Elul 5774/Tishrei 5775 (September 2014)
Mornings are tough.
Everyone has their routines, whether it’s to hit the snooze alarm for an hour, to get up early to go for a run, or to find coffee as quickly as humanly possible. I wish my mornings could sound and feel like Edvard Grieg’s “Morning Mood,” but the reality is that most mornings are more akin to something by AC/DC, with at least one child shouting for attention by 5:07 a.m. Despite all the morning chaos and grogginess, there are Jewish rituals and affirmations to encourage us to start the day off right. Here are a few of my favorites that you might like to try at home or with your family to add a little Jewishness to your morning.
Be Strong Like a Lion! I recently discovered in Pirkei Avot, the Teachings of our Rabbis, a text by Yehudah, son of Taima, who encouraged us to recite this affirmation in the morning: “Be bold as a leopard, light as an eagle, swift as a deer, and strong as a lion.” What does Yehudah mean by this?
To be “bold as a leopard” means that you should never be ashamed of who you are.
“Light as an eagle” means to view the world with keen and sharp eyes. He says to turn your eyes toward people doing good deeds and you will be inspired to do good as well.
“Swift as a deer” refers to the legs, for your legs should run to do good things.
“Strong as a lion” is a reference to the heart, that all of our actions through the day should begin with the heart (“Strong as a lion” also means to get out of bed with vigor, even on really cold days).
Tape this phrase to the top of your coffeemaker and you now have a Jewish affirmation to help you start the day off with intention.
Modeh Ani Traditionally the first prayer one recites in the morning is the Modeh Ani prayer. Modeh Ani means “I am thankful.” It is a prayer that expresses gratitude to God for giving us the ability to wake up and for refreshing our souls and beings as we prepare to begin the day.
One nice ritual to try, especially with kids, is each morning to offer them the prompt “Modeh Ani…,” and ask them for what they are thankful. It’s a quick conversation to have over breakfast or in the car on the way to school, and once in the habit, one may develop an approach of gratefulness each and every day.
Blessings for Body and Soul Jewish tradition teaches that the body and soul are deeply intertwined – if either is not in order, we cannot be our full selves throughout the day. We thus have two blessings we say in the morning, one thanking God that our bodies are in working order, and the other that our souls and beings are fully calibrated. Try both or either of these blessings as part of your morning routine, to simply pause and be aware of body and soul and their intimate connection:
Baruch atah Adonai, rofeh chol basar umafli la’asot
Blessed are You, Adonai, who heals all flesh, working wondrously.
Baruch atah Adonai, asher b’yado nefesh kol chai v’ruach kol basar ish
Praised are you, Adonai, in who hand is every living soul and the breath of humankind.