Modeh Ani: History, details, and Positions

Saying Modeh Ani:[1]

Immediately upon awakening, even prior to washing ones hands[2], it is proper[3] to [accustom oneself[4] to] say Modeh Ani.[5]

The reason for reciting Modeh Ani: This is done in order to remember that Hashem is standing over him and motivate him to get up with alacrity.[6] Alternatively, it is done in order to thank Hashem immediately upon awakening for the pleasure received in having the soul returned.[7]

In what position is it to be recited? One should say it while still sitting or lying on his bed.[8] [One who sits up on his bed is to do so without placing his feet on the ground.[9] One is to place one hand against the other, and lower his head upon reciting Modeh Ani.[10]



Immediately upon awakening, prior to washing ones hands, one should place one hand against the other, lower his head, and say Modeh Ani. One should say it while still sitting or lying on his bed, and not while standing. One who sits up on his bed is to do so without placing his feet on the ground.


In what position are the hands to be held while reciting Modeh Ani?[11]

There are different customs followed amongst Chassidim with regards to the positioning of the hands while saying Modeh Ani. Some[12] are accustomed to place the hands over each other [right over left] in an overlapping position, near the heart, as some people do during Shemoneh Esrei.[13] [Exhibit A] Others[14] lock the hands together in an embrace. [Exhibit B] The most common custom is to place the fingers and palm of the hands next to each other and hold them forward, away from the body.[15] It is told that the Rebbe Rayatz demonstrated the positioning of the hands upon revealing this custom and his hands were positioned like the third custom mentioned.[16] [Exhibit C]


Where is the Nekuda [stop] to be made within the sentence of Modeh Ani?[17]

One is to make a slight stop between the words Bichemla and Raba Emunasecha.


How are women to pronounce the word; Modeh or Modah?[18]

There are those[19] who say that women should say “Modah” rather than Modeh. Practically one should follow the custom of their community.[20]

May one say Modeh Ani if he has feces on his body or within four cubits of himself?

Some[21] write that it may not be said.[22] However there are Poskim[23] who rule that it is allowed.[24]

May one say Modeh Ani if he smells feces such as from the diaper of a child?[25]

Child can eat grains: If the child is old enough to consume a Kezayis [27 grams] of grains, such as porridge, then it has the same ruling as explained in the previous Q&A.

Child cannot eat grains: If the child is not yet old enough to consume a Kezayis of grains then it is permitted to say Modeh Ani in his presence.


Sparks of Chassidus

The Chassidic Meaning of Modeh Ani:[26]

The five levels of the soul and their corresponding method of service of G-d: A Jews G-dly soul contains five levels. Nefesh, Ruach, Neshama, Chaya, and Yechida. Each level of the soul represents a different ability of the soul. For example the Neshama level refers to ones intellectual abilities, while the Ruach refers to ones emotions. Regarding ones G-dly soul[27] these levels are all in relation to ones service of G-d. Thus ones Neshama level of his G-dly soul refers to ones comprehension and understanding of G-d’s greatness, while ones Ruach level refers to ones love and fear of G-d. The lowest level of the soul is Nefesh. This level does not represent service of G-d out of love for Him or due to ones comprehension of His greatness, but rather it is done simply because G-d is his King despite lack of feeling or comprehension. This level although being the lowest, is a prerequisite for revealing the levels above it. As first and foremost one must accept upon himself an eternal attachment to G-d irrelevant of what he may or may not feel or comprehend. In other words his attachment to G-d is not based on feeling or understanding but rather an essential connection which rides above feeling and understanding. Throughout a Jews day he serves G-d using each one of these soul powers. However the beginning of his service must commence with his Nefesh, accepting the yoke of heaven despite lack of feeling or understanding. This is referred to as Kabalas Ol.

The inner meaning of Modeh Ani: The inner meaning behind saying Modeh Ani as soon as one awakens is to emphasize the lower service of Nefesh. That even before one has had the ability to think about G-d’s greatness and feel love for Him, he first accepts G-d as his eternal King.

The greatness of Kabalas Ol: In truth although this is the lowest level of service, being that it doesn’t involve any of one’s emotions and intellect, nevertheless for this same reason it is rooted higher than the other levels of service, as it is an expression of his souls essence which cannot be separated from G-d under any circumstances, irrelevant to if he feels burning love for G-d or understanding of His greatness. Thus the reciting of Modeh Ani expresses the essence of the soul, the Yechidah.[28]

The inner reason for why Modeh Ani is recited before washing hands:[29] It is for this reason (from a Chassidic perspective) that one says Modeh Ani even before purifying his hands through washing. As all of the impurities in the world cannot contaminate the Yechidah of a Jew. Certainly a person may be lacking in one respect or another, but his or her Yechidah always remains perfect, and thus is not considered to be impure. Therefore the Modeh Ani prayer which expresses the Yechidah can be said despite that the persons lower soul levels may be considered impure.


Stretching the Modeh Ani throughout the day:

The Rebbe Rashab stated that the dot after the word Bichemla in Modeh Ani needs to be spread throughout the entire day. The meaning of this statement is that at every moment of the day one is required to infuse the service of Modeh Ani [Kabalas Ol] within his service of G-d.



[1] Admur in Siddur; Basra 1:6; Kama 1:5; Bier Heiytiv 1:5; M”B 1:8 based on Seder Hayom; Siddur Yaavetz Hashkamas Haboker 3; Siddur Haarizal; Ateres Zikeinim. Not mentioned in Tur, Shulchan Aruch, Taz or Magen Avraham.

Background of Modeh Ani:

When did the recital of Modeh Ani begin?

In Talmudic times, Modeh Ani was not recited. The reason for this is because they were able to recite the entire blessing of Elokaiy Neshama upon awakening, due to lack of impurity. There was thus no need to recite Modeh Ani as in Modeh Ani there is nothing new or additional to the blessing of Elokaiy Neshama. Saying Modeh Ani is only required in our times being we cannot recite Elokaiy Neshama due to the impurity, and it is thus said in order that the thanks be given immediately upon awakening from sleep. [“On the Essence of Chassidus” p. 58 based on Rabbeinu Yonah in Brachos 60b; Shulchan Menachem 1:1] There is likewise no mention of Modeh Ani in the Rambam as he simply rules [Hilchos Tefilah 7:3] that as soon as one awakes he should say Elokaiy Neshama.

The first source: The first source which records the custom to recite Modeh Ani is the Seder Hayom. [Authored by Moshe Makir Tzfas 1600] To note from Siddur Yaavetz 3 “The sect of later Chassidim have added on their own accord to say Modeh Ani upon awakening”. This implies that even in the 1700’s the idea of saying Modeh Ani was not yet widespread.

[2] Kama 1:5, Basra 1:66, and Siddur state that it may be said prior to washing hands; Hayom Yom 11th Shvat and Rebbe in Igros Kodesh 10:23 [28th Tishreiy 5715] state that it is specifically to be said prior to washing. So is also implied from the term “immediately” used in Admur and from fact that Admur in both SH”A and Siddur explains why this can be said prior to washing. This is also understood from the fact Admur in his Siddur placed the saying of Modeh Ani prior to Netilas Yadayim. [ibid]

The reason Modeh Ani is allowed to be said prior to washing hands: There is no prohibition in saying Modeh Ani prior to washing hands, despite that in general it is forbidden to bless G-d before washing, as there is no mention of one of the seven names of G-d in this statement [Kama 1:5; Basra 1:6; and Siddur] and therefore this statement is not considered to contain the holiness required for clean hands. [Kama ibid] This allowance to recite Modeh Ani before washing hands applies even if one slept without clothing and hence most probably touched areas of his body that are normally covered. [Basra 1:6]

Other Opinions: Some Poskim rule one is to only say Modeh Ani after washing hands. [Yaavetz in his Siddur Hashkamas Haboker 4; opinion in Chida in Kesher Gadol 1:1; Rechev Eliyahu and Minchas Aron brought in Igros Kodesh 10:23] Practically we rule as above that Modeh Ani precedes washing of the hands as so is the ruling of most Poskim. [Igros Kodesh ibid; Kaf Hachaim 1:4; Piskeiy Teshuvos 1 footnote 28 writes that the Yaavetz is the sole opinion who holds that Modeh Ani is to be said after washing, however as brought above there are other Poskim which agree to his ruling.]

[3] Lit. Tov [Siddur, and Shulchan Aruch in both versions]

[4] Basra 1:6 and Siddur

[5] Other Verses: Some write that one is to also say the verse of “Baruch Shenasan Torah Liamo Yisrael” [Siddur Yaavetz; Siddur Daas Kedoshim] and the prayer of “Yehi Ratzon Milifanecha Sheyihei Libi Nachon…” [Siddur Yaavetz ] This is not our custom.

[6]  Siddur and Basra 1:6

[7] Shulchan Menachem 1:1; It is necessary to thank Hashem immediately upon awakening being that every blessing needs to be said in close proximity to the pleasure received. In “The essence of Chassidus” chapter 10 the Rebbe explains this to be the level of Pshat of the meaning behind Modeh Ani.

The level of Remez: The recital of Modeh Ani alludes to the resurrection, as just like we see that after sleep our soul is returned so too the dead will eventually have their soul returned. This then is the Remez meaning of Modeh Ani ”that you have returned my soul [and hence] I believe [in the resurrection]”. [See Midrash Eicha 3:23]

The level of Drush: The message that Modeh Ani teaches a Jew is with regards to returning collateral of a debt to its owner.  Just like Hashem returns our soul which he could choose to “collect” due to our many “debts” so too we should act accordingly to others and return collaterals that they gave us in exchange for loans. [See Midrash Eicha 3:23]

The level of Sod: According to the “esoteric” part of Torah, Modeh Ani is explained in the following manner: the words “living and eternal King” refer to the Divine attribute of Malchus as it is united with the attribute of Yesod. The word melech, King , indicates G-d’s attribute of Malchus, and “living and eternal” His attribute of Yesod. “Living and eternal King who has restored my soul within me” means, then, that the restoration of the soul comes from the level of Malchus as it unites with the level of Yesod. [See Shaar Hakavanos Drushei Halayla]

The level of Chassidus: See “Sparks of Chassidus”. For a thorough explanation of the Chassidic addition to all previous four explanations, see “On The essence of Chassidus” chapters 12-15.

[On the Essence of Chassidus p. 58-60]

[8] Basra 1:6

The reason not to stand: The reason for why one should not stand is because Modeh Ani is to be said immediately upon awakening and one should not suddenly stand up on his feet immediately upon awakening. [Basra and Kama 1:6] The reason for this is because one who does so is closer to death than life. [Kama ibid]

[9] It is our custom not to place our feet on the ground until after washing hands, as will be explained in Chapter 4 Halacha 3 Q&A

[10] Sefer Haminhagim p. 3 [English Edition] based on Sichas Chag Hashevuos 2nd day 1949 chapter 13 printed in Sefer Hamamarim 5750 p. 244; See Hiskashrus 623 p. 16


The Rebbe Rayatz stated the following during a gathering on the 2nd day of Shavuos 1949: When they educated me to say Modeh Ani they told me to place one hand over the other and to nod my head downwards while saying it. When I was a bit older, although still a child, I asked my father for the reason behind this custom. He answered me: In truth you must fulfill without asking why, although since I told you to ask me all your questions [I will thereby give you an explanation]. My father then called into his study the beadle Yosef Mordechai which was 80 years old at the time. He asked him how he says Modeh Ani and he answered that he proximate his two hands together and lowers his head. He then asked him why he does so and he answered “I don’t know but that is how I was taught to do it since I was a child. My father than replied: You see he does it because his father taught him to do it that way and so on and so forth all the way back to Moshe Rabbeinu and Avraham Avinu which was the first Jew. A Jew must comply by his tradition without asking why he must do so. [ibid] Rabbi Leibel Groner stated that when he compiled Sefer Haminhagim he was in doubt whether to enter this custom into the Sefer and the Rebbe answered him to do so as it is a directive that is pertinent to the public. [Hiskashrus 623 p. 16]

[11] See Hiskashrus 623 p. 16; 711 p. 15

[12] Rav Tzevi Hirsh Ganzburg states that this is the custom he received.

[13] See Admur 95:4

[14] Rav Yitzchak Goldberg, Rosh Hayeshiva of Migdal Eimeik states that this is the custom of his family and of Anash that he knew in France.

[15] The Rebbe was asked how this position does not reflect the grace the Christians practice prior to meals and sleep. The Rebbe answered: The Rabbeim knew of this and nevertheless placed their hands in this position. The Christians prior to sleep prostrate themselves on their knees which we do not do and it is hence not similar. [Rav Leibel Groner, printed in Hiskashrus 623 p. 17]

[16] The correctness of this latter position is also to be understood from the fact the Rebbe answered why it is not forbidden due to being similar to the Christians and it is only this latter position which follows a similarity.

[17] Shaareiy Teshuvah 1:5 based on Yad Efraim 4; Kitzur SHU”A 1:2; M”B 1:28; Kaf Hachaim 1:5; Siddur Im Dach and Siddur Tehilas Hashem both place the Nekuda after Bichemla.

[18] Likutei Sichos 24:410

[19] In Halichos Shlomo [2 footnote 17] Rav SZ”A is brought to rule that women are to say Modah and not Modeh.

[20] Seemingly this refers to the sect of Jewry that one is affiliated with and not ones living community.

[21] Piskeiy Teshuvos 1:5

[22] As one may not think of Torah and Mitzvos while he has feces on him. [See Admur 85:1] The same prohibition applies with regards to thinking about Hashem [Rebbe in Hisvadyos Naso 1983 p. 1601; Lehoros Nasan 1:1; Tzitz Eliezer 13:; Levushei Mordechai 171; See Vayivarech David 15; This is also implied from the fact that in 85:1, the Halacha dealing with what one should think about in a bathroom, no mention is made of thinking about G-dliness.]

Analysis on above: Vetzaruch Iyun from the fact that it is permitted to mention Hashem in a bathhouse so long as one does not mention one of His seven names, and hence one may say Chanun or Rachum [the merciful one]. [85:2] Thus seemingly the same would apply here that it is permitted to say Modeh Ani in an impure area [near feces] being that one is not mentioning any of Hashem’s Divine names. [Accordingly the above Poskim only forbade contemplating about Hashem in an impure area while simply mentioning Him they would allow.] On the other hand however there are Poskim who rule that even Chanun and Rachum may only be said if it does not refer to Hashem himself and one is using it to refer to another person. [Kaf Hachaim 85:12 in name of Gur Aryeh] Likewise the Peri Megadim [85 A”A 3] rules that one may not pray in a bathroom using the names Rachum Vechanun. Vetzaruch Iyun as to the opinion of Admur [based on his wording in 85:2] in all this.

[23] Eretz Tzevi 1:52 [Appendix]

[24] His reasoning is because it is permitted to mention Chanun Verachum in a bathroom being that one is not explicitly mentioning Hashem’s name. Hence we see one may think about Hashem. The same would then apply with Modeh Ani of which one thinks about Hashem but does not mention any of His names. He explains the reason it is permitted to think about Hashem is because one’s body figuratively covers the words and it is as if the feces is covered. This is not similar to thinking words of Torah near feces which is forbidden being that when thinking Torah one’s entire body becomes like a vessel for Torah as is learned from a verse in the Talmud. [ibid; see there in which he bases some of his logics on Tanya]

[25] Based on 81:1

[26] Based on “On The Essence of Chassidus” chapter 11

[27] As explained in Tanya chapter 2, every Jew has two souls, a G-dly soul and an animal soul. The G-dly soul is “a part of G-d above”. Meaning it is a revelation of G-d and thus its entire existence is only for G-dliness.

[28] In Sichas Parshas Toldos 1992 the Rebbe explains that before one says Modeh Ani, immediately upon awaking is when his actual soul’s essence, which is even above Yechidah, is revealed. As the Yechidah, although being the highest level, is only a revelation of the essence, but not the essence itself. Thus it is the highest level of expression of the soul, but is not the soul itself. Thus as soon as one awakens is when ones actual essence is revealed without expression, without even the expression of Yechida. The Rebbe concludes that according to this as soon as one awakens he should feel the spirit of Moshiach, which is the essence of Moshiach.

[29] Hayom Yom 11th Shvat

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