The Power of My Daily Renewal
Sometimes my life feels like one big cycle: work, sleep, wake up, and repeat. Between the perils of my junior year in high school and the other burgeoning, albeit rewarding, responsibilities I have resting on my shoulders, it’s hard to imagine that I have the power (or the time) to make a name for myself in this world. There are days when I get so overwhelmed with stress that all I want to do is hide under my covers and tell all the homework to go away. “Sorry homework,” I’d say, “but there’s a no vacancy sign hanging from the motel inside my head.”
And yet, after long afternoons turn into endless evenings and restless nights, I still wake up in the morning feeling wholly replenished. With the ring of my alarm clock comes the thought that I can take on the day, no matter how tired I am. It’s times like these, when I’m awake, but not quite ready to leave the comfortable warmth of my bed, that the words of the Modeh Ani resonate with me the most. These are the first words many Jews say upon waking up every morning, and they’re said as thanks to God for giving us the gift of life.
There’s a certain beauty in renewal, one that reminds me of innocence and fearlessness in the face of upcoming but still unknown obstacles. So it’s fitting that my first exposure to this prayer was in my early Sunday school days. Before Hebrew class officially started, all of the younger students would get together and sing the morning prayers. Modeh Ani was the first, and it escaped our lips to the tune of "You are My Sunshine." And while I, a shy and quiet seven year old, may have sung so quietly that it was just for my own ears, the words meant a great deal to me. Like many kids, I had a fascination with the “whys” and the “hows” of my religion that took precedent over the wonder of it, but this particular prayer never failed to leave me speechless and in awe. The idea that God could reenergize and renew me every day deserved appreciative acknowledgment.
Now, at seventeen, I still (try to) recite the Modeh Ani each morning. And though my life is no longer void of trials and tribulations, as it was when I was seven, I still adamantly believe in this concept of renewal. The Modeh Ani is my little moment of calm and peace every morning, before the challenges of the day come rushing in like high tide. Whatever happened yesterday doesn’t matter. The Modeh Ani’s words are both my expression of gratitude, and my personal pep talk. “Thanks, God, for restoring my soul...and, you got this girl!” This kind of attitude gives me the strength to confront the myriad of microaggressions that I, and many other people, deal with daily. It helps me realize that I can’t let things like jokes about Jewish “greed” or women’s “submissiveness” hurt me. And It also prepares me to face what is going on at the macro level, what we as a country are currently facing.
Considering the state of affairs today–that we live in a time and place where women are openly objectified and diminished, and minorities are degraded and vilified–this prayer offers more comfort now than ever before. The Modeh Ani reminds me to face each day with the conviction that I, as a young Jewish woman, can confront the attacks my gender and religion face, and also work to bring about change for all those who feel vulnerable. This sense of restoration and renewal deeply embedded in the Modeh Ani carries me through the day. It allows me to face whatever harshness each day brings with a heightened sense of self-efficacy, and power. While different people are touched by different things, I hope that, upon hearing this prayer, others feel as empowered and inspired as I do.
This piece was written as part of JWA’s Rising Voices Fellowship.
How to cite this page
Himmelgreen, Hannah. "The Power of My Daily Renewal." 19 January 2017. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on December 5, 2023) <https://jwa.org/blog/risingvoices/power-of-my-daily-renewal>.