Thoughts about Modeh Ani

*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.  For
the comforts of my home and exciting jobs. For the joy of having two living
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.