ewish law mandates that one pray three times a day, in the morning, afternoon, and at night. The morning service, Shachrit, formally begins with the Pesukei D’zimrah (verses of praise) section, but before that there are several preliminary prayers and blessings to thank God for providing us with our daily needs and for performing everyday miracles.
Traditionally, Jews begin each day with Modeh Ani, a short, two-line prayer which opens by referring to God as the eternal and living king. The prayer speaks of sleeping as a minor type of death in which the soul leaves the body to spend the night with God. The prayer thanks God for returning the soul to the body, enabling the individual to live another day.
This prayer is generally said when one first awakes, while still in bed. For this reason, God’s proper name (“Adonai”) is not used, since the rabbis deemed it improper to speak God’s name before ritually washing the hands.
Indeed, because people are unaware of their actions during sleep, it is possible that they touched something during the night that would make their hands ritually unclean. For these reasons and others, many Jews wash their hands promptly after getting out of bed, pouring water from a cup over their hands either two or three times in succession.
Modeh Ani Text (Courtesy of Sefaria)
מוֹדֶה אֲנִי האשה אומרת: מודָה לְפָנֶיךָ מֶלֶךְ חַי וְקַיָּם שֶהֶחֱזַרְתָּ בִּי נִשְׁמָתִי בְחֶמְלָה, רַבָּה אֱמוּנָתֶךָ:
I am thankful before You, living and enduring King, for you have mercifully restored my soul within me. Great is Your faithfulness.
Listen to Modeh Ani (Courtesy of Mechon Hadar)
Out of Bed and Straight to Prayer: Asher Yatzar
After washing, a blessing is traditionally made, followed by a recitation of verses praising God’s name. Although modern denominations have adapted different sets of prayers, most versions start with a line from Psalms 111, “Fear of God is the beginning of wisdom” (111:10), reminding the newly-awakened Jew of the importance of God.
Following these verses in the (prayerbook) is Asher Yatzar, a prayer normally recited after going to the restroom. The prayer thanks God for creating us completely, with all of our body parts in working order. It declares that if any part of our body were to work in the wrong way, life would be much harder. The blessing ends with a testimony that God “heals all flesh and does wonders.”
While all of the prayers mentioned so far are traditionally said as part of the normal waking cycle, they–and the prayers that follow–are also often recited by individuals at synagogue as the beginning of the Shaharit service.
Asher Yatzar text (Courtesy of Sefaria)
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְהוָֹה אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, אֲשֶׁר יָצַר אֶת הָאָדָם בְּחָכְמָה, וּבָרָא בוֹ נְקָבִים נְקָבִים, חֲלוּלִים חֲלוּלִים. גָּלוּי וְיָדוּעַ לִפְנֵי כִסֵּא כְבוֹדֶךָ, שֶׁאִם יִסָּתֵם אֶחָד מֵהֶם, אוֹ אִם יִפָּתֵח אֶחָד מֵהֶם, אִי אֶפְשַׁר לְהִתְקַיֵּם אַפִלּוּ שָׁעָה אֶחָת. בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְהֹוָה, רוֹפֵא כָל בָּשָׂר וּמַפְלִיא לַעֲשׂוֹת:
Blessed are You, Hashem, our God, King of the Universe, Who formed man with wisdom and created many openings and cavities within him. It is obvious and known before Your throne of glory that if any one of them were closed or if one of any one them were opened, it would be impossible to exist for even an hour [i.e., a short while]. Blessed are You, Hashem, Who heals all flesh and does wondrous things.
:The Elohai Neshama blessing should immediately follow the Asher Yatzar blessing
אֱלֹהַי, נְשָׁמָה שֶׁנָּתַתָּ בִּי טְהוֹרָה. אַתָּה בְרָאתָהּ, אַתָּה יְצַרְתָּהּ, אַתָּה נְפַחְתָּהּ בִּי, וְאַתָּה מְשַׁמְּרָהּ בְּקִרְבִּי, וְאַתָּה עָתִיד לִטְּלָהּ מִמֶּנִּי, וּלְהַחֲזִירָהּ בִּי לֶעָתִיד לָבוֹא. כָּל זְמַן שֶׁהַנְּשָׁמָה בְּקִרְבִּי מוֹדֶה אֲנִי לְפָנֶיךָ יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהַי וֵאלֹהֵי אֲבוֹתַי. רִבּוֹן כָּל הַמַּעֲשִׂים אֲדוֹן כָּל הַנְּשָׁמוֹת. בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְהֹוָה, הַמַּחֲזִיר נְשָׁמוֹת לִפְגָרִים מֵתִים:
My God, the soul that you placed within me is pure. You created it, You formed it, You breathed it into me, and You preserve it within me. And in the future, You will take it from me and restore it in the Time to Come. All the time that this soul is within me, I am thankful before You, Hashem, my God and the God of my fathers, Ruler of all creation, Lord of all the souls. Blessed are You, Hashem, Who restores souls to dead bodies.