I love to study. It is one of my most favorite things to do. Above all, I love to study anything Jewish. Recently, I began studying with someone in the community named Merav. She is an absolutely fabulous person--she is kind, knowledgable and a really good teacher.
We are starting at the beginning. What do we do when we arise in the morning? What prayers do we say? How do we say them in Hebrew? What do the words say and mean? Why do we pray it? Does the Hebrew tell us anything more about the prayers? Why do we pray them in this order and does everyone pray them in this order?
We have met twice so far. In our first meeting, we discussed the first two prayers that we say. Upon waking, before even getting out of bed, we say Modeh Ani. Thank you, G-d, for compassionately returning my soul to me. You are failthful/dependable. We don't say this in a tired, early morning fashion. We are supposed to say it with "lionlike resolve" because it is such a beautiful and wonderful thing to be able to open our eyes in the morning and be alive.
The next prayer is actually two prayers. It is said after we use the restroom and wash our hands for the first time in the morning. Actually, it is said everytime we do this but the first time in the morning, we wash our hands with a washingcup. First we say Natilat Yadiyim. Blessed are you G-d who has commanded us to pour the water over our hands. Then, Bessed are you G-d who fashioned me with wisdom and created within me many openings and closings. If even one of these were to rupture or clog, I could not survive and stand before you, not even for one hour. Blessed are you G-d who heals and is wonderous (in that the spiritual soul fuses with the body to create a human).
At our second meeting, we discussed the third prayer that is said in the morning. To recap, first we arise glad to be alive and thank G-d for returning our soul. Then when we get out of bed, we use the restroom and ritually wash our hands, thanking G-d for commanding us to wash and for making our body work correctly. Then...we pray Elohai.
It makes sense to pray this next although not all people pray this next. Elohai. My G-d. The soul you placed in me is pure. You created it, shaped it, breathed it into me, you guard it within me and one day you will take it from me and restore it back to me. As long as my soul is in me, I thank you for it G-d, my G-d, G-d of my forefathers, Master of all works, Lord of all souls. Blessed are you, G-d, who restores souls to dead bodies.
What is this take away and restore? Is it referring to going to sleep and awaking? Is it referring to dying and being revived some day? Is it refering to both? However one interprets that part of it, the part that strikes me the most is the pure part.
Our soul is pure because G-d made it, shaped it, breathed it into me and he guards it for me. I think of G-d here at a pottery wheel, lovingly creating and forming my soul then breathing life and approval into it. Then, as an artist does, protecting his work out of love and devotion. I have only prayed this prayer once since I just learned about it yesterday, but I find its inclusion in the early hours of waking to be beautiful.