Modeh ani aish

Modeh ani aish DEFAULT

A Jewish Mantra

About one year ago, I began the daily practice of saying Modeh Ani,1 the short prayer said aloud upon awakening. Who knew that 12 words would have such an enormous impact on my life?

Here I was a late 20-something and I was experiencing anxiety attacks and depression that left me feeling alone, isolated and disconnected. My problems seemed unsurmountable and I was struggling to make my way out of this rough patch.

I had tried everything from “focusing on the breath” to Buddhist meditation classes on compassion to transcendental meditation. While it relaxed me in the moment, none of it stuck. I still found myself going back to the same old comfortable routines that confined me.

Then I started reciting Modeh Ani. I was skeptical, to say the least. But sometimes when we are down on our knees we’re willing to give something new a chance, and watching my father receive treatment after treatment for the cancer that was slowly taking his life brought me to my knees.

The following three insights arose from my own daily recitation of Modeh Ani. Like a rose, each petal, each word, began to blossom and unfold.

1. Your faithfulness is great

There were many mornings when I just didn’t want to wake up. It seemed easier to stay under the covers than to face the growing demands and responsibilities of being an adult. I didn’t have dreams of being truly happy and free. My life seemed stagnant in hues of grey, consisting of going to an unfulfilling job, to a diminishing social circle to weight-management or lack thereof. In the back of my mind I wondered how I could change my life for the better. How could I climb my mountain?

I started with a baby step – saying Modeh Ani. Every day, I would focus in on the words, "Your faithfulness is great." God, a higher power, believed in me. Not a little, not somewhat, but greatly! Whatever word you choose to use, an all-encompassing being, believed in ME and believes in YOU.

I started to allow the words to penetrate and supersede the negative beliefs I had about myself. I began taking on greater responsibilities as a team-leader at a local soup kitchen. Whereas, I used to be shy and avoid social gatherings with new faces, I began going to social events and developing richer relationships with a variety of people. I no longer saw myself as a victim. If a friend was in need, I pitched in to help.

If God believes that I have everything I need within me in order to fulfill my day, my mission, then who am I to disagree?

2. You... restored my soul within me

As miserable as I felt at times, I had another day. You... restored my soul within me. The verbalization of those words elicited the realization that we don’t wake up by accident. I didn't coincidentally wake up; another day was gifted to me with intention. Whether that day felt like a blessing or a curse, I was still 6 feet above ground.

Did I overeat the night before? Would it be nice to meet my soul mate? Was the weather crummy, cold, and snowing? Yes, this was a New York winter!

There are so many ways to be pulled down in this life. But call me crazy, I started to literally stop and smell the roses for sale at the local bodega. I laughed a little harder with my friends at work. I began appreciating the one thing nearly all of us take for granted: life.

Each day, we can choose to take one moment to receive some pleasure from our environment, no matter what the circumstance may be. That is pretty awesome.

3. I give thanks before You

When you're miserable, the last thing you want to do is give appreciation. For what? What did I have to be truly deeply grateful for? I was spending many hours watching my father go in for chemotherapy, for radiation, for brain surgery. He grew thin, bald, and sickly. It pained me to visit him in his last days. He couldn’t breathe, and I felt the same way. From where was I to gain the strength to be happy, as I knew my father wanted for me?

I read studies showing the positive impact of being grateful, about the power of starting a gratitude journal and listing three new things a day that you're grateful for. (Check out Shawn Achor’s TED talks on happiness and positive psychology.) Lo and behold, identifying things that you appreciate in your life works to increase your happiness.

So I grabbed a pen and paper and began a gratitude journal. Did I hear a kind word from a friend? Hug and kiss a child? Do a generous deed to help another? Feel the sun on my skin? Make my morning train just in time? When you place your attention on the "small" pleasures of life, that becomes your reality.

And isn't that the essence of Modeh Ani?

The Modeh Ani prayer transformed the way I view life. I've learned to let go and tap into the power of appreciation, self-esteem, self-confidence, self-acceptance. I’m living one day at a time knowing God believes in me and seeing the good that surrounds me. I can’t think of a better way to start your day.

In memory of my father Chaim Meir Ben Feiga Yetta

1. Here is the full text of the prayer: "Modeh Ani lefanecha melech chai vekayam, she-he-che-zarta bee nishmatee b'chemla raba emunatecha." I offer thanks before you, living and eternal King, for You have mercifully restored my soul within me; Your faithfulness is great.

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Modeh Ani (redux)

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A while back I blogged a recording of a shiur I gave on Modeh Ani. The sound quality on the recording was too poor for the shiur to be made out by most listeners. I recently emailed a group a piece on Modeh Ani that makes, in abbreviated form, many of the points I made in that shiur. So, here it is.`

One opening thought about the prayer as a whole: I see in this prayer two things: The obvious one, that we need to acknowledge the One Who enabled us to wake up this morning. The second, that waking up in the morning is itself a previous gift, worthy of thanking G-d for.

The prayer “Modah Ani” became a custom roughly 400-500 years ago, judging from the time of its first mention in print (Sefer haMinhagim). There is an older prayer, a berakhah, with the same theme. It was composed as one of pair, which is why it did not need to begin with the phrase “Barukh Atah Hashem“. One of the pair is said upon going to bed, the other when waking up. But its use shifted to being part of Shacharis, recombined with a blessing for health and for the commandment and gift of the Torah, and moved away from being said upon waking up.

Besides, it opens with G-d’s name, meaning none of it would be said by an observant Jew until after hand-washing. Modeh Ani does not contain the name of G-d, although a second line which is either its post-washing continuation or a second prayer does. (More about that, later.)

Modeh Ani: The word “modeh“, a term of thanks, comes from the same root as “vidui”, confession, and is used in Mishnaic and Modern Hebrew to mean agreement. What do these concepts have in common? In all three cases we are declaring our attachment to the other. In confession, we are addressing how that connection enabled us to harm the other. And in agreement, the two parties share an idea rather than each claiming sole ownership. (This idea is discussed in more detail here, in particular section V.)

Modeh in the sense of thanks, then, is an awareness that I do not stand alone. That my existance is founded not only on my efforts, but on those of others. Including, in this case, the Creator.

Modeh ani lefanekha: I thank before You…

Rather than thanking G-d, we place our thanks before Him. What’s that about?

In rabbinic descriptions of the prophetic vision of Ma’aseh haMerkavah, G-d’s Throne (not that we believe He actually is in human form or has a literal throne, but prophecy involves metaphor), the souls of those not yet born are kept in a chest before His Throne.

Perhaps this is being referred to when we speak of thanking before Him for the return of that soul.

On other mornings, it feels to me simply as an acknowledgement of the distance between my still half-asleep self and the Almighty. I cannot thank Him, I am not mentally prepared yet. So I place my thanks before Him, for G-d to carry the rest of the way.

Melekh Chai veQayam: the King Who is “Alive” and “Eternal”…

Continuing this thought… We call G-d here by a reference, rather than a name as we haven’t yet washed out hands. (As I said at the top.)

We try to avoid saying any one of G-d’s names before this purification. I refer you back to what I said about the implied distance in our placing our thanks before Him. This is a difficult prayer: on the one hand, it is most appropriate to thank G-d for waking up when actually waking up. On the other, it takes time to be fully alert and mentally ready. Jewish tradition has a washing ritual to rid ourselves of any spiritual impurities our wandering hands may have touched over the night. It serves as a time to get our brains out of whatever they were in while we were unconscious, and into a more appropriate mode for prayer. So, to strike this balance, we pray to G-d now, but do so while acknowledging that we aren’t really ready, that there is a distance that we aren’t daring to breach. Instead of the familiarity of a name, we use titles and descriptions of Divine Grandeur.

I place Eternal in quotes because “qayam” means permanent, eternal in the sense of taking up infinite time. G-d, however, is simply outside of the stream of time altogether. It’s not that He spans all of time, but that time simply has no meaning in a discussion of G-d’s existence. (Kind of like asking where “1 + 1 = 2” is.)

And yet He is “Alive” in the sense of being the Cause of an animated, changing, and ever-improving (progressing) existence.

Shehechazarta bi nishmasi bechemlah: for You have returned my soul within me with compassion…

This phrase is problematic. Who is the “me”? I here am speaking as though I were a body, and thus thanking G-d for the soul He placed within me. However, I am the soul, placed within the body! Shouldn’t we say something more like “for You have returned me to my body with compassion”?

There are two modalities (at least) of Jewish Prayer. One is the formal prayer of prewritten words. In them we say the things we ought to be thinking, to learn from them and internalize the priorities we ought to have. To relate to G-d by becoming the kind of person who is more related to G-d. In the other, the prewritten words are less essential, more of a scaffolding, if there are all. It is the child crying out her needs to the Parent, sharing with G-d our joys and trevails, our happiness and our burdens.

One signal for which of those modes a given prayer is in is whether it is written in the singular or the plural. The attitude we are to internalize places us as members of the community first. Therefore, such prayers are in the plural, “Heal us Hashem our G-d and we shall be healed”. (More on this distinction, here.)

This prayer isn’t like that. “Modeh aniI thank”. In the singular, speaking only of myself. It’s an expression of my relationship to G-d not in the ideal, but as it actually is. Not with the abstract knowledge of being a soul placed within a body, but within our illusion and confusion that we are that body.

Rabba emunasekha — great is Your faithfulness

This closing is based on a pasuq, Eikhah 3:23:

כב חַסְדֵי יְהוָה כִּי לֹא תָמְנוּ כִּי לֹא כָלוּ רַחֲמָיו.
כג חֲדָשִׁים לַבְּקָרִים רַבָּה אֱמוּנָתֶךָ.

22 The kindnesses of G-d — for they have no end, for His Compassion does not end
23 They are new every morning, rabba emunasekha — great is Your Faithfulness

What is the faithfulness here?

Some commentaries take the verse to refer to our belief in the resurrection. We trust that G-d will someday resurrect the dead, confidence built from how He wakes us every morning.

Others see it referring to the daily miracles, the ones we take for granted and for some silly reason think of as “natural”. And then get upset when the gift isn’t given in full measure, rather than grateful for the times it does. Meaning: Getting sick is not really a reason to petition G-d with “Why me?” That takes health for granted, as something coming to us, a right of which the sick are deprived. Health is a precious gift. The daily sunrise is a previous gift, even if we don’t expect it to end for the foreseeable future.

And thus we thank G-d not just that He allows us to wake up, but that He does so so reliably that it takes this ritual to help us remember He is there doing it!

A third thought is that we’re referring to G-d’s faith in us! G-d returned my soul to me yesterday, and the day before that, and the day before that. He gave me so many opportunities, and I wasted so many of them. And even though I wasn’t as good as I could have been yesterday, G-d gives me another chance today. Truly, “Great is Your Faith”!

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What do Jews do when they wake up?

Waking Up

We all need sleep to reinvigorate our tired bodies and give us strength to make the most out of life. But we should not overdo it. Each person should sleep the minimum amount necessary to be healthy and productive.1 In any case, a healthy person should not indulge in more than eight hours of sleep each night.2

"One should strengthen himself like a lion to get up in the morning to serve his Creator." These are the opening words of the Shulchan Aruch, the standard code of Jewish law. A Jew should not be lazy, but rather have an excited, upbeat attitude about the upcoming morning prayers, and toward life in general.

The Talmud says that since a person's soul goes up to heaven each night, sleep is "one-sixtieth of death."3 The day should begin by contemplating God's kindness of allowing him to awake, refreshed and revitalized.4 As such, you should recite "Modeh Ani" immediately, even before washing your hands.5

Modeh Ani

Modeh Ani

Ashkenazi Pronunciation

Sefardi Pronunciation

Netilat Yadayim

The Sages decreed that every Jew must wash his hands upon awakening. This process is called netilat yadayim. A number of reasons are given for this practice:

  • During the night, it is assumed that a person's hands will have touched some unclean part of his body. Therefore, everyone must wash his hands before praying.6
  • We sanctify our hands as we celebrate the "new life" with which we were endowed upon awakening.7
  • Netilat yadayim serves to remove the tumah, the negative spirituality that cleaves to a person when he is asleep.8

Water may be left under a bed to be used for netilat yadayim in the morning, though it is preferable to cover it.9 It is forbidden to leave food or drink underneath the bed in which you sleep, as the tumah emitted from slumbering people has a negative spiritual impact on the food.10

It is ideal to wash your hands as soon as you wake up, to remove the tumah as soon as possible.11 This washing is done without saying a blessing. Then, after relieving oneself and/or getting dressed, a person should wash again with the blessing.12

Before washing netilat yadayim, you should try not to directly touch the water you plan to use for netilat yadayim.13

Ideally, a Jew (even a child) who has not yet performed netilat yadayim, should not directly touch any food. There is no problem of a non-Jew handling food without washing netilat yadayim, since he is not required to do so.14

One must be careful not to touch any of the openings of his body before washing netilat yadayim.15

The washing process is as follows:

  • Fill a large cup.
  • First pour water on your right hand and then on your left hand.
  • Wash right and then left hand in the same manner two more times.16

Ideally, wash your entire hand up to the wrist. However, if this is impossible, it is sufficient to wash the fingers up until the knuckles.17 If your hand is bandaged, you need to only wash your healthy hand.18

One's hands should be washed in a place that is clean and odorless. Today, most private bathrooms meet this standard. The problem arises when using a public bathroom – e.g. in an airplane.

If you have difficulty procuring a utensil with which to wash, you may wash with tap water by turning on the tap three times over each hand.19

After performing netilat yadayim in the morning, it is proper to wash one's face20 and rinse one's mouth.21

One should dry his hands and face on a towel.22 To dry them on a garment is considered undignified and is forbidden.23

Immediately after washing your hands, recite the blessing.24 Alternatively, you may recite the blessing in the synagogue along with the other morning blessings.25 The blessing should be recited outside the bathroom.

The blessing is:

Al Netilas Yadayim

Washing Hands

Ashkenazi Pronunciation

Sefardi Pronunciation

The Restroom

Holding back from relieving himself when needed is harmful to one's health, and is thus forbidden.26 It is certainly forbidden to pray, recite blessings or study Torah in such a state. However, if the need is not pressing and you are in the middle of studying Torah, you need not interrupt your studies immediately.27

Even in the bathroom, dignity and privacy must be maintained.28 (See essay on Kosher Clothes for a discussion of the Jewish concept of dignity.)

From a Jewish perspective, every place has appropriate and inappropriate behavior. A bathroom is for taking care of bodily needs. Since a bathroom is intrinsically an unclean place, many things are considered out-of-place or even profane to do there:

  • One should not bring uncovered food or drink into the bathroom. If food was brought there, it may be eaten after it has been taken out.29
  • It is improper to engage in conversation in the bathroom.30 However, if there is something pressing that needs to be said, you may do so providing that you are not involved in relieving yourself.31 Similarly, you may answer your cellular phone if you are concerned that it may be an important call. In such a case, the conversation should be kept to a minimum.32
  • It is forbidden to utter any Name of God in a bathroom. Even the word "Shalom" is considered a name of God, as is evident from Judges 6:24. However, one may utter this word if referring to a person named Shalom.33
  • It is prohibited to contemplate matters of Torah in the bathroom.34 One may, however, think about giving charity35 or how to perform acts of kindness for other people.36 There are also stories of great Torah scholars who studied scientific topics when in the bathroom.37

After relieving oneself, the blessing Asher Yatzar is recited immediately upon exiting the restroom (after washing).38 If you forgot to do so, you may still recite it for up to 72 minutes, providing you do not yet feel the urge to relieve yourself again.39

The blessing is as follows:

After the Bathroom

Ashkenazi Pronunciation

Sefardi Pronunciation

Since this blessing thanks God for the wonders of the human body, reciting it with proper intent is considered a merit for good health.40

Click here to print out a beautiful full-color version of Asher Yatzar that you can post on the wall outside your bathroom.

  1. Mishnah Berurah 238:2. Great scholars used to train their bodies to need very little sleep. The legendary Vilna Gaon slept only two hours each day, and never for more than half an hour consecutively! (Introduction to Bi’ur HaGra on Shulchan Aruch)
  2. Rambam (Deyot 4:4)
  3. Brachot 57b
  4. Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 1:2
  5. Mishnah Berurah 1:8
  6. Mishnah Berurah 4:1
  7. Mishnah Berurah 4:1
  8. According to Mishnah Berurah 4:8, this reason is secondary, and not the basis for the decree.
  9. Shu”t Shevet HaLevi 3:23.3
  10. Yoreh De’ah 116:5
  11. Magen Avraham 4:1
  12. Mishnah Berurah 4:4; see Shu”t Yabia Omer 5:1
  13. As heard from Rav Yitzchak Berkovits
  14. Mishnah Berurah 4:10
  15. Orach Chaim 4:3
  16. Orach Chaim 4:2 and Mishnah Berurah
  17. Mishnah Berurah 4:38
  18. Shu”t Yechaveh Daat 2:19
  19. Yalkut Yosef (Shearit Yosef 1:4:8)
  20. Yalkut Yosef (Shearit Yosef, vol. I, pg. 70); cf. Orach Chaim 46:1
  21. Orach Chaim 4:17
  22. Orach Chaim 4:20
  23. Mishnah Berurah 158:45); Shemirat HaGuf ViHanefesh (ch. 57)
  24. Orach Chaim 4:1
  25. Orach Chaim 6:2
  26. Talmud – Tamid 27b; Orach Chaim 3:17
  27. Yalkut Yosef (Shearit Yosef 1:3:15)
  28. Orach Chaim 3:2
  29. Shu”t Yabia Omer 4:5
  30. Rema – Orach Chaim 3:2
  31. Mishnah Berurah 3:4
  32. Yalkut Yosef (Shearit Yosef 1:3:3)
  33. Orach Chaim 84:1, Mishnah Berurah 84:6
  34. Orach Chaim 85:2
  35. Yalkut Yosef (Shearit Yosef 1:3:3)
  36. As heard from Rav Yitzchak Berkovits
  37. The Vilna Gaon (Rabbi Eliyahu Kramer) authored the mathematical work, Ayil Meshulash during his time in the bathroom. Some also attribute the mathematical theorem, Cramer’s Rule, to him. See (Vilna Gaon).
  38. Mishnah Berurah 8:6
  39. Shu”t Yechaveh Daat 4:5
  40. Sefer VaHarachata Yamim 159, by Rabbi Yaakov Chizkiyahu Fish

Article 26 of 43 in the series Daily Living

Copyright © 1995 - 2021, is a non-profit and needs your support. Please donate at:,
or mail a check to: c/o The Jerusalem Aish HaTorah Fund PO Box 1259 Lakewood, NJ 08701.
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March Mitzvah Madness: Making our community a better place one action at a time


  • Create consistency in any Mitzvah that we take upon ourselves (daily or weekly)
  • Personalization – What works for you?
  • Create Shabbat - Dos and Don'ts


  • Pictures posts on Shabbat do not count (take pictures and post before or after Shabbat)
  • To receive points, all posts require Hashtags: #MarchMitzvahMadness #ASU #NCJ
  • All mitzvot are 1 point, all group events are 5 points.

Me-to-G-d Mitzvot

Washing Hands (Netillat Yadayim)

Learn about the Mitzvah of Tefilin

Put tefillin on once/once a week/once a day (except Shabbat)  

Learn about the Mitzvah of Tzitzit

Wear Tzitzit

Make Havdalah

How to perform Havdalah at

Torah Study class (JAC/Chabad, & Hillel and Matan)

Attend a Shabbat meal

JAC Hosts a Shabbat dinner every Friday night 7:30pm and Shabbat lunch every Saturday at 1pm JAC House is located at  69 w 13th Street, Tempe, AZ 85281.

Hillel Student center hosts a Shabbat Dinner every Friday night at 6pm Hillel is located at 1012 S Mill Ave, Tempe AZ 85281.

Chabad hosts a Shabbat dinner every Friday night at 7:30pm at the Chabad house located at 971 S Ash Ave, Tempe, AZ 85281 

Learn about the Mitzvah of eating kosher

Eat a Kosher snack

For a list of kosher snacks go to

Eat a Kosher meal

Chick-in is a kosher restaurant on campus at ASU that even accepts M&G

Prayer/speaking to God in your own words

Learn about the Mitzvah of Mezuzah

Put up a Mezuzah on your door

Make blessings over food/drink

Wear a kippah for the day

Light Shabbat Candles

Recite the Kiddush prayer at your Friday night or Saturday Shabbat lunch meal

Shema Once in morning/once at bedtime/both

Say the Modeh Ani prayer in the morning when you wake up  

Recite the Grace after meals prayer

Me-to-Others Mitzvot

Give Tzedakah (Charity) or Give out food to homeless people

Volunteer at a shelter/soup kitchen

Social work / Tikkun Olam

Hold a Jewish event in your home: A purim party, Shabbat meal, Jewish social event

Helping other people to perform their own Mitzvahs

Torah Study (Chevruta Learning Torah with a friend or Rabbi/Rebetzen)  

To get a one-on-one learning session on campus, contact one of the following:
JAC – Rabbi Mitch Goldstein [email protected]

JAC – Chana Goldstein [email protected]

Chabad – Rabbi Shmuel Tiechtel [email protected]

Chabad – Rebetzen Chana Tiechtel
[email protected]

Chabad – Rabbi Mendy Rimler

[email protected]

Respect parents /elders by calling your parents and telling them how much you love and appreciate them

Volunteer at an elderly care home

Love your neighbor/friend as yourself by:

Not speaking gossip for one hour/ one day or more

Returning a lost object

Offering someone a ride

Holding the door for another

Sharing a smile or words of encouragement

Expressing your appreciation for another person

Help the sick by:

Making a meal for someone who is ill  

Visiting a sick person

Getting swabbed for Gift of Life

Donating blood 

Mitzvah of protecting animals: Volunteer at an animal shelter 

Save a life by donating blood


Aish modeh ani


Jewish morning prayer practice


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