When “The West Wing” and “Scandal” Jewish actor Joshua Malina recently posted on his Twitter account that every morning he wakes up saying the Hebrew prayer for Thanksgiving, Modeh Ani, he was doing more than sharing his personal life. He was sharing valuable life advice for health and productivity. Malina wrote, “I say the Modeh Ani first thing every morning; that way every day is Thanksgiving.”
The Modeh Ani prayer should be the first thing a person says upon waking up in the morning. “Saying Modeh Ani to start one’s day sets the tone for the rest of the day,” explained Roni Segal, academic adviser for The Israel Institute of Biblical Studies, a company which teaches Hebrew language and Biblical studies online, told Breaking Israel News. “It’s a special, yet unique prayer in that God’s name is not mentioned as the prayer is said when one is still in bed and just waking up. A person is not yet in a presentable state to say God’s holy name.”
The morning prayer is:
מוֹדָה|מוֹדֶה אֲנִי לְפָנֶיךָ
רוּחַ חַי וְקַיָּם
שֶׁהֶחֱזַרְתָּ בִּי נִשְׁמָתִי בְּחֶמְלָה
Modeh Ani Lefanecha
Melech Chai Vekayam
Shehechezarta Be Nishmati Bechemla;
I offer thanks to You,
living and eternal King,
for You have mercifully restored my soul within me;
Your faithfulness is great.
Saying this prayer as soon as one opens his eyes in the morning sets a positive tone for the rest of the day. This “prayer of gratitude” is recognition that God chose to restore one’s soul back into his body for a higher purpose.
“Traditionally, sleep is considered 1/60 of death where one’s soul leaves their body,” continued Segal. “This prayer builds an appreciation in us that God felt we were worthy of another day of life in order to do tikun olum-fixing the world and making it a better place.”
Donna Gates, Advanced Fellow with the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine, writes on her webpage, “Our thoughts create our experiences… just the act of focusing with gratitude on the fact that you are alive and then using those positive thoughts to create a happy, productive day could calm your mind and create energy for your day ahead.”
Neuroscience concurs. Research shows that your mood in the morning affects your productivity all day. “That is one of the great benefits of starting one’s day with the gratitude prayer,” notes Segal. “One recognizes that they are alive for a greater purpose. They fill themselves with the hope that God returned them to this day because He has faith in them.”
Bestselling author Dan Pink writes, “Purpose is, ‘Am I doing something in service of a cause larger than myself, or, at the very least, am I making a contribution in my own world?’”
Purpose actually can increase one’s lifespan. Researchers at Tohoku University in Japan did a 7-year study of over 43,000 adults age 40 to 79. They asking participants if they had meaning in their life. 95 percent of those who responded “yes” were alive 7 years later, as opposed to 83 percent of participants who reported no sense of meaning in their lives.
UCLA neuroscience researcher Alex Korb notes in his book, “The Upward Spiral”, that gratitude affects the brain in the same way as the antidepressant Wellbutrin, which increases dopamine in the brain and Prozac, which increases serotonin in the brain.
He writes, “Gratitude improves sleep. Sleep reduces pain. Reduced pain improves your mood. Improved mood reduces anxiety, which improves focus and planning. Focus and planning help with decision making. Decision making further reduces anxiety and improves enjoyment. Enjoyment gives you more to be grateful for, which keeps that loop of the upward spiral going. Enjoyment also makes it more likely you’ll exercise and be social, which, in turn, will make you happier.”
“Saying Modeh Ani brings our first conscious moment of the day into perspective, that life is a God-given gift with a purpose,” said Segal. “What we did yesterday doesn’t matter as much as today. God has shown that we are worthy of His trust to use today in the best way possible.”
To learn more about Biblical Hebrew, please visit here.