Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Count Your Blessings - Day 12

Today's blessing is the morning prayer we say - Modeh Ani - and the wisdom behind it. Each morning, this prayer reminds us that the day itself is the blessing  and we are grateful to have awakened to it.

This morning, I woke up and the first words I said were a prayer taught to children as early as possible. My young grandson already knows this and many other prayers by heart.
מוֹדֶה אֲנִי לְפָנֶיךָ מֶלֶךְ חַי וְקַיָּם, שֶׁהֶחֱזַרְתָּ בִּי נִשְׁמָתִי בְּחֶמְלָה. רַבָּה אֱמוּנָתֶךָ
Translation: I offer thanks to You, living and eternal King, for You have mercifully restored my soul within me; Your faithfulness is great.

The funny part about this blessing being what I chose today is the timing. We rarely go out ... something we keep meaning to change, and we rarely go to movies. We don't have a television so a movie is an especially nice change of pace.

We went to a movie two nights ago called, "Before I Go to Sleep" - basically the story is about a woman who each night goes to sleep and in the morning has lost all memories of who she is - she doesn't remember her husband, her age, even her name. So throughout the day, she learns about herself and then loses all that she has learned by the next morning when her brain tells her she has awakened beside a stranger.

The movie opens with her confusion, and the man explaining his name, her name, her age, and what has happened to her. I won't go on with the story but it reflects a bit on today's blessing. In sleep, we essentially lose control of our surroundings, of all that is happening - or, since that may well be our state throughout the day if we acknowledge that we really can't control everything in life anyway, let's say rather that in sleep we lose our awareness of what is around us.

So the first thing we do when we open our eyes, is thank God for returning ourselves, the essence of what we are, our souls, back into our bodies.

So today's blessing is a reflection of that - each new day, each morning we are granted is  blessing.

There is a fascinating medical aspect of many things in Judaism - not the reason why but the confirmation that it is best, even on the physical side. One example of this is meat and milk. Of all the religions, I believe we are the only ones commanded not to eat them at the same time. So no cheeseburgers or hamburgers with a glass of milk for us. On the flip side, if you are ever told to take iron, the instructions will warn you NOT to drink milk with it (or even several hours after it). Just Google "iron and milk" to see many links verifying this.

Another example of this is the Modeh Ani prayer we say each morning. If you say it in Hebrew, there are 12 words. According to an article published in 2012, there was a neurological conference. Reporting on what happened there, The Huffington Post wrote:
In a United States convention of neurologists from all over the world, one of the main topics was the phenomenon of people fainting upon getting up from bed (when they wake up from sleeping). One of the speakers was Professor Linda McMaron of Great Britain and she gave a lengthy speech regarding her study on this issue.
She elaborated that after many years of study and investigation on this subject, she came to the conclusion that the fainting is caused by the sharp transfer between laying down and standing up. Professor McMaron said that it takes 12 seconds for the blood to flow from the feet to the brain. But when a person quickly stands upon waking up, the blood gets "thrown" to the brain too quickly and the result is fainting. She suggested that each person, even one that does not have a tendency to faint, upon waking should sit on the bed, and count slowly to 12 to avoid dizziness, weakness and/or fainting. Her speech was rewarded with loud applause and enthusiastic feedback.

Another professor, a Jewish man, asked permission to speak. He said, "In our tradition, we recite a prayer of thanks to the Creator of the World for meriting us to wake up healthy and whole. The prayer is said immediately upon waking up, while one is still on the bed and sitting down. There are 12 words in this prayer and if one regulates himself to say it slowly with concentration, it takes exactly 12 seconds to say it. ... 12 words in 12 seconds."

He said the prayer slowly in Hebrew: Mode Ani Lefanecha Melech Chai Vekayam, Shehechezarta Bi Nishmati Bechemla Raba Emunatecha -- "I thank Thee, O living and eternal King, because You have graciously restored my soul to me: great is Your faithfulness." The auditorium burst into a standing applause that roared throughout the auditorium.
 And, as a second blessing for the day - I will bless the labor of women. Twenty-nine years ago today, I was in labor...actually, since Amira was born at 12:15 a.m. - most of my labor was on the 16th, but just 15 minutes into the new day - September 17, she was born and so, a second but more important blessing for me will be - my beautiful birthday girl - Happy birthday and mazel tov, Amira!

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