Birchos HaShachar: Who Removes Sleep From My Eyes
המעביר שנה מעיני ותנומה מעפעפי. ויהי רצון... …Who removes sleep from my eyes and slumber from my eyelids. And may it be Your will… *****
The Vilna Gaon explains that “שנה–sheinah (sleep)” refers to our initially waking from a state where our conscious thoughts were removed to a state of “תנומה–t’numah (slumber)” where we are groggy but are starting to think, and if we are spoken to we can respond.
Why is the long “יהי רצון–Y’hi Ratzon” – where we make all kinds of spiritual requests – placed after this brachah specifically?
As soon as we arise in the morning and first begin thinking, we want to begin our day with thoughts of Hashem. We want to start the day with commitment to Hashem and His Torah and mitzvos. HaRav Chaim Volozhin zt”l would say that the commitment a person makes when he first gets up will determine how his entire day goes. If he is committed from the start, then Hashem will help him in his service. Since, in this brachah, we thank Hashem for our waking up, this is where we want to start off “right” with desire and commitment to serve Hashem. Therefore, we make these various requests, which cover so many of our spiritual needs. It is worthwhile to say this brachah with extra thought and heart to indicate our true desire and longing to do Hashem’s will in every way and not falter [based on Siach Yitzchak, Siddur HaGra].
In truth, the very first thing we do when we wake up is to acknowledge and thank Hashem as we say “Modeh Ani.” The word “modeh” means both to admit (acknowledge) and to thank. The simple meaning here is: I admit and acknowledge that I am powerless without Hashem, and I am thanking Him for returning my n’shamah. The most basic chesed of Hashem that we must never forget is that He continues to give us life. Each morning, we should appreciate the fact that there are people who did not get up this morning. The fact that Hashem returned our n’shamos and woke us up is the most precious gift we receive; all too often, it is taken for granted. The more we recognize and are aware of Hashem’s awesome chasadim, and the more we thank Him, the more we accomplish our purpose in the world.
An additional application of the word “modeh” here is to admit and acknowledge that “I am before You.” As soon as we are awake and alert enough to speak, we remind ourselves and state, “I acknowledge (to You, Hashem) that I am before You.” This means, I recognize that I am always in the presence of Hashem Who is a living and eternal King (“מלך חי וקים–Melech chai v’kayam”). “Living” means He is alive to us. One of the primary goals of life is to become more and more aware of Hashem throughout our day and our lives. Upon opening our eyes and mind, we immediately make that acknowledgment and remind ourselves that we want to be aware of Hashem throughout our day, feeling His presence to the greatest extent and the greatest frequency we possibly can. Needless to say, this is a lifetime of struggle and effort, and we must ask for His help. So we can both use these few precious words as an immediate acknowledgment and commitment, setting the tone for the rest of our day, as well as having in mind a request that Hashem help us with our effort.
When we combine both meanings of “modeh,” we can see that these few words contain so much within them. What a glorious opportunity we have, as we wake up each morning, to immediately recognize Hashem’s great chesed of life and thank Him, as well as to set the tone for the day, asking Hashem for help with our commitment to feel His presence and do His will throughout our day and lives [based on HaRav Shimshon Pincus zt”l].