[I participated in the TRT Yishar Koach program this year. This program allows congregants to celebrate the anniversary of their Bar/Bat Mitzvah, and use the opportunity to re-examine how their Jewish identity has changed since then. The following words are from the introduction I gave before leading the congregation in reciting the Modeh Ani prayer.]
As you may have noticed, our next prayer is from the morning service. Let me tell you why I asked if I could lead this prayer tonight.
Several years ago, I started attending our informal Saturday morning minyan services. I can't even recall how I first discovered this wonderful jewel of a service. They are short and always involve an interesting discussion of the weekly Torah portion. But more importantly, they are informal. I found that I just loved something about coming to temple and praying in jeans and sneakers. Praying didn't have to be something I had to dress up for. Or felt obligated to do. Coming to minyan service is something that I want to do, for me. Not for any obligation I feel. But because I want to be there.
The first prayer at most Minyan services is Modeh Ani, where we thank god for waking us up from sleep and giving us another day. One week, as we were trying out the new prayer book for a minyan service, we didn't do this prayer and I was surprised by how much I missed it. And I realized how important it had become for me to thank God for my wonderful life. For my family, and my health. For my amazing good fortune to have been born in such a stable, comfortable time. For my kids who excite and challenge me every day, and let me relive my youth through them. For my wife, who loves me, despite all my numerous challenges. For my 3 year old twin nieces, who have rekindled in me a love for little children I forgot I ever had. Fo r the comforts of my home and exciting jobs. For the joy of having two livin g parents who still want to hear every week how my life is going and what the family is doing.
Our new prayer book has a different translation for this prayer.
I offer thanks to You, ever living Sovereign, that you have restored my soul to me in mercy. How great is Your trust
How great is your trust? At first, that seemed a little out of place here. What does trust have to do with thanks? But as I thought of it I realized - God has given us a gift – a life. We are intended to use that gift for many things. We are given our life to love and be loved by friends and family. We are given our life to be part of a community and help others. We are given our life to continue learning and growing every day. We are given our life to cherish the world. God is trusting us to find the joy in our lives - to relish this gift and make the most of the short time that we have here. To do something good with the life we've been given.
And so I find myself overwhelmed with gratitude. It's almost like it isn't real unless I can thank someone for it. Maybe it's fear that, if I am not sufficiently grateful, it could be taken away. But something compels me to say thank you. So I found myself relying on the reminder, every Saturday morning, to take a few minutes and sing thanks for everything I have.