by the preamble to the recitation of the Shema recited when one is praying without a minyan—El melekh ne•eman (“God, the faithful Sovereign”)? We are saying that God is all these things that we (as human beings) are expected to be, if we have faith in God—loyal, steadfast, faithful. In truth, we are testifying to a covenantal relationship, in that these attributes are meant to bind us to God’s creative purposes. Does this mean that just as we are to have faith in God, God seeks to have faith in us? This is not an idle question. Why is it important to us to proclaim, immediately upon waking in the morning, that God, the Sovereign who gave us life and a n’shamah, is faithful? To whom is God faithful? To whom are we counting on God’s being steadfast and loyal? Our natural response would be: to us, ourselves! But what gives us the right to assume and to expect God’s faithfulness to us? To me? Put another way: On the verge of waking up this morning, why do I arrogate to myself the right to assume and to expect that God will restore my n’shamah—the very n’shamah that God took from me the moment I fell asleep? In an act of gratuitous love, God gave me life. But from tradition and from observation I know that God is meimit u-m’ḥayyeh (“the One who brings on death as well as life”).19 When I went to sleep last night, I recognized that I was placing myself—my body and soul—in God’s hands. Based on prior experience, I expected to wake up to a new day, my body and soul restored. But why should I have taken this restoration of body and soul for granted? Beyond my physiological expectation based on previous daily “restorations,” should I not feel some sense of obligation to the Restorer of my body and soul? This sense of obligation would not be synonymous with appreciation for life. This I have already acknowledged in my first ten words upon awakening: modeh ani l’fanekha melekh ḥai v’kayyam she-heḥezarta bi nishmati b’ḥemlah. My sense of obligation is born of a feeling beyond appreciation for life. It comes from an intuitive sense that there must be a purpose to my having been gifted with life by the Creator. This is reflected in these last two words of the Modeh Ani: rabbah emunathekha. I am praising God for God’s steadfastness, God’s loyalty—and God’s faithfulness. And more particularly and directly, for God’s faith in me! Why should God have faith in me? This faith-in-me must entail an expectation that I will perform a task for which I am to be held responsible. After all, even Adam and Eve in their ideal “paradise” situation—before their sin—were charged with the task of “working and guarding” the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:15). The very act of creation, leading to the emergence of the human being, establishes implicitly the ground for a covenantal relationship between the Creator and God’s creatures. The particular attribute that has been bestowed upon humans which distinguish them from the “lower” creatures is free will. It is this free will that makes it possible for God and humans to bind themselves to a covenant that by definition requires reciprocity of responsibility. If God has given us life, then we owe something in return. Covenantal reciprocity is reflected in the first appearance in the Bible of a word derived from emunah. In Genesis 15:6, following God’s revelation to Abram in which God promises our patriarch a grand future, we read: v’he•emin b’Adonai, va-yaḥsh’veha lo tz’dakah. The first part of the verse is translated easily as “he [Abram] had faith in the Eternal.” The second part of the verse is difficult to translate because it contains two pronouns without clear antecedents. Among the commentators, Rashi says that “God attributed merit and righteousness to Abram, because Abram had faith in God.” The Ramban sees it differently: “Abram had faith in God because he attributed to God the righteousness that would provide Abram with future offspring.” The differing explanations of the commentators reflect a constructive ambiguity, in that God’s selection of Abram is for the purpose of covenantal reciprocity. Abram’s emunah must mean, according to Rashi, that Abram is righteous. According to the Ramban, Abram’s emunah must be based on God’s righteousness. But if they differ about a detail, both are clearly suggesting that the demand for righteousness must be reciprocal! And this covenantal reciprocity begins with God’s very creation of the first human being. God has created a world for humans to “work and guard.” Even if this world is at first a paradise (that is, in some sense “perfect”), it will still need human cultivation and protection. How much more so is this the case, when circumstances destroy the ideal of the Garden but, nevertheless, God’s creation continues to exist! It is now a world that will need intensive tending and mending. And the covenantal obligation of humanity will be to tend and to mend, in order for the world to become hospitable to God’s sovereignty. The responsibility put upon me by my faith in God’s faith-in-me makes waking up to a new day an intimidating challenge. I am aware of my weaknesses. Our later morning liturgy laments: What are we? What is our life? Our goodness, our righteousness, our helpfulness, our strength, our might? What can we say in Your presence, O Eternal? All the mighty ones are as nothing before You; individuals of renown, as though they never existed; the wise, as if they are without knowledge; the intelligent, as though they lack understanding; for most of their doings are worthless, and the days of their life are vain in Your sight; superiority of the human being over the beast is an illusion, for all is vanity. As intimidating as is the challenge, and as doleful the lament, I am also aware of other more uplifting thoughts in the liturgy that inspire me to neutralize my sense of worthlessness. The same litany of human vanities recited every morning is recited at the climactic Ne’ilah service at the conclusion of Yom Kippur. But immediately following the lament we have the words: “You, O Eternal, have distinguished humankind from the beginning, deeming us worthy to stand in Your Presence…”20 In the same optimistic spirit, following the same litany of vanities that we recite every morning, we remind ourselves every morning: “However, we are Your people, Your people of the covenant, the children of Abraham, Your friend…we are the community of Jacob, whom You named Israel…because of Your love for him and Your delight in him.”21 To wake up to life each new day with a feeling of being loved, with a capacity to bring delight to my Creator! To know that I am joined to my historic community of covenanted Israel looking to live, to hope, and to tend and mend Your creation, O Eternal One! Is there a more exhilarating and energizing spur to my efforts today and every day? Indeed, rabbah emunathekha, with faith in Your faithfulness, O Eternal, I am ready—as the Shulḥan Arukh prescribes—to rise as a lion today to serve You, my Creator.22 My new day is here. The older one gets, the more precious does each new awakening become. And so I say my Modeh Ani, ever so much more conscious of the Divine Presence that has granted me life. My awe for the Creator of All has become magnified, as it has intensified over the years. Yet, at the same time, the Creator—my Creator—seems ever more familiar to me as the God of my people Israel. With greater love as each day passes, I pledge my allegiance to God as my exclusive Sovereign, the Ruler of everyone and everything in the universe. I thank God for the gift of my n’shamah, which I see as the mysterious channel to God’s revealed will in Torah. My n’shamah links me to God’s holy purposes for humankind. My n’shamah infuses me with the emunah—the deep faithfulness—to work toward the tending and mending of the world that God has created for us. Thus my emunah in God the Creator now entails as well my study of God’s will as our Revealer, and my working toward fulfilling God’s will for humankind as our Redeemer.

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