Every morning we awaken; what a miracle! Hashem has returned our soul to us after it ascended Above to give a testimony of how we spent our day; “Well, he may have done this wrong… but look, he didn’t eat non-kosher, he didn’t kill, he didn’t steal. Don’t you see how holy he is! Lord return me (the soul) to his body.” A conversation like this may happen every day, so when God is merciful and returns our soul to our body to live another day we awaken and we say Modeh Ani. As Moshe said in this week’s Parsha, “Observe and do whatever issues from your lips.” (23:24) The Shulchan Aruch says that immediately upon awakening our first words should be, “I thankfully acknowledge you, living and enduring King, for you have compassionately restored my soul within me. Great is your faithfulness [in me that I will use this day properly]” These, our first words of the day, “issues from our lips” that we should “observe and do” throughout the day. In this way, our gratefulness to God influences our attitude and conduct throughout the day, infusing them with joy. Hopefully spilling over to others around us.
Even more so, the key wording of Modeh Ani to start off our day affects how we behave and interact with others. We say Modeh Ani Lifanecha, which literally translates as “Thankful I am before You”, this seems grammatically improper, we instead should say “Ani Modeh Lecha – I am thankful to you”. We learn that we begin our new day saying “Thankful I am…” instead of “I am thankful…” so that our first word in the morning is “thanks”, not “I”.
This gives us a chance, be it subconsciously, to escape the self and see the world outside of our “I”. The next thing we do is wash Netillat Yadaim, so that we remove any spiritual impurity from our hands so we may serve God in purity, yet did we not just recite Modeh Ani, should we not wash our hands first to say this prayer in purity as well? There is a reason why Modeh Ani is said before one washes his hands, while a spirit of impurity still rests upon them. This is to teach us that there is no force of impurity that can take away Modeh Ani from us. No matter what we did yesterday, today is a new day! Hashem granted us a new day, a new life, and nothing can separate us from that gift, no force of impurity can take that away.
Hashem trusts us to use this new day properly, for soon after Modeh Ani and Netillat Yadaim and some more blessings we wrap our tefillin. In our tefillin there are these holy scrolls upon which are written small excerpts from the Torah, including the Shema in which we declare “…Hashem is our God, God is one.” With this utmost declaration of faith in Hashem we can know that from here on out we have such holy potential in our day, that everything we do from here is now blessed by Hashem. For Hashem also wears Tefillin when we don ours. The Gemara discusses what is written in Hashem’s tefillin, for in ours it is a declaration of faith in God but he is God, he has no need to declare faith in himself so in His tefillin He declares His faith in us.
His faith in us that we will do the right thing, His faith in us that we will use our days well and serve Him, but most of all, the next paragraph “Ve’Ahavta Es Hashem Elokecha – You shall love Hashem your G-d” in Hashem’s tefillin says “Ahavta – I will love you”, no matter what, Hashem loves you, this is why He woke you up today, give thanks.