“The first words we are taught to say each morning, immediately on waking, are Modeh Ani, ‘I give thanks.’ We thank before we think. Note that the normal word order is inverted: Modeh Ani, not Ani Modeh, so that in Hebrew the ‘thanks’ comes before the ‘I.’ Judaism is ‘gratitude with attitude.’
The source of the command to give thanks is to be found in … the thanksgiving offering…
…a trace of the thanksgiving offering survives to this day, in the form of the blessing Hagomel: ‘Who bestows good things on the unworthy’, said in the synagogue, at the time of reading of the Torah, by one who has survived a hazardous situation.
Jewish prayer is an ongoing seminar in gratitude. Birkot ha-Shachar, ‘the Dawn Blessings’ said at the start of morning prayers each day, are a litany of thanksgiving for life itself: the human body, the physical world, land to stand on and eyes to see with.
…This is neither easy nor natural. We are genetically predisposed to pay more attention to the bad than the good. …we are hyper-alert to potential threats and dangers. It takes focused attention to become aware of how much we have to be grateful for. That, in different ways, is the logic of prayer, of making blessings, of Shabbat, and many other elements of Jewish life.
The word Modeh, ‘I give thanks,’ comes from the same root as Yehudi, meaning ‘Jew.’ We acquired this name from Jacob’s fourth son, named by his mother Leah who, at his birth said, ‘This time I will thank God'(Gen. 29:35). Jewishness is thankfulness: not the most obvious definition of Jewish identity, but by far the most life-enhancing.”