Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Modeh Ani- Waking Moment

I offer thanks to You, O living and everlasting king, for having restored my soul within me; great is Your faithfulness

Our first conscious act of the day is to avow our indebtedness and gratitude to our Creator. As soon as we wake from sleep, before getting out of bed or even washing our hands,[1] we recite the above-quoted lines of the Modeh Ani prayer, acknowledging that it is He who grants us life and being every moment of our existence.

The ideas contained in the ostensibly simple lines of Modeh Ani fill many a profound chapter in the legal, philosophical and mystical works of Torah. They touch upon the omnipresence and all-pervasiveness of G-d; on the principle of “perpetual creation” (G-d’s constant infusion of vitality and existence into the world, without which it would revert to utter nothingness); on the laws governing the return of a pikadon (an object entrusted to one’s care) and on the Kabbalistic concept of Sefirat HaMalchut (the divine attribute of Sovereignty).[2] So why is the Modeh Ani said immediately upon waking, with a mind still groggy from sleep? Would it not have been more appropriate to precede it with a period of study and contemplation of these concepts?

Night and Day
The physiology of our bodies and the rhythm of the astral clocks partition our lives into conscious and supra-conscious domains. During our waking hours, our mind assumes control of our thoughts and actions, screening, filtering and interpreting the stimuli that flow to it, and issuing commands and instructions to the body. But at night, when we sleep, the “command-center” shifts to a deeper, darker place within our psyche—a place where fantasy supersedes logic, sense supplants thought, and awareness is replaced by a more elemental form of knowing. Hard facts become pliant, absurdities become tenable, in this nocturnal world.

There are certain truths, however, that are unaffected by these fluctuations of knowledge and awareness. Our faith in G-d, His centrality to our existence, the depth of our commitment to Him—we know these things utterly and absolutely, and we know them at all times and in all states of consciousness.[3]

Wakefulness and sleep affect only the external activity of the intellect; what we know with the very essence of our being, we know no less when plunged into the deepest recesses of slumber. On the contrary: when awake, we must wade through the presuppositions and polemics of an intellect shackled to the “realities” of the physical state in order to arrive at these truths; asleep, our mind loosened from its subjective moorings, we enjoy a closer and deeper (albeit less conscious) awareness of our innermost convictions.

The Modeh Ani prayer exploits a most unique moment of our day—the moment that lies at the threshold of wakefulness, the moment that straddles the conscious and supra-conscious domains of our day. There are other moments, other prayers, in the course of our day which take full advantage of our powers of intellect and reasoning—prayers that follow lengthy and profound meditations upon their content and significance. But each morning, as we move from the liberating hours of sleep to a day of conscious thought, a most unique opportunity presents itself: the opportunity to express to ourselves a truth that inhabits our deepest selves, to declare what we already know to the awaiting day.

Israeli company Eli7Creations presents beautiful tefillin and tallit bags such as these with their Jerusalem motif.

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