The new Jewish year – 5779 – begins on Sunday evening! On Monday morning, as we gather together for our Rosh HaShanah service in the sanctuary, the first words we’ll sing together will be “Modeh Ani Lefanecha” – “I give thanks.” Jewish tradition teaches us to recite these words every morning when we wake up. They encourage us to focus on what we’re grateful for and this is the perfect way to start every single day, the perfect way to begin a new year together.

By incorporating “Modeh Ani Lefanecha” into morning prayers, the rabbis built into our daily routine an opportunity to express our gratitude. They knew that taking time to reflect on what makes us happy, what gives us purpose and what drives us is crucial to living a healthier, more meaningful life. In the Japanese culture, the essence of “Modeh Ani Lefanecha” is captured in a philosophy known as Ikigai which means “the reason for being.” Ikigai stresses the importance of being able to clearly express what it is that motivates us. Without this motivation, we can easily be overwhelmed by the stress and negativity that surrounds us. Without purpose, we’re lost. And so, Ikigai pushes folks to hone in on their purpose, remind themselves of it regularly and spend their days focusing on what matters – the stuff that makes life more meaningful. Ikigai makes it possible to wake up in the morning, say “Modeh Ani Lefanecha” and really mean it.

Before we begin 5779 and sing “Modeh Ani Lefanecha” together, do yourself a favor: watch the video below and figure out what your Ikigai is. (Yes, the video is a Nescafe commercial – but a good one that teaches an important lesson.)

What is it that you wake up for? What is it that you’ll celebrate as you sing with us on Monday morning? What’s your purpose, focus or goal as you begin this new Jewish year? When you answer these questions, be specific. Be concise. Challenge yourself to come up with one clear response. Write it down. This is your Jewish New Year’s resolution. Put it on your night table and every morning, give thanks for another day to live your Ikigai – to sing “Modeh Ani Lefanecha.”

Cheryl, Abigail and Jonah join me in wishing each of you a Shanah Tovah! We look forward to welcoming 5779 with you and your family. May it be a sweet, happy and meaningful year!

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