The harsh piercing whine of the alarm clock startles you from sleep, and you push your nose into the pillow to block out any hints of sunlight in the room.

Sleep…as Shakespeare said “to sleep perchance to dream…,” but as any good Shakespearean scholar will tell you, Hamlet’s monologue was a poetic discussion of suicide, and sleep was used as a metaphor for death. The Talmudic sages refer to sleep as a one-sixtieth part of death (Talmud Berachot 57b), for during sleep the neshama (soul) ascends to heaven to give an accounting to the Heavenly court of that day’s experiences. According to Jewish tradition, in recognition that the return of the neshama is the gift of another opportunity to better one’s self, the very first words uttered in the morning are:

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

Modeh ani li’fanecha, melech chai v’kayam, sheh’heh’cheh’zarta bi ni’shmati b’chemlah rabah emunatecha.

I give thanks before You, living and eternal King, that You have returned my soul in me with compassion – great is Your faithfulness. 

By waking up with thanks on one’s lips, one not only thanks God for returning one’s neshama in the morning, but sets a tone for the day to come.  Throughout the day, one should utilize every opportunity to acknowledge and thank God, thus re-focusing oneself on the purpose of life. This is accomplished by making various blessings (over food, for the healthy acts of one’s body, etc.). This is also one of the purposes of the morning, afternoon and evening prayer services – saying thank you to God all day long.  Thank you in the morning, thank you in the afternoon, thank you in the evening.

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