On a recent drive to preschool, my 4-year-old daughter and I were talking about how we say “thank you” to God at bedtime. She asked, “Can we say thank you in the morning too?” I responded that we can say thanks whenever we want, and that our tradition has a special morning prayer just for this purpose, called Modeh Ani.
מוֹדֶה אֲנִי לְפָנֶיךָ, מֶלֶךְ חַי וְקַיָּם, שֶׁהֶחֱזַרְתָּ בִּי נִשְׁמָתִי בְּחֶמְלָה רַבָּה אֱמוּנָתֶךָ
Modeh Ani L’fanecha, Melech Chai V’kayam
Shehechezarta Bi Nishmati B’chemla Raba Emunatecha
I thank you, God,
for returning my soul to me with compassion.
You have great faith in me.
One of the most beautiful conversations we had this year in our fall Parenting Through a Jewish Lens course at Temple Beth Elohim was about cultivating gratitude practices for our families. Our incredible group of 12 parents—with children ranging from 18 months to 11 years old—spent our time together exploring the ways in which bringing gratitude into our daily lives can change our experience of parenting, and how these practices help us teach our children to see the world with grateful eyes.
There was general consensus around some simple gratitude rituals that many of our families shared and felt were easy to incorporate into busy daily routines. Most families in our group already include some kind of practice at their dinner table or as part of a bedtime ritual, such as sharing a highlight from the day or reciting the Shema.
What everyone agreed is more difficult, however, was adding a morning ritual; as parents of young children, mornings are incredibly hectic (getting ready for school, work, packing lunches, etc.). When we explored Modeh Ani as language for a morning ritual, it triggered a fascinating conversation about the difference between our intentionality at the end of the day, in comparison to how little focus we give to morning spiritual practices.
As a cohort, we challenged ourselves to re-imagine our morning routines and make space for a gratitude practice. Some families made this space for a pause to create intention for the day; for others, it became a space for setting and sharing daily goals. One parent shared that he was able set an intention and ground himself before his children woke up. Many participants said this was a new goal to work toward since starting the day feeling calm and full of gratitude could make such a difference in the mood of the day.
As we move through our busy days, let us try to pause for a moment in the morning with our children. Whether we use the liturgy of our tradition or simply leave an intentional space in our routines to say “thanks” for what we have, may we all find greater intentionality, thankfulness and gratitude for the day ahead.
Rabbi Philip Sherman is associate rabbi at Temple Beth Elohim, and the father of two young children.
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