Box office sensation Gadot has never been shy talking about her Jewish Israeli identity, how her holocaust survivor grandfather impacted her life or confronting antisemitism. But in her recent interview with Vanity Fair magazine, it was refreshing to hear one of the world’s most recognized and wealthiest women admit that her happiness comes from prayer.
“I say thank you every morning,” Gadot said. “In the Jewish culture, there’s a prayer that you’re supposed to say every time you wake up in the morning to thank God for, you know, keeping you alive… You say ‘modeh ani,’ which means ‘I give thanks.’ So every morning I wake up and step out of bed and I say, ‘Thank you for everything, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you.’ Nothing is to be taken for granted.”
Gadot is referring to “Modeh Ani,” the traditional Jewish prayer recited every day as soon as you wake up. Translated from the Hebrew the prayer reads:
“I thank You, living and enduring King, for You have graciously restored my soul within me. Great is Your faithfulness.”
How many of us wake up with the first word on our lips is “Thank you?” Perhaps some, but if we are honest most of us will get a cup of coffee, check our Facebook page and emails before we say anything at all!
It is instructional to note that the daily prayer does not begin “I thank you,” but the word order is reversed to, “Thanks, I.” So the first word that comes out of the Jewish mouth each day is “Thanks.”
How would our lives be changed if we began every day with “Thanks” to God? What would happen if instead of waking up grumpy and grouchy we started each day with thankfulness for the chance to live yet another 24 hours?
It is also interesting to consider that modeh can also mean “admit” or “confess.” Hidden within the meaning of the Hebrew word for being thankful is the idea of confessing or acknowledging that we are completely dependent on God for our lives. We thank Him for “restoring our soul” or giving us the life-breath to arise and live yet another day. Thankfulness requires enough humility to admit that our lives are not wholly in our control, but dependent on someone Greater.
Modeh ani is a recognition that we are in God’s hands. The prayer concludes with “Great is thy faithfulness,” a declaration of our ultimate trust and faith in the Creator.
Saying or singing this ancient and beautiful morning prayer as many Jews do each day will not only help us to be grateful for our lives and all the many blessings we experience, but to learn not to take anything for granted. To love life and live it to the fullest.
The Talmud goes so far as to say that in the life to come everyone must “give account of every good thing he might have enjoyed in this life but did not.” Not taking pleasure in and appreciating the life God has given us is the sign of ungratefulness. For more on this see Where the Church Went Wrong.
In a world where so many Hollywood stars struggle with depression and drug addiction, I love it that Israel’s “Wonder Woman” has learned the Jewish tradition that the true way to happiness is giving God thanks first thing every day.