Learning to Say Thank You in a Jewish Way

I never learned a prayer of gratitude until recently. I grew up largely disconnected from my own faith. Judaism, like most religions, of course has a prayer for saying thank you.

Modim anachnu lach, I learned only a few years ago, means we give thanks to you. My teacher was Cantor Robbie Solomon, who has put the prayer to music in various ways. His simpler, folk-style composition particularly moves me. Perhaps it’s partly because Robbie once asked me to accompany him on my flute on that composition. I learned to feel the prayer not just as a listener but as a musician. Perhaps it’s because I experienced the prayer at a time when I needed to remember how thankful I was for what I had.

I accompanied Robbie on the prayer of gratitude a few years ago during a Friday night service as my husband sat in the sanctuary holding our barely two-month-old son. I was then 43 years old, a woman who just found love, marriage, and motherhood. Standing there with my flute, I was afraid of crumbling. I had recently been diagnosed with postpartum depression, which affects roughly 20 percent of first-time mothers. I was overanxious and at times petrified. I was petrified at that temple service that I might fail at something that always was so easy: putting my flute to my mouth and performing music.

“For the gifts of beauty, joy and light, modim anachnu lach. For the laughter and the tears besides, modim anachnu lach. For all that’s kind and good and true, modim anachnu lach. Let us learn to live in gratitude, modim anachnu lach.”

Robbie sang, “Mo-oh-dim,” and I repeated back the phrase in a series of notes on the flute. Within minutes, my nervousness disappeared. There was nothing to fear. The music was familiar, and I had played with Robbie many times before. Combining prayer and song, once a foreign experience, was now as natural as brushing my hair.

Gifts were all around – my warm, caring husband, our baby with his big blue, curious eyes, and this community of Jews we were just getting to know. There was gratitude that I already was well on my way to healing – and my new young family, despite my fears, was in no danger of collapse. And there was gratitude for a gift that was larger than one person. Maybe that gift was faith.

Note: To see a beautiful idea for a prayer of Thanksgiving, read the latest blog post by author and Rabbi Naomi Levy.

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