I’ve mentioned that I’m in the process of converting to Judaism. Emphasis on “the process.” It’s a complicated thing, for me. With a few thousand years of customs and beliefs spread throughout the globe, finding “the right” Judaism isn’t easy. One of my struggles—and Jacob was renamed Israel which means wrestled with God after all—is trying to find the bits and pieces that actually mean something to me as opposed to just going through the motions because that’s the way it is done.
Enter the morning prayer called the Modah ani. This is supposed to be said every morning, before you get out of bed.
Like everything in Judaism, there are six thousand different slight variations of this, what it means, what and how you should say it and :::pinches bridge of nose and sighs::: Everyone has an opinion!
What I take this to mean, after reading a few of the six thousand viewpoints, is this: When we go to sleep each night it is an act of faith. We have faith or hope that we wake up in the morning, no? So in some meanings, we are handing over our souls each night, and each morning God returns them to us.
Do I think that some guy on a cloud has plucked out something physical called my soul and puts it in a drawer overnight? Then he plops it back in me each morning? Uh, no. But I like the imagery.
Each morning we wake up. It is a new start. God has faith in us and gives us another day. Hopefully we don’t mess it up. Lying there in bed each morning, before our feet hit the floor and we slump off for that first necessary caffeine infusion, how wonderful is it to be grateful?! “I see the eternal spirit again this morning! Thank you for the opportunity! Thank you for giving me my soul back! Thank you for believing in me enough to do that!” Grateful grateful grateful… another day. Another blessed day. (Please don’t mess it up! But if you do, well, hopefully you get another morning entrusted to you.)
You don’t need to believe in God or of any religion to be grateful for a new day. It is a pretty amazing gift, if you think about it. As someone with PTSD and chronic clinical depression, that gift often gets overlooked and even disparaged.
So for a while and first thing each morning, I’ve been wrestling with the Hebrew. I swear, I must be conjuring up all sorts of demons and curses with my botched pronunciation. I wasn’t amused when I read on one website how this is a popular prayer for children because it is so easy. :::mutters::: It isn’t necessary for any of this to be said in Hebrew. It is the recognition and gratitude that counts (that’s my opinion, not shared by all Jews). But I like the hypnotic, mantra-like, meditation of singing this in Hebrew for about four to eight minutes a morning. Luckily, the website mentioned above in the graphic is full of different variations of this prayer, all set to music. Jews like to sing their prayers. I sing along with the rabbi who can pronounce Hebrew.
Each morning I’ve been singing my gratitude for my soul being plopped back into this body. So far it has been marvelous, and God hasn’t sent a lightning strike down because of my bad Hebrew and worse singing.