Gratitude on all Levels (Tefila Tip #5)

1 Jan

This week, we continue what we started last week – how to get up in the morning.  We pointed out that our gratitude to God when we arise in the morning, saying Modeh ani (“I am grateful…”) is lefanecha – “to You” – meaning directly to God, to His very essence.  From us to Him.  This is called “General submission” or “General acknowledgment.”  Since our mind and our heart are not yet “in play,” our acknowledgment comes from our basic, essential selves, and also accesses the highest most essential Godliness.

So, what happens when we begin to use specific attributes of our personality during prayers?  At that point we engage in “specific acknowledgment,” or gratitude  based on specific attributes, such as emotions and/or intellect.  For example, when we begin our prayers in the synagogue with the words, Hodu Lashem – “I am grateful to God” – we engage our emotions.  At that point in prayers, we are involved in fear of God, or in the awareness that He watches our each and every move and therefore we must be careful.  A little later in prayer, we become involved in love of God, expressing our appreciation for His ability to create from nothing to something.  At that point we acknowledge Him with our love.  So, after arising in the morning and beginning prayers, we acknowledge God while expressing fear and love of Him.  In Chasidut, this occurs on the soul-level of ruach within nefesh, or perhaps our nefesh ascends to the level of ruach within us.

Finally, during the pinnacle of prayers, we acknowledge God with our intellect.  As we recite Modim anachnu lach (“We are grateful/acknowledge You…”) during Shemonah esreh, while bowing slightly at the waist, we admit that even after all of our investigations, mental gymnastics and meditation, we still do not know who God is.  This is specific acknowledgment on the level of intellect.  It occurs during the highest levels of prayer, as we cleave to God, and it proves that as accomplished as we might be in knowledge, fear and love of God, we are still nothing before Him, and therefore we nullify ourselves to Him.  This “specific acknowledgment” occurs on the soul level of neshama or higher.

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