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There are many prayers in Jewish life. Some are said daily and others at different times. In addition to established prayer, there is also the aspect of praying in the form of simply talking to G-d. Regarding the former, there is a prayer that is always said first thing upon awakening and that is the Modeh Ani, the meaning of which is explained below in the section, “Breaking it Down.”


Prayer is one of the means Hashem has given to connect with Him. As with any connection with another, taking it seriously is important. In this case, ‘serious’ is a combination of both focus (while praying) and learning the deep concepts behind the words (in our free time).

Text of the Prayer

מוֹדֶה אֲנִי לְפָנֶיךָ מֶלֶךְ חַי וְקַיָּם, שֶׁהֶחֱזַרְתָּ בִּי נִשְׁמָתִי בְּחֶמְלָה. רַבָּה אֱמוּנָתֶךָ

Modeh anee lefanecha melech chai vekayam, she-he-chezarta bee nishmatee b’chemla, raba emunatecha.

I offer thanks to You, living and eternal King, for You have mercifully restored my soul within me; Your faithfulness is great.

Breaking it Down

The Modeh Ani contains enormous depth of meaning through each word and phrase. Be sure to check the Resources section below, particularly the Tzvi Freeman 3-part video on the Modeh Ani Step By Step link.

Here’s a quick run-through:

  • Modeh – Acknowledge HaShem’s Presence, acknowledge the “You” (Atah), feel the gratitude, and surrender.
  • Ani – True “I” beyond ego; experience yourself as the witnessing consciousness.
  • Lefanecha – feel HaShem’s filling and surrounding Presence in the air, in every cell of the body. 
  • Melech – Become aware of He Who rules, the Storyteller Who speaks and it comes into being, the Author of the story that we are inside. 
  • Chai – Become aware of the Source of all life and aliveness in the here and now, the pulsating aliveness permeating all reality, filling all worlds, Immanent, intimate. 
  • Vekayam – Become aware of the Enduring, Eternal, sustaining transcendent Presence within and without. 
  • Shechechezarta bi – You have returned, refreshed and recharged my soul within me; a reuniting of the soul with the body. Feel this refreshing sensation of the soul entering the body through the nostrils. 
  • Nishmatee – Become aware of the Higher Intelligence breathing the breath of Life into us [which is happening without our involvement]. 
  • B’Chemla – Feeling gratitude for the compassion of the Creator who returns our soul within us.
  • Raba Emunatecha – Great is our emunah in Him and His emunah in us. Feel this connection, that we are bound up together, intimately connected, as one.

But Wait There’s More!

The morning tradition of handwashing is done before any prayer is said which mentions a name of G-d. There is some aspect of impurity throughout existence however, and all names of G-d relate to our connection to the Creator within existence. The Modeh Ani is addressing the ‘transcendent’ aspect of the Creator prior to any existence, where there is no aspect of impurity. This is the ‘essence’ of the Creator and our souls. Thus, no name of G-d is used, nor is the washing of hands needed.

An explanation of this is found in the Zohar. The text below places the highest emphasis on the transcendent aspect of G-d (HASHEM) that we cannot relate to, and the immanent aspect (Elohim) that we can read about, pray to, discuss, etc. It establishes that these two “irreconcilable differences” are somehow “the same,” and how it is our mission in life to figure out what this means.

Study of the Modeh Ani prayer brings us closer to this understanding.

Thou hast been shown to know, that is, shown by the angel to the Holy One, in order to know, to understand, to penetrate in this world to the mystery of the Faith, the mystery of the Torah. And he who, having come into this world, does not study the Torah to know Him-better were it for him that he had never been born; since the only aim and object of the Holy One in sending man into this world is that he may know and understand that HASHEM is Elohim. This is the sum of the whole mystery of the Faith, of the whole Torah, of all that is above and below, of the Written and Oral Torah, all together forming one unity. The essence of the mystery of Faith is to know that this is a complete Name. This knowledge that HASHEM is One with Elohim is indeed the synthesis of the whole Torah, both of the Written and of the Oral, for ‘Torah’ stands for both, the former being symbolic of HASHEM and the latter of Elohim. The Torah being the mystery of the Holy Name, it is therefore called by two names, one of which is general, and the other particular. The general is complemented by the particular, also the particular by the general, both combining to form one synthesis. In the Torah we find, therefore, the synthesis of the Above and the Below, for the one Name, HASHEM, is above, while the other, Elohim, is below, one indicating the higher world and the other the lower. And therefore is it written: “Thou hast been shown to know that HASHEM is Elohim.” This is the essence of all things, and it is necessary that man should perceive it in this world. 
Zohar 2:161b

This understanding impacts another, better known and practiced prayer, the Shema which states:

Hear O Israel, Hashem Eloheinu, Hashem is One (echad).

The idea from the Zohar is perfectly reflected here. “Hashem is Elohim” (Hashem Eloheinu) as the Zohar states, and together they are ‘one’ in Hashem, the eternal. Elohim the immanent, emanates from Hashem the transcendent, and these are in ‘unity’ (echad).

(Note that the word ‘Shema’ means to hear with understanding, as in “there is something deep to contemplate here!”)


Modeh Ani Step by step – – A collection of articles and videos.

Modeh Ani YouTube Playlist – Short and long videos from several speakers.

On The Essence of Chasidus – A discourse by the late Rabbi Menachem Schneerson of Chabad. Part 9 is a specific focus on the Modeh Ani prayer. (You will need to read the chapters leading to it for context.)

Other Interesting Stuff

Manifesting Law (Facebook link) An interesting secular video that parallels the kabbalistic ideas of essence, non-existence and the use of meditation. Compare to some of the theme in “On the Essence of Chasidus” (above).

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