Premature Thankfulness

Monday, 2 November, 2020 - 8:49 am

We Jews have a strange daily exercise.

Every morning, immediately upon waking, we recite the prayer of Modeh Ani, thanking G-d for another day.

But isn't that a strange thing to do? Surely we should thank G-d at the end of the day, when we're filled with gratitude for the success that it was?! When we've reflected on the blessings realised today, the opportunities we have successfully harnessed, the friendships and relationships that have filled us with love; that sounds like the appropriate moment to be thankful. (And perhaps if all went pear-shaped, we can end our day with a good moan and pray for a better tomorrow).

Why are we thankful when our day has barely started, and the potential for a miserable day is still very much on the cards?!

The beauty of this little prayer is precisely in this oddity. Thanksgiving isn't (just) a way of acknowledging our past blessings. It's the surest way to empower us to recognise our future blessings. When we're thankful that we are alive, we create the positive frame of mind that empowers us, that inspires and motivates us, so that we can make today the best day yet.

I'm awake. My lungs are filled with breath. I can eat and drink. I can communicate with others. I can engage in meaningful and productive tasks. I can give to others, to share and to care. I can be. Today. How wonderful.

Having watched with curiosity the various views and reactions to weddings during Covid restrictions, both in the UK and elsewhere, I've noticed three perspectives.
1. Break the rules and throw the best party possible. (No comment).
2. Reschedule. (And then reschedule again?)
3. Make the most minimalistic wedding possible, adhering to the restrictions, so we can be married.

The third category is a pretty brave one, perhaps even a bit of a tear-jerker. What motivates a bride and groom to sacrifice all of the great aspirations and dreams of every normal young couple? Why would they forfeit the chance of a lifetime, to share the joy of their wedding, with live music, dancing, catered meal and celebration with friends?  Instead these folks are getting married in a 30 minute ceremony with only immediate family and a rabbi in attendance!

Shterna’s paternal grandparents met in a DP camp in Germany, soon after liberation from Auschwitz. Her grandmother told us how her two sisters and an aunt, all survivors, went fishing in preparation for the wedding. They returned with a small bucket of tiny fish, which they successfully turned in to one roll of Gefilta fish. And that was the wedding feast. Enough for a small portion each for the bride and groom, and a few select others. For the dancing, the entire DP camp joined in.

It’s the final bit above that always catches me. These emaciated beings, who had lost everything and worse, danced. Certainly not for the past. Probably not even for the present. But for the beautiful potential realised in the joy of marriage and the hopes of rebuilding and rebirth.

Today, thank G-d, that bride is the proud 94-year-old matriarch of a family numbering over 100. May she continue to derive much Nachat and joy from them all! The dancing goes on.

That’s Modeh Ani. Filled with thankfulness for what the future will bring. So you can dance in a DP camp. And you can certainly dance in the comfort of your own room, in 2020, in the midst of Covid.

Sure I'll face curveballs. That's life. That's what living is about. In fact, I'm thankful for the opportunity G-d has given me to face up to those curveballs. When I fall, I know that He'll be by my side, lifting me up. Throughout my day, as each challenge presents itself, I'll be reminded that I woke up this morning thankful, because I knew then, as I know now, that the beauty of my day isn't defined by how well it went, but rather by how well I'm willing to navigate it.

Which brings us to the final point: If today doesn't go as planned, or worse, it was an absolute disaster, our Modeh Ani thanksgiving this morning is still 'Kosher'. There's no retrospective delete button on that prayer. The very fact that we made it to the end of the day, and are still sensitive enough to care about the shortcomings, mistakes and frustrations, is a brilliant expression of the still-beating heart within us, and the desire for life that propels us to make the next day (even) better.

Modeh Ani; Thank You Hashem for allowing us to face the next 24 hours. We can do it. Because You empower us.


Comments on: Premature Thankfulness
There are no comments.