Episode 4: Gratitude Glasses (Modeh/Modah Ani)
12:19AM Nov 14, 2021
Hello everybody! Welcome to the light lab podcast, so great to be with you! My name is Eliana Light, and I am here with my dear friends and colleagues, Rabbi Josh Warshawsky.
And Cantor Ellen Dreskin!
Nice to be with you once again, Eliana and Josh.
Always so special and we're recording this podcast, at least for me pretty much first thing in the morning. So I figured for our question of the day, why not start with: What makes a good morning? Or what is something that when you do in the morning makes it a better day? What are our morning practices? Would love to start with Ellen? Whatcha thinking?
Well, I hate to confess that I do enjoy my morning cup of coffee. And the morning feels feels different to me. Tastes different, smells different. Yes, we're all raising our morning cups of coffee to each other at this moment. A cup of coffee is part of my morning ritual. And I'm very aware of how it affects me internally. I am very appreciative like I say have the aroma and the taste it, it's really become part of me putting myself together in the morning a bit. So as this worldly as it is. It's a good morning, and I'm a morning person. So pretty much I appreciate the mornings for what they are.
That's beautiful. And I don't think you should be ashamed of your cup of coffee at all. In fact, it sounds like what you've done is taken something this worldly, and allowed it to be elevated or at least be elevated in you the way that you are noticing how it makes your body feel and how it smells and tastes. Seems pretty holy to me.
Appreciate it. I'm working on elevating it back in the same way as I'm paying tribute to my to my coffee here.
Amazing, Josh, what makes a good morning for you.
I'm also a coffee drinker. I don't I don't I like the smell of coffee. And I don't love the taste of coffee. But I do like the way that I feel more awake after drinking it. So there are parts of it that feel exciting and parts of it that I'm also still coming to terms with. And I I do a lot of travel. So you know, sometimes my mornings often feel very different. But I really love waking up in my own bed. So that always feels nice when I get to do that. And then when I'm not in my own bed trying to think about waking up with intention, my wife and I have a morning, the New York Times has like a bee like it's like a spelling bee where they have a letter in the middle and then like a bunch of letters around, you have to make as many words as you can. It's a nice brain exercise in the morning. And we try and do it every morning. And also during the pandemic, I've really come to love breakfast. I didn't always eat breakfast. And then when I was not, you know, commuting anywhere, I started making breakfast every morning. And that was always really nice. And I also feel more energized when I've eaten a nice, you know something else to something hearty to start the day.
Amazing what was for breakfast this morning?
This morning,I had a breakfast wrap with eggs and Veggie Sausage.
That sounds -
With a little avocado.
Oh my gosh, can't forget the avocado. That's amazing. For me., know that I feel better and have a better morning if I'm able to take some sort of mindful moment . If I forget, or I tell myself that I'm too busy and I just jump right into the flow of the day, the day feels different the day feels off and I feel off. And for me, my favorite thing is to dance to move my body in some sort of way in the morning. And the way I do that really depends a lot on my mood. If I want to raise my energy are there some shpilkus some ants in the pants I have to get out I'll play a fast song and just kind of jump around my room. If I'm feeling in an exercise mood, maybe I'll do a dance exercise video. I really love the fitness martial on YouTube. If any of you are looking for dance workouts, if I want to do something a little calmer or slowerI'm subscribed to the Daybreaker Plus online catalog where there are all different sorts of movements, whether it's a two minute dance party, Qi Gong something a little slower, or I'll just interpretive dance around my room and maybe listen to music that is positive for the morning. Maybe versions of morning prayers as I stretch and move. It helps get my body centered and my mind centered, and to take a moment in the morning where instead of thinking about all of the things that I have to do the day, because I have kind of an anxious brain, especially in the morning, and it just rushes to the to do list, to take a moment and stop and sink back into the flow of the world, totally changes my day. And I want to do, I want to do more of that. And this is a good reminder that that's an important thing to do.
And it makes sense for us that we're talking about morning rituals, because on this episode, we are going to be diving deep into one particular T'fillah. And that is the Modeh Ani, our first prayer upon waking. And before we even dive deeper into the prayer itself, we're going to hear it read out loud. And you listener and us in this, in this recording, are really going to listen to it so often when we're in the flow of prayer. We're reading things quickly, or we're singing things. We don't often get to hear it read out loud. So I would love for us to just listen and see what we notice. So Ellen, would you mind reading or just reciting from memory this T'fillah for us nice and slow?
Happy to! Let's make note that that we call the prayer Modeh Ani and yet you'll hear me say as someone who identifies as a woman Modah Ani until we figure out a way to ungenderize these verbs. So it goes like this. Moda Ani Lefanecha Melech Chai Vekayam, Shehechezarta Bi, Nishmati Bechemla Raba Emunatecha.
Thank you. Even just hearing it read out loud, I feel I felt something in my nervous system start to kind of calm and also awaken. Anything in particular, you notice Josh?
There were a few things that were sticking out to me as Ellen was reading it. The first is just it feels it feels very Hebrew. And I don't know how to explain that other than to say there's a lot of like, there's a lot of ch's in it. Right Modeh Ani Lafonda, Melech Chai, the Chi there's these some of these like harsher syllables, that that in some ways awakened me and also make me feel grounded in in this particular language, which is the language that I really love. And the word that was coming out to me today, sometimes I listen to this, or I say that's a different words, which jump out at me. And this time, the word that's stuck out to me was Lefanecha. And the before you, and the idea that that you were saying this prayer, in the moment when you're waking up when you like, don't want to, you haven't even opened your eyes, and you don't want to like connect with anybody yet, but you're already in relationship. Right? There's already some other presence with you. Just by naming this Lefanecha, that there's something else happening in the room with you.
Beautiful, Ellen, did you know anything? Notice anything as you were speaking.
Oftentimes, in the morning, you know, I, as I say, I'm a morning person. So I rush. So to stop now and really read it more slowly. And really concentrate on the words and saying, Well, you know, how is this going? And just to hear my own voice, what was I emphasizing? And where was I putting the pauses? For me, the Josh, I love what you were saying about you know, the physicality of the of the vowels and the consonants, because I was thinking, Oh, well, you wake up in the morning and your throats kind of hoarse, and your mouth is kind of dry and all the shehechezata. I thought, well, this is also a good way to exercise the vocal cords first thing in the morning. I love that the last two words are Rabba Emunatecha. I like that there is faith on my part when I recite it in the morning, and that it ends with faith on this, whoever I am Lefanecha, to face on that side as well. And really concretizes for me that relationship that we're starting the day with.
So let's use that as an opportunity to read through some translations. By the way, in the show notes, you're going to have a sheet that has each of the different words of Modeh slash Modeh Ani translated, and also some of these other translations. And I'll read one and then if either of you have any thoughts on it, what sticks out to you, do you like the way that this person characterizes this prayer? Because as we know, anytime we translate we are interpreting. We are focusing on one particular translation or another elevating it over all other choices. And so having I find a plethora of translations can help me figure out where I sit with this prayer. So here's the first one.
Thank you Living G?d and Master for giving me another day of awareness. I thank you for this sacred trust. That's by Rabbi Zalman Schachter Shalom, anything stick out for us here?
I like the word awareness very much, where literally we might say it's about my soul, the immediate connection between Well, what I wasn't - when I was asleep - aware. And that that's the connotation of having my soul returned to me each day is that I am really awake and able to be aware of what's going on around me.
How about you, Josh?
I was gonna jump on, let's say more like, I mean, I love I love thinking that Judaism, but to me, and when I talk to kids, a lot about Judaism, it's all about awareness. It's what are the things that you're noticing as you're going through your day? How are we making life intentional and important? In saying a bracha, is naming that the thing that I'm about to do, has significance. It's being aware that I'm not walking through life like a zombie and having awareness be a part of this first moment also feels intentional and important.
And that actually goes back to me about the word Modeh/Modah itself that root, that can mean so many different things. It means gratitude, thankfulness, as we're talking about now, it also means acknowledgment. So in my translation of Modeh, slash Modah, Ani, I say, I acknowledge you, ruler, spirit everlasting, you have resouled me, you believe in me. And that the acknowledgement is the root of gratitude, because you can't be grateful for something until you notice that it's occurred. And until you acknowledge it as a gift. Otherwise, if you take it for granted, if it's just something that's lying around, you're not going to feel gratitude for it. It's that acknowledgement that act of saying, Oh, it's like I clock it, I see it, I get it, this is a gift. I'm perceiving this as something that I didn't necessary, necessarily deserve as something that didn't necessarily need to happen in the world. And yet, here it is, I'm acknowledging that it is happening. And that acknowledgement comes before everything else. Before everything else.
This last translation, I'm going to read by Mosheh Ibn Machir, I think I found on Open Siddur, and it says: Thankful, am I in your presence, Spirit who lives and endures, you've returned to me, my soul with compassion, abundant is your faith. Anything in those last two translations that stick out to us?
There were a bunch of things that jumped out at me, I'll pick one I think Ellen, I think are on the on the same page a lot about the different things that are sticking out, and we all take away and you'll take the other unless there's more. But I love the idea of abundant is your faith. And going back to what Ellen was talking about before that there's sort of a mutual faithfulness, that we're both with both we are feeling that faith and belief and that G?D, that presence that's with us in this moment is also exchanging with us a lot of faith. And I like the idea of G?d trusting us that here we are in this day, and you have a lot of faith in us to hold on to this soul that's that's coming back into us. That's this really important thing and to wake up in the morning and feel that someone believes in you that something believes in you is another thing that I think is really important. It helps us orient how we're going to move through our day. I am believed in.
I think that that that right there would be a phrase for to wake up in the morning and be able to say, I am believed in. I love that. I was going to go for the word order at the beginning, which is probably Josh (laughs) - We were all gonna go is that this translation Grateful Am I acknowledges the fact that in the Hebrew, it's kind of this Yoda ish way of grateful Am I. That and I did read a commentary along the way somewhere that it could have been Ani Modah, I am grateful. But the words are arranged this way. So that even before we are aware that there is an Ani, that there is my ego and the world belongs to me today. First, there's gratitude before I even remember where I am or who I am or what I am. There's this awareness that there's an andness, the day exists and I'm in it and that the first expression of that should be Wow, far out. Thanks. And then start to think as you said Eliana earlier about the day and what I need to do, et cetera. But the first gratitude, oh, that's the whole ball of wax right there.
For me, it's so incredible that we have inherited this spiritual technology, this little gem of how do we wake up in the morning? You know, traditionally Modeh slash Modah Ani, or some sort of acknowledgment like this was said, as soon as you become conscious in your bed. Often when we pray in the synagogue, especially with kids, because this is an idea that we really want to pass on, we sing it with kids. But it's something that happens for your person, the moment you wake up. And there's been so much research done, about how to be happy how to live a good life. And gratitude is so often at the core of that. I know, I listened to the podcast, the happiness lab, and there's so much in there about gratitude, and the choice that you make when you wake up in the morning, and about how you perceive the world. And there are all these journals you can buy. And there are lectures that you can listen to, and there are apps that you can get. And so many things that are trying to fix, you know, the maladies of the modern world, or at least try to make us a little bit happier. And it's in the Siddur, like so many of these things that we're going to be talking about on this podcast, I think, can be and are being repackaged and sold in a whole bunch of different ways. But they're ours. They're, they're ours, and they've always been ours. And we get to choose how we wake up in the morning. And when we choose, as my mom likes to say, an attitude of gratitude, it can fundamentally change our day. And you don't actually have to pay anybody to do that. Right? It can help. It can help to have a meditation app or an alarm clock that wakes you up with a particular sound, it can help to have a morning practice. Sometimes I'll keep a journal under my pillow. You know, in times, really, when I'm feeling very depressed when I'm in a depression because that's something that I struggle with in my life. When I'm in the midst of a depression, I have to remind myself of these things even more, because they don't come to me naturally. And I'll keep a journal next to me in bed. And before I go to bed, I'll write three reasons I'm grateful. And when I wake up in the morning, I'll write three reasons I'm grateful because it doesn't come to me in those moments. And this is a reminder that we're able to have that whenever we want. And they want to go back to the Rabah Emunatecha bit, and stay there for a minute because in the research that I did around Modeh Ani a lot of which that I had forgotten, the idea that we should wake up, that we are renewed every day, as a creation comes from the Shulchan Aruch, but it comes that idea even further and actually comes from Aicha, from Lamentations, which is the book of the Tanakh, the Bible, that we read on Tisha B'Av of the day where we mourn the destruction of the temples, and a bunch of other terrible things that happened in Jewish history. Which first of all is amazing in and of itself that from this tale of grief from this book of grief, and calling out we get this line. It's chapter three, verse 23, but I'll go back to 22 for a second. Chasdei Adonai ki lo tamnu ki lo challu rachamav. Surely the Holy One's mercies are not consumed. Surely the compassions never fail. And then this is verse 23. Chadashim labkarim raba emunatecha, they are renewed every morning. Great is your faithfulness or you believe in me or this sacred trust right? Those words rabba emunatecha come from Aicha and those are the words that the writer of Modeh Ani now I'm now I'm seeing that Moshe Ibn Machir maybe didn't write the third translation he wrote Modeh Ani it showed up in his Siddur Siddur haYom in the 16th century for the first time. So the prayer itself not as old as some of our other prayers, but certainly not the newest one we have. The writer of this prayer took that line, Raba emunatecha, that had been taken by the rabbi's of the law codes as evidence that we are renewed every day, and pulled it from Aicha, from this place of mourning in this place of striving, into the morning prayers. I don't know if that strikes either of you in a particular way but it but it certainly shifted how I saw it.
What I heard in the the prelude to the verse in verse 22 as your prelud to verse 23 was the recognition of some of the words that we use when we circle around to this gratitude idea later in the service. When instead of Modeh Ani or Modah Ani its modim anachnu and it becomes a communal prayer of gratitude at the end of our Amidah about G?d's constant mercy and G?d's constant generosity and graciousness to us. That stuck out for me. And if this is an okay time, I'd love to relate a quick story about gratitude. And I'm very lucky. I'm very privileged, I, you know, enjoy a lot in the world. And I decided a number of years ago, well over 10 years ago, that I didn't feel gratitude enough that I was really taking it all for granted without saying thank you back. And I wanted to develop an idea an attitude of gratitude, Elliana, the that you mentioned. And this was back in the days of clock radios and things like that before we were all using our phones as, our alarm clocks, and I thought, Well, how am I going to develop this attitude of gratitude? I'm somebody who wakes up before the alarm, my feet are on the floor before I'm aware that I'm awake. Really, where's the room for the ritual in there? I put a post it on my clock radio, so that when the alarm the radio started in the morning, if I look to see what time it was, I saw the post it that said Modah Ani on it. And if I reached to hit the snooze button, I felt the post it. So even if I was gonna go back to sleep for 10 minutes, I knew first, my first conscious thought was Modah Ani. And it became a daily practice after a number of weeks, I was able to remove the post it and it became an attitude, it became a habit. And I appreciate it very much it colored the rest of my day to wake up in that manner. And I think it's so interesting that it comes from the book of Lamentations. And that Eliana you speak about yourself and others who live with depression in their lives. Certainly there have been days since then, that life was not that life was a lot more challenging than it had been even the day before. That you get a piece of news or somebody is ill or somebody passes away. And the first time that I had to wake up in the morning, and my first thought was, I am so grateful that I am aware and awake this day. And my second thought was of a tragedy that had befallen. And the two of them had a little train wreck in my head and in my heart on more than one occasion. And then I realized that the gratitude is, is deeper than just a simple thank you that the gratitude really can become habitual, and can become an attitude, which was again, much more moving and much more powerful, perhaps then, thanks, G?d, and now I'm on my way. So thanks for letting me share that.
I love that story. And I love the both the the code, the mantra itself and the and the act of putting the post its out there. And also I like the tangible feeling of feeling that sort of difference. Even when you wake up in the morning, there's this piece of paper right there that that changes the way that you you're touching and you're waking up. That's so cool. And you know, when you were thinking when you're talking about that, and Eliana, when you were mentioning that the verses were made, I was like the verses appeared in my head in Eicha trope. And I was I really liked. I really liked that because Chapter Three has my one of my favorite melodies, Chapter Three Lamentations of any of the megilot. And, and you know, those two lines, I hadn't thought about those lines, they sort of just brushed past right in the middle of that beautiful chapter. And there's a lot there's a lot of really amazing things in there. And for anybody who any of our listeners who watch the TV shows Srugim, one of the characters says Chusdei Hashem all the time. And I bet that's also from that Lechasdei Adonai Ki Lo Tamnu, right there, those those two words that these these loving kindnesses, these great graces that G?d bestows upon us are happening all the time. And, you know, it got me thinking about the fact that that when we're in the deepest depths, that's the time when we're able to most notice any small kindness. And sometimes it's hard for us to internalize those small kindnesses but you know when we we also say Min Hameitzar Karati Yah, we're calling out from these deep depths. And then we find the answer in expansiveness. And so, you know, there there has to be a distinction in order for us to be able to see or visualize something, right? There's no you can't understand what light is unless you also know what darkness is. And and so, you know, finding the raba emunatecha in our like deepest, darkest, most tragic day feels poignant. And it's something that even even the in the next prayer that we say, you know, and a couple pages later, and we say birkot hashachar, and the rooster also gets this understanding of knowing the difference between night and day. And so, you know, this this finding the difference between depths and then translating it into the the moments when we feel faith, faithfulness and belief, is - that really struck struck me
Right now I'm listening to the audiobook of Dr. Lisa Miller's The Awakened Brain which is brand new, which, another book we that should all read. I was at a talk with her a while ago. She talks about how the idea of belief isn't necessarily helpful here. It's not necessarily that you believe in gratitude, or you believe that we're all connected. But it's a perception, it's a choice to look at the world in a particular way. And then you see everything through that lens, I really appreciated that. And it reminds me of what of what both of you are saying the the act of reminding yourself, that gratitude is real, and that these gifts that we have are real, even in the midst of tragedy. And that's not to say that those tragedies disappear, it's not that we're forcing upon ourselves and everything is happy all the time version of the world. Davka I think Judaism encourages us to hold both of those things in our minds, and in our hearts at all times. Life is beautiful, and life is difficult. And there is tragedy in the world. And we don't shy away from it. I mean, we're talking about Tisha B'Av, as we have an entire day, and other little days around our calendar focused on communal processing of grief. It's really important to be able to do that. And amongst this, you know, I went even a verse earlier verse 21, Zot ashiv el libi al cen ocheel. And that really struck me. And this, I recall, it's translated as your or I remember, or I return this to my heart, and then I have hope. Right, it is a choice to return these things to our hearts to remind ourselves of them. And you know, being able to stop and find these intertextualizations is really helpful because we don't see this when we just go through the prayer book on our own. But so often, the people who wrote these prayers, if they took a line from Tanakh, from the Bible, they kind of expected that the lay person would know what came around it, or before it or after it. And we see this, I know Rabbi Elie Kaunfer of Hadar is an amazing teacher of intertext in if we don't stop and look at it, we miss all of these ideas that it's not just about rabah emunatecha, it's about the act of bringing it to our consciousness of reminding ourselves of it.
I love the phrase that you used about these things as lenses. That, you know, it is like, I wake up in the morning or we can each wake up in the morning and, and put on our glasses. I'm wearing the one down looking at us on on video right now. And I'm saying okay, I wear glasses, I'm the one wearing.
We all actually wear glasses!
At times but you put on that lens in the morning, or you put on those glasses in the morning. And and then whatever is going on in your life that day, you do see through your glasses you see through your lenses. And if gratitude can be one of those lenses I mean, even on Tisha B'Av Jews wake up and say Modeh Ani, it's not a it's not only you're right, it's it's just not only on those good days, it's a realization of something much deeper.
You should trademark those gratitude classes you'd make. Speaking of repackaging Jewish ideas and selling them, you should definitely market those gratitude classes. And with that, we'll be back.
Beautiful, it's so refreshing to be able to dive deeply into this tefllah, this prayer that we've been handed down from our 16th century ancestors. There's always so much more to learn. And, Ellen, I know that you have a Midrash, an interpretation story that I'm really excited for you to share.
Well, thanks I'm happy to share it. I wish that I remembered more about the original source of what I'm about to share. I've asked a number of people and they can't find the source for me and so if anyone listening knows where what I'm about to say comes from please feel free to let us know I'd really like to know and it's an important Jewish value to to acknowledge one's teachers when they share a learning our lesson. I love the word Nishmati that it's my soul. Shehechetzarta bi that you've returned to me, nishmati, my soul, and it begs the question of well, while I was sleeping all that time, where was my soul? Where did it go if now it's being returned? And I sure that I studied a Midrash along the way years ago, that described somewhat of a soul party, that when our, when we are asleep that all of our collective souls they actually do go somewhere to be with the the oneness, the unity, the Soul of the Universe. And then when we were ready to wake up, our soul gets returned to us. And this idea that their souls then constantly traveling from our bodies, to wherever they go to these soul parties while we're sleeping, and coming back into our bodies in the morning, or when we wake up. And the idea also that they bless each other on the way as they they cross in space or in the heavens. And, wow, all these people having their souls, leave them and return to them. Aren't I lucky, and aren't I grateful that it's nishmati, that I got the right one back, that I left it that I that left me last night when I went to sleep, and the idea that it's my individual soul, it is unique, and I got that one back. It's my life, I'm still living. And it's just another reason to be grateful. I know this soul, I love this soul, I can work with this soul. And so the gratitude just increases for our own unique personalities and characters. I appreciate that a lot.
I love that story so much, especially as someone who my favorite way, my real favorite way to wake up is with a dance party. Now the next time I do that, I can imagine that we are just recreating the dance party that all of our souls went to the night before. It's so so special. And reminds us of the the individuality that we that we each have so, so beautiful. I think the way that we talk about G?d with children can help set them up for positive spiritual relationships over the course of their life. And we don't talk about G?d enough, I don't think. And so often, I'll ask kids like, what do you do when you've received a gift? How do you show that you're so so grateful for this gift? They might say, I can write them a thank you note, I write them a thank you email, I can give them a hug, I can give them a kiss. I can give them back a gift. And then I say, What about the really big gifts, like the fact that you're alive? Like the fact that they're trees outside? Like the fact that there's this whole world that you were born into, that you didn't actually make? And here you are. G?d is another word for where our thank yous go. There's something inside of us as human beings that feels in these special moments, whether they come to us or we create them, that immense feeling of gratitude for life. The writer Anne Lamott talks about the three foundational prayers. Thanks, wow, and help this is the root of it. And when we send out our thank yous, whether we're consciously thinking of them as going to G?d or not, I do think that's where they go for all of the big stuff. And since we're talking about G?d, we might as well take a little G?d named detour and talk about melech. Melech chai vekayam. This name melech, translated as king or ruler is found in the traditional text, though there are many communities who instead of saying melech chai vekayam will say ruach chai vekayam, spirit everlasting. And listener you can think for yourself? What is the difference between calling out to the holy one in this moment first upon waking as King versus spirit? Melech versus Ruach. I'm wondering, Josh or Ellen, do you have any thoughts about that change in the name how it might be different for you?
I think the first time that I ever was really struck by this idea was was with you Eliana. Yeah, one of the at one of the various different conferences or something that that that we were teaching at you were showing a session where we actually sing this prayer and interspersed various different names for G?d and tried out what it would feel like to sing this prayer with Modeh Ani with Melech Chai with Ruach Chai, I think we do this with Shema also with with so with Modeh Ani, and also with the shema, what does it look like to talk about G?d and pray about G?d using different G?d names. And and that was the first time that it actually you know, felt in my with my lips in my tongue what it feels like to change those to change those G?d names in prayer. And I really liked that. And I like the idea of being able to have multiple names that we can insert in this moment because you're not always feeling the same way every single morning when you're waking up. You're not always feeling the same connection. Sometimes maybe I want to feel like there's there's that I can release control right into King is to someone who you release control to. You say you know what I don't, I don't have to be in control of everything. Something is going to be taken care of. And sometimes I want to have like a spirit that's going to sort of awaken me up and motivate me forward but that I'm the one who's who's really doing the actions. And so I like I like the opportunity to to intersperse different G?d language. I feel like you gave me that opportunity. So I want to express gratitude to you for that too.
Aw, thanks. That was a really special moment. I think that was at Kol Tefillah in LA
I think so too.
the first conference of, of prayer was it was a very special moment. I'm wondering, Ellen, if you have any thoughts on that?
Well, I think that for better or worse, we're so used to this word, or we use it so frequently that G?d as melech as God as king, certainly that must be the - one of the foundations for these images that we grow up with and most many of us grow out of, of G?d on a throne up there on the cloud somewhere you know, sitting, How can you say king without coming up with a physical visual image in your head? And very recently, I learned from one of my teachers Rabbi Miriam Klotz, that melech can be considered an acronym, the three letters mem lamed and chaf. And that those three letters stand for moach, which is brain, Lev, which is heart and caved, which is liver or some say cliyo, which is our kidneys. This idea that what it means to rule is to be in charge of - that G?d's not a ruler, like a Melech like a king, but that G?d is the intellectual seat, the emotional seat and even the material and physical seat of the olamness, of all of the the time and space and spirit expansiveness, in which we live. And so it really shifted my melech haolam image of that I can imagine perhaps, divinity as the source of everything of all intellect, all emotion, all physicality. And you know, there's an idea that I can get behind, I appreciate it.
I appreciate that idea, too. I remember learning that from you for the first time and being totally blown away. Something I really appreciate about Jewish tradition is that we save these words, we do these ritual practices together, yet we can all have our own interpretations, our own understanding of the thing that we're saying, which allows it to be both a communal and individual experience, which I really love. I also, throughout my G?d journey, there was a point where I was very uncomfortable with calling G?d Melech. I think because I had grown up with it, I had gotten that image in my head of the dude in the sky, on the throne. And when I talked to people, their images of G?d are often that even though the rabbi or educator didn't have to say, G?d is the dude in the sky in the throne, if you say, you know, blessed art thou, Lord our G?d, King of the universe enough times, that's what you're going to get. But as I got older, I realized, I wasn't necessarily giving the benefit of the doubt to the people who wrote the prayers, or to my ancestors. I don't know if they literally believed in a dude in the sky, either. I think that they had an understanding of the power of poetry, and that G?d and the Divine is something that we experience, and then we try to use our human words, to explain that expound upon it, share it and call out to it. So it really struck me once as I was going through Kabbalat Shabbat, the service that welcome Shabbat on Friday night, which is a series of Psalms. In one of the Psalms we say, ya'alo sadai vechol asher bo az yeranenu kol atzei yaar, that's in psalm 96. We say the the fields and everything in them are dancing with joy. And we can know kind of that we're not literally describing trees boogying in the field. We're saying something about the nature of joy in the nature of life and aliveness. And then the next psalm, Psalm 97, says, Adonai Malach Tagel Haaretz, God is a king over all the earth and I shut down, right? And I say no, G?d's not. And I fold my arms. And I wondered, why can I take the thing about the Earth as a poetry metaphor moment, but I can't take the thing about G?d as poetry. Because in the next line, line two, anan va'arafel sevivav tzedek u'mishpat mechon kiso. Dense clouds surround. And this blows my mind every time. justice and righteousness are the foundation of G?d's throne. In our understanding of G?d is King, it's not like an earthly king, who has a lot of money, who has a gold throne, right, we might imagine G?d's throne is gold or rubies. G?d's throne is made out of the ideas of righteousness and justice. That is poetry. You can't actually build a chair out of righteousness and justice. It's a thought about what is the core of the world? Where does real power come from. And over and over again, in Tanach, we see that G?d's power is used to stand up for widows and orphans, and those who are not loved in human societies, and to fight for them, and that G?d's power is the power of justice. And that totally flipped it for me. Now I can say melech, and know that we are talking about an ideal of righteousness and justice in the world. What about you, Josh? What is this bring up for you all this kingly talk?
I love that's one of my favorite verses in Kabbalat Shabbat is that that verse about G?d's throne being centered rooted in justice and righteousness, I love I love that idea. And I love that idea, the idea of that there's sort of the chaos of the anan va'arafel, But the way that it's ordered is with this foundation of justice and righteousness. I think that's, it's an incredible idea. And in thinking about that, that poetry you know, it, you know, I was thinking about what it what it was like, for the people, And we've talked a lot in this podcast about how all these prayers are written by human beings. And so what was it like for these human beings to reference a king in this particular moment, and thinking in you know, in the 16th century, and those times as the king is someone who takes a lot, and there's a lot of control, but there's a lot of taxation, and there's a lot of collection, and thinking about G?d, in this particular moment with a flip of this is a G?d who's giving me one of these things, that's just the most important thing that you could possibly have, which is my soul. And this king has this collection of souls that are at this soul party, you know, they got they all got invited to the gala. And, and then suddenly, at the end of the gala, the soul comes home, and G?d says, Why don't you go to Josh's house? Why don't you go stay over at Josh's house this morning. And, and I think that's an extraordinary gift right? To be able to name that, that we in the morning, we get this, this soul back from the King, this gift that was like the most incredible what could we give of ourselves, this is the biggest, the greatest, the deepest thing that we could possibly give of ourselves that we gave over to G?d. And then G?d says, G?d says, you know, I want to give it back to you, I want to regift it to you. And I want to regift it to you even better than when you gave it to me, I'm going to refresh it, I'm going to restore it, I'm going to re energize it. And I'm going to give it back to you so that you have the newest, the most the brightest, the most possibilities in your soul again this morning.
I love that so much. And it somehow it brought to me the image of - this happened, I was leaving services yesterday for families. And there was a small child who had like a sticker in his hand. And the whole service, he was looking at me with these big longing eyes, and holding out the sticker. And I'm there like playing guitar, there are families around I don't want to stop. And he just his eyes just keep getting more and more like upset. He's reaching out with this sticker. And finally I stopped the service. I go up to him, I say thank you so much. And I take the sticker from him. It's from like a local coffee company that they got coffee at this morning. And I see it in his eyes and I immediately give it back to him. Right? That's the best game to play with babies is here's this thing. I want that thing back. Right? We're continuously passing these precious things back and forth to each other. And, you know, we do that with kings. And we do that with babies as well. So, yeah, Ellen?
I love this idea of you might not know where the gift came from. And this idea of expressing gratitude anyway, even if we have problems with the king leanness, of the of the giver, or, but sometimes think about, like, I don't know where this came from. I have a secret admirer. You wake up every morning with the idea that you got to give that you have a secret admirer who has given you this really incredible gift. And that reminds me as we speak about these prayers in the various podcasts that the prayers aren't they're necessarily - They're not changing G?d in that sense. Like if I can change G?d's mind about things or we may think that sometimes and sometimes not so much, but the prayers that I say you're changing me and through changing me, they're changing everything perhaps that I touch. And so in that way, you know it really is the gift that keeps on giving off his very first morning.
So now that we have dived deep into Modeh Ani held it up to the light a little bit as we like to do. What are some of our favorite melodies our favorite ways to sing this prayer? Josh? I'll have you start.
I was introduced to this melody this summer I was at Camp Ramah in the Berkshires and Marni Loffman shared this melody with me. It's by Aly Halpert. And it's, it's both it's a melody and it's also it takes Modeh Ani and creates sort of a mantra and an affirmation out of it. Modah Ani Lefanecha Ruach Chai Vekayam Modah Ani Lefanecha Ruach Chai, Ruach Chai, Vekayam. Se has English she includes that there. I was made for this morning. I was made to be here. All this light inside of me is a gift for me to heal. And I love both the melody itself and I love the words that she's put with it of being like this morning is the one that I was made for. Ze hayom asah adonai, this is this morning, this is a day that was created and I'm here created on this day. And I like that the idea of is a gift for me to heal being something that could be interpreted a bunch of different ways just like rabba emunatecha, right is it our faithfulness? Is it G?d's faithfulness? The gift is it is it for me to be healing inwardly? Or is it for me to use to heal others to heal the world? And I like that it can be flipped in both ways. And when I sing at different times I'm feeling different ways about it and I feel like I can engage with it as an affirmation in different ways each morning it's a really beautiful way to start.
Wow, thank you so much for sharing that with us. So, so beautiful. What a mantra for the morning. Ellen, what do you have to share?
I hadn't heard that that one before and I do think the English is beautiful. I was inspired by Modeh Ani to write it a melody which doesn't happen too often for me. But so thank you for the invitation to share a piece that I composed. Again inspired by Modeh Ani and entirely a Midrash entirely in English and here's what it came up for me
Awaken my soul to all its potential, a letter unique in an infinite scroll, oh the gets and the gifts in this life I am living, may I be for a blessing as I come and I go? I come and I go, I come and I go, I come and I go.
The voice, that guitar, the cord voicings are so beautiful, in addition to the words themselves being really beautiful.
Thank you. Thank you. So those nine chords, man, you let me loose in a roomful of nine chords, I'm happy.
So magical, so magical. And I love that we're, we're exploring how different artists and different musicians have brought themselves to the saying of Modeh Ani because it's the prayer that we each individually say it's incredibly personal. And all of, there are so many different melodies for Modeh Ani, that touch on varieties of aspects of the prayer. Sometimes we want to wake up with a big bang with lots of energy, lots of hand clapping, and stomping and running around. And sometimes we want to wake up the most soothing way, in a quiet way. And all of these ways are available. I'll put in the show notes, we can make like a Spotify playlist of all of our favorite Modeh Ani melodies for you to listen to if you want to wake up in a particular in any particular way. You know, have it be your alarm clock, play it while you're drinking your morning cup of coffee, see how these different melodies sit in you. I'll end by sharing something that's been foundational to my own practice, which is Rabbi Shefa Gold's flavor flavors of gratefulness app, because there is an app for Modeh Ani. Rabbi Shefa Gold, this incredible healer and teacher, and one of the foremost practitioners and teachers on Jewish chant practice for many, many years, has been singing and chanting her own versions of Modeh Ani pretty much every day, she wakes up and a new melody comes to her mind in her heart. And she sings it out as her own personal practice, because she like all of us is different every day. And so the way that the words come out of her is different every day. And she put them all into this app. And every day, it gives you a new one to listen to and sing along with. And they're very simple recordings, just Voice Memos really mostly of her singing. But I did this for a couple of months. This was a while ago really regularly. And it got me into the habit of chanting Modeh Ani, and then it helped me go off on my own path of chanting myself, where I felt comfortable sitting in my spot, and taking a deep breath. And starting with the hum of the mem -mmm. That grounding hum, and seeing where the melody took me. And knowing that it was just for myself, maybe I would record it, maybe it would become my melody for Modeh Ani that I would use all the time. But it gave me permission that the melody could be different, as I am different. So to end our show today, with a practice as we usually do, I'd like to give that a try as a as a moment of vulnerability because all prayer requires vulnerability. I think true prayer requires vulnerability, and the ability to be open. I'm going to try that I'm going to see where the words of Modeh Ani fall in me right now and sing that for you. You're welcome to stop, close your eyes. Again, if you can, please not while you're driving! And sing along if you'd like or really, tomorrow morning, you're invited to say these words are just to wake up with that feeling of gratitude inside of you to choose that gratitude. If you have a morning practice, sit with these words, there'll be in the show notes also. See what melody comes to your mind or what English mantra comes to your mind. You get to make this practice yours you get to make this idea yours. So let's give this a try. If you're in a place where you can take a big deep breath, sit a little more upright in your chair. Roll your shoulders back open your chest. Imagine that there is an invisible string connecting you to the heavens and take a deep breath in and out with our in breath we lift with our outbreath we ground. Mo, mo, mo, mo, mo, mo, modah ani, modah ani, modah ani lefanecha, modah ani, modah ani, modah ani lefanecha, modah ani, modah ani, modah ani lefanecha, modah ani, modah ani, modah ani lefanecha. Would love to end with our prayers today. What are our prayers today as we move forward into the rest into the rest of this day together?
I think that I am, my prayer for today is one of gratitude for us having done this in the morning, because now I really can shape the day. I'm hoping to keep these lenses on for the rest of the day. And my hope is that I can walk through more of the day today and look around me and notice things and people and see them as gifts from a secret admirer and to be filled with that gratitude and with the sense that that there are ways that I can also be a gift and contribute to someone else's universe today. So that's my prayer.
I'm thinking about the chasdei hashem, the graces the loving kindnesses, the things that we could notice that are happening in the world around us. I'm hoping that I can also open up my eyes to walking through life with intention to walking through this morning with intention to finding the things that I might not have noticed if I had kept my eyes closed or hadn't been looking around and to, to stop and pause and take note of those moments that otherwise would have just brushed past me.
There's a story of Rabbi Zalman Schachter Shalomi, his daughter says Abba, Father, we wake up from being asleep, right? And he says, yeah, and she says, does that mean when we're awake, we can wake up even more? And that's my prayer for today. Waking up even more, waking up to the gratitude, waking up to the awe, waking up to the wonder that is all around us. The wonder that each of us is. And that you dear listener, are, there is no soul quite like yours. It's never existed. It'll never exist again. It is you and you are here. And it is a magical, amazing, beautiful, miraculous thing that you are. So let's breathe that in. And take that with us the rest of the day and hopefully tomorrow morning and every morning after and we will see you soon. Thanks so much, everyone. Thank you, Josh and Ellen, for being here. And thank you for listening!