Modeh ani lefaneicha melech chai v'kayam shehechezarta bi nishmati bechemlah - rabbah emunatecha
I gratefully thank you, O living and eternal King, for You have returned my soul within me with compassion - abundant is Your faithfulness!
A Jew's day begins by the recitation, immediately upon awakening, of the Modeh Ani prayer: "I thank to You, living and eternal King...." This prayer, as well as the general obligation that immediately upon awakening a Jew be "fierce as a leopard... in his desire to fulfill the will of his Father in Heaven," binds a Jew to G-d throughout the day, causing him to be continuously aware that he is in G-d's presence.
Consequently, even if a person were to perform a particular mitzvah without intent later in the day, the general intention to serve G-d which he had at the start of the day suffices, inasmuch as it applies to all the good deeds the person will do during that day.
The opposite, however, applies to transgressions: As long as a person does not specifically intend to transgress, he is not considered to have transgressed. For the person's intent at the beginning of the day to serve G-d nullifies any incorrect action performed without sinful intent.
However, the fact that a mitzvah need not be performed with intent while a transgression must have intent applies to all Jews -- even those who fail to recite the Modeh Ani in the morning and lack the desire upon awakening to fulfill G-d's will.
Even if we were to say that the intent to perform one sin does not automatically carry over to the performance of others, and thus that each transgression carry over to the performance of others, and thus that each transgression requires individual intent, the question remains with regard to such a person's performance of mitzvot: Having failed to recite Modeh Ani, etc., what enables him to successfully perform mitzvos while seemingly lacking any intent?
In truth, every Jew possesses an intrinsic desire within the depths of his soul to do good and bind himself to G-d.
Thus, whenever a Jew performs a mitzvah, even if it is without intent, in reality he is giving himself wholly to G-d, not only dedicating his soul, but also his body, and those objects with which he performs the commandment, so that every fiber of his being and his portion of the physical world becomes elevated, attached and united with G-d.
This prayer appears for the first time in the 16th century mystical commentary on the Siddur, Seder Hayom (by Moses Ibn Machir of Safed [Venice, 1599], p. 1). The Yerushalmi (Juerusalem Talmud) cites the initial words Modeh Ani with a different ending to be said for each of the three daily services (Berachot 80:4)
Modeh Ani does not contain any of the Divine Names and may therefore be recited while still in bed, before washing the hands (Kitz Shul Ar [Ganz], chap. 1:2; cf. also Siddur HaRav). According to others, it one has not yet washed his hands, it is advisable that he only meditate on the prayer, and then say it audibly after washing his hands (Emden, Bet Ya'ak, p. 22a).
A distinction is made when saying the initial word; the male says Modeh (masculine), the female says Modah (feminine) (Shlomo Tal, Siddur Rinat Yisrael (Jerusalem: Department for Education and Torah Culture in the Diaspora of the World Zionist Organization, 1974), p. 15.
A slight pause should be made between the words bechemlah and rabbah. Rabbah and emunatecha should be said together, as in the verse, "They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness." (Eicha 3:23)
Sefardic Jewry differs as to its recitation. Jews of Yisrael, Syria, Egypt, and Turkey say it: those of Amsterdam and London do not. (Ket Shem Tov, vo. 1, p. 11)
Very young children who are not able to recite the daily prayers are often taught this morning prayer because of its brevity and simplicity.
- Adaptation of Likutei Sichos by Rabbi Sholom Ber Wineberg. Based on Likkutei Sichos, Vol. IV, pp. 1123-1130
- Encyclopedia of Jewish Prayer, Macy Nulman
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