Chapter 38: Kerias Shema Sheal Hamita

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Chapter 38: Kerias Shema Sheal Hamita[1]

  1. The general Mitzvah:[2]

When a person desires to go to sleep he is to read the bedtime Shema and say the blessing of Hamapil as written in the Siddur.

Women: Also women are to recite the bedtime Shema before going to sleep and recite the blessing of the Hamapil. [This is with exception to the Yehi Ratzon of the four capital punishments, which they do not say.]

Children: Children are to be educated to recite the bedtime Shema. At the very least, they are to recite the first paragraph and the verse of Beyadcha Afkid Ruchi.

One who is staying up throughout the night: When a person stays up throughout the night, he is to recite the first paragraph of the Shema by midnight. However, he does not recite the remainder of the Shema and certainly does not recite the blessing of Hamapil.

One who is going to sleep after midnight: One who goes to sleep after midnight, but prior to daybreak, is to recite the bedtime Shema as usual, including the blessing of Hamapil, as will be explained later on.


  1. Its purpose:

Banish evil forces:[3] The Shema and its various verses and Psalms are recited in order to banish forces of evil from damaging the person while he sleeps.

Bless Hashem for the pleasure sleep:[4] The blessing of Hamapil is recited in order to bless G-d for the pleasure of sleep similar to the other morning blessings which are recited for the general pleasures the G-d created for the world and humanity.

Supplication to G-d for good quality sleep: The blessing of Hamapil is also recited as a supplication before G-d for one to have a successful night’s sleep without nightmares, or forbidden dreams.

In order to awaken like a Jew one must go to sleep like a Jew:[5] The bedtime Shema is considered the beginning of one’s divine service for the next day. In order for one to wake up with the proper thoughts one must go to sleep with the proper thoughts. Thus the start of a good day which is imbued with joy and spiritual matters is dependent on the order one follows prior to sleep. Hence, one should think of spiritual matters prior to going to sleep as is accustomed to do when one says Kerias Shema Sheal Hamita.

Cheshbon Nefesh: During the recital of the bedtime Shema one is to make an accounting of his soul regarding that past days’ work and divine service and accomplishments. When one does not recite the bedtime Shema with proper concentration he is considered to be in a constant state of slumber, and all his divine service is considered as if he is doing so during slumber.

  1. The Nussach:

Ribono Shel Olam, Hareini Mochel, Lamnatzeiach: These paragraphs are to be recited on all weeknights, including days in which Tachanun is omitted. However, they are omitted on Shabbos and Yom Tov.

The three paragraphs of the Shema: The Chabad custom is to recite all three paragraphs of Shema in the bedtime Shema and not just the first paragraph. Many, however, are accustomed to recite only the first paragraph of Shema.[6]

Repeating Ani Hashem Elokeichem:[7] The custom is to repeat the words Ani Hashem Elokeichem also by Kerias Shema Sheal Hamita, so one have a total of 248 words corresponding to his 248 limbs.

Emes: We recite the word Emes at the conclusion of the third paragraph of the Shema also when reading it as part of the bedtime Shema.

Tachanun and Viduiy: Tachanun and Viduiy are recited on every regular weeknight as part of the bedtime Shema. It is to be recited in a standing position, with the back slightly arched. One is to hit his chest upon each word of Ashamnu. It is omitted on any day in which Tachanun is not recited. On Motzei Shabbos, it is to be omitted when reciting the bedtime Shema prior to midnight. However, when reciting Tachanun after midnight then Tachanun is recited. On the Motzei of other days in which Tachanun is omitted, there is argument to make that it should be recited.

Ana Bekoach:[8] The prayer of Ana Bekoach is recited whenever it is necessary for one’s soul to be elevated towards heaven. It is hence recited by the bedtime Shema prior to going to sleep in order so one’s soul be elevated. It is to be said even on Shabbos and Yom Tov.

Hamapil: According to Chabad custom, the blessing of Hamapil is recited at the conclusion of the Shema, and so is the custom of many other communities as written in various Siddurim.[9] However, some are accustomed to recite Shema after Hamapil, and so is the widespread Ashkenazi custom.[10]

The Segula of reciting the Mizmor of “Lamnatzeiach Ye’ancha” during pregnancy prior to retiring to sleep:[11] Throughout all the days of a woman’s pregnancy, the husband is to say the Psalm of Lamnatzei’ach Ya’ancha [Kappitle 20, printed between Ashreiy and Uva Letziyon] prior to sleep. At the conclusion of the paragraph, the verse of Ya’ancha is to be repeated a second time. The Psalm is to be recited within the recital of the bedtime Shema, prior to the blessing of Hamapil. One is to be discreet about this custom. When reciting the above paragraph, one should do so with intent that G-d accept his recital as if it was done with all the proper [Kabbalistic] intents. The above is to be done without it taking the status of a vow, [and hence one should explicitly intend to do so Beli Neder when first beginning this custom].

The laws associated with its recital:
  1. How to recite it:

The attire: The Chabad custom is to recite the bedtime Shema in a standing position [as will be explained below] while wearing a hat and jacket and a Gartel for those who are married. [This is with exception to the blessing of Hamapil which is said while lying in bed right before going to sleep.]

Where to read-Bed, room, or anywhere? Ideally, Kerias Shema Sheal Hamitah is to be read near one’s bed, immediately prior to going to sleep.[12] Practically, however, if one will have much greater concentration if it will be said elsewhere in the home, or in the Beis Midrash, then one may say it there and then simply repeat Shema and Hamapil right before he goes to sleep.[13]

  1. The position-Standing, sitting or lying:

Shema: Shema may be recited while sitting, standing or lying on one’s side. One may not recite Kerias Shema while lying flat on his back or front.[14] This applies even if one tilts slightly onto his side, until he is resting completely on his side.[15] Some Poskim[16] rule that the above law only applies to a person who is currently fulfilling his obligation of the nighttime Shema with the bedtime Shema [such as one who Davened Maariv before nightfall]. If, however, one already fulfilled his obligation of the nighttime Shema [such as he Davened Maariv after nightfall, or a woman who is not obligated in the nighttime Shema], and is simply reading it for the sake of protection, then it is permitted to be read in any position that one desires. However, other Poskim[17] conclude that nevertheless, initially, one is to recite it in a sitting position, with great concentration. Practically, according to Kabbalah it is to be read in a standing position[18], and so is the custom of Chassidim.[19]

The position in which Ashamnu and Viduiy is to be recited: Tachanun and Viduiy are recited in a standing position, with the back slightly arched.

The position in which Hamapil is to be recited: The blessing of Hamapil which is said while lying in bed right before going to sleep.

  1. Making an interval [i.e. eating; drinking; talking] after saying Kerias Shema Sheal Hamita/Hamapil:[20]

One may not eat, drink, or speak after reciting Kerias Shema Sheal Hamita [even if he did not yet say the blessing of Hamapil, and certainly if it was already recited]. Rather, he is to go to sleep immediately after its recital. [It is disputed amongst the Poskim if the blessing of Hamapil is considered to have been said in vain if one speaks between Hamapil and falling asleep, and practically we are only lenient in a time of great need, as explained next.]

May one eat, drink or talk after Kerias Shema/Hamapil, in a time of need?[21] If one recited Kerias Shema but did not yet recite Hamapil, then it is permitted to speak or drink in a case of need. However, he is to repeat the paragraph of Shema afterwards.[22] If however, he already recited Hamapil, then it is subject to the above-mentioned dispute regarding if doing so is considered a blessing in vain. Practically, the final ruling follows the latter opinion, however one should only do so in a time of great need.

Based on the above, the following may be recited after Hamapil, if one forgot to say it beforehand:[23]

  • Sefiras Haomer.
  • Asher Yatzar after using the bathroom.
  • Kiddush Levana.
  • Blessing for thunder or lightning.

A silent Hefsek: Some Poskim[24] say that due to the need to avoid making an interval, one may not recite Kerias Shema [i.e. the blessing of Hamapil] until he feels himself drifting asleep. Other Poskim[25], however, rule that there is no need to wait until this point, and one is rather to read it immediately [upon resting in bed], lest one fall asleep prior to saying it. Practically, the final ruling follows the latter opinion.

If one fell asleep after saying Hamapil, and then woke up, may he eat or drink even initially? Some write that if one went to sleep with intent to sleep a set sleep, then even if he woke up after a few minutes, he may even initially eat or drink. Certainly, if one slept a set sleep [i.e. at least 30 minutes], he may even initially eat and drink upon awakening. Upon returning to sleep, he is to repeat the paragraph of Shema and Hamapil, without saying the concluding sentence, as stated above.

May one read a book, or learn Torah after reciting Kerias Shema/Hamapil? One may read a book, or learn Torah in his thought. One however is not to verbalize the words. If the words are verses of Torah that contain powers of protection, similar to the verses in Kerias Shema Sheal Hamita, then it may be recited.

  1. 5. Until what time may Hamapil be recited-Saying Hamapil after midnight:[26]

After midnight-before daybreak: It is permitted to recite the blessing of Hamapil after midnight, up until daybreak. However, some Poskim rule one may not recite the blessing after midnight. Practically, while the widespread custom is to say Hamapil with a blessing even after midnight, some are particular to say it without a blessing.

After daybreak-before sunrise: Once daybreak has arrived, one may no longer say the blessing, even if it is prior to sunrise. Nonetheless, one is to recite the paragraph without the concluding blessing. Once sunrise has arrived, the blessing is not to be recited at all.

If one is going to sleep prior to Alos, but is unsure if he will fall asleep before Alos, is Hamapil to be recited with a blessing? Some Poskim leave this matter in question, and hence Hamapil is to be recited without a blessing. Other Poskim, however, rule it is to be recited with a blessing.

In locations that have very few hours of nighttime, until when may Hamapil be recited? Some write that in countries where the time of Alos is when people normally go to sleep, then one may say the blessing even past Alos, until sunrise.

  1. The law if one woke up and plans on returning to sleep:[27]

Elokaiy Neshama: If one awoke in middle of the night, even past midnight and knows that he will be going back to sleep a set sleep for a second time, he should say the blessing of Elokaiy Neshama without the ending sentence of “Blessed are you Hashem…”. When he wakes up in the morning he repeats the blessing of Elokaiy Neshama with the ending sentence of “Blessed are you G-d…“. [If one said the entire blessing upon awakening the first time, then when he reawakens later he repeats the blessing without reciting the ending sentence of “Blessed are you G-d…”. If one will not return to sleep a set sleep but rather a mere nap he is to say the entire blessing after the first time, if it is past midnight[28].]

Reciting Hamapil prior to returning to sleep for the second time: Prior to returning to sleep for the second time one is to repeat the blessing of Hamapil without mentioning G-d’s name in the opening sentence [i.e. Baruch Hamapil Chevleiy] and without saying the closing sentence of “Blessed are you Hashem…”.

  1. What to do if one cannot fall asleep:

Repeating the Shema and other Pesukim:[29] One who cannot fall asleep is to repeat the paragraph of Veahavta [or the other verses of the bedtime Shema] even many times one after the other until one falls asleep. This may be said even while in a state of lying down in bed, until one falls asleep. [When reading the bedtime Shema it is permitted to read the Shema many times in a row, in order to fall asleep with the saying of Shema. However, one is to beware not to repeat the first verse twice and is only to repeat from Veahavta.]

Thinking words of Torah:[30] One who cannot fall asleep is to think words of Torah until they fall asleep.

Thinking the words of Ana Bekoach:[31] One who cannot fall asleep is to think the words of Ana Bekoach until they fall asleep.

The Rebbe’s advice for someone who suffers from chronic difficulty sleeping:[32]

  1. Check the Mezuzahs and Tefillin.[33]
  2. Check the Tallis Katan before going to sleep.[34]
  3. Sleep with a Kosher Mezuzah next to the bed, if necessary in a double covering.[35]
  4. Read the Sichas of the Rebbe Rayatz before going to sleep and picture his face.[36]
  5. Speak to a doctor and take pills if necessary.
  6. Don’t dwell on the issue and have trust in G-d that it will pass.

Advice from

  1. Calming music
  2. A word, phrase, mantra, breathing pattern, or mental image can all be used to draw your attention
  3. A series of slow, deep breaths through nose can enable a sense of calm.
  4. Get up, go to another part of your house, and do something soothing, such as reading or listening to quiet music.
  5. Disconnect from close-range electronic devices like laptops, phones, and tablets.

  1. Laws and customs related to sleeping:

Lying and Sleeping on one’s back/front:[37] It is a great prohibition for a man to sleep in a “Prakdan” position. This means that a man may not sleep lying on his back or lying on his front. Rather one is to sleep slightly towards the side.

Sleeping in one’s clothing versus pajamas: There is no Halachic obligation for one to wear pajamas at night, and hence he can choose to sleep with his clothing, even though this is not the normal way of the world [seemingly due to reasons of comfort]. Nonetheless, some Poskim write that one should abstain from sleeping with one’s clothing. Whatever the case, it is proper for one who slept in his clothing to change clothing upon awakening prior to saying the morning blessings in order so he can say the blessing of Malbish Arumim according to all opinions.

Sleeping with shoes: It is recorded in Sefarim that one should not sleep with his shoes on, and nor should he sleep with metal attached to him, such as a belt.

Sleeping with socks: In today’s times, it is permitted for one to remove his socks and sleep with uncovered feet. Furthermore, some are particular to always remove their socks and uncover their feet due to the belief that sleeping with socks can cause memory loss, or due to that sleeping with covered feet can cause nocturnal emission to a man. On the other hand, some are particular to sleep with socks or at least sleep with their feet always under the covers in order not to reveal the feet. Practically, one may choose as he sees fit, is from the letter of the law it is permitted for one to sleep with or without socks.

Sleeping with shoes under bed: There is no issue with sleeping with shoes under one’s bed, and on the contrary, so was traditionally done as evident from Shulchan Aruch and Rishonim.

May one sleep with his feet or head towards the door of the room? It is permitted to sleep facing the door of a room in any direction that one chooses, whether his head is facing the door or his feet are facing the door. Nonetheless, it is customary amongst many people to avoid sleeping with one’s feet vertically opposite the door due to it being similar to the direction that a corpse’s feet faces, as it faces the opening of the room.

Sleeping alone-The restriction against sleeping alone in a room or home:[38] It is forbidden for either a man, woman, or even child, to sleep alone in a room at night, unless a light is left on in the room, or light enters the room through the window. If there are other people in the home, then alternatively to having light enter the room, one can simply leave the door of the room unlocked.

How much sleep does a person need at night? The Rambam  writes that one is to sleep at night for one third of the day, which is a period of eight hours. In other Sefarim it states that one is required to sleep four hours. Practically the Poskim conclude that the amount of sleep one needs varies in each person, and each person is to sleep enough time that he have a clear and calm mind for learning Torah and serving Hashem. The Yaavetz  writes that a healthy person can sleep for six hours a night and this is dependent on one’s sleeping habits that he acquired. The older one becomes the less sleep he requires. 

Sleeping during daytime:[39] It is forbidden for one to sleep during the day for more than Shishim Neshimos [i.e. 60 breaths, 30 minutes or more]. Furthermore, one should not sleep during daytime for even less than this amount of time unless he is unable to learn Torah without this sleep. However, if one did not sleep well the night before, such as he stayed up at night learning Torah, or if his schedule or nature requires him to sleep during the daytime, then he may do so even for more than 30 minutes. So was the custom of Tzaddikim and Gedolei Yisrael.


[1] See Michaber 239; Brachos 60b; Ketzos Hashulchan 27:9; Seder Kerias Shema Al Hamita [Ginzberg]; Shulchan Menachem 1:144; Ishei Yisrael 35; Tefila Kehilchasa 20

[2] Ketzos Hashulchan 27:9

[3] See Shavuos 15b; Yerushalmi Brachos 5b-6a

[4] See Brachos 60b

[5] Toras Shalom p. 5-6; So is the accustomed saying amongst Chassidim, brought in Arugas Bosem 1:1 in name of Rav Meir of Parmishlan

[6] See Bracos 60b

[7] See M”B 239:1; Shaar Hakolel 36:4; Hagahos Tzemach on Peri Eitz Chaim Shaar Kerias Shema Al Hamita; Shaar Hakolel 36:4; Igros Kodesh 16:294; Shulchan Menachem 1:144

[8] Likkutei Torah Behaloscha last paragraph

[9] See Brachos 60b

[10] See Yerushalmi Brachos 6a

[11] Igros Kodesh Vol. 4:454; 492; 5:105; 220; Heichal Menachem 3:190; Minhag Chabad recorded in: Koveitz Minhagei Chabad Inyanei Hirayon p. 13; See Chosen Yeshuos 1:90 footnote 4; Shevach Habris 23

[12] See Michaber 239:1 “Korei Al Mitaso”; Ayin Beis p. 1001; Toras Shalom p. 7

[13] See Kefar Chabad Volume 754 p. 20

[14] Michaber 63:1; Rama 239:1 “See chapter 63 regarding if it may be said in a lying position”

[15] Admur 63:1

[16] M”A 239:5 based on Reb Zeira; M”B 239:6

[17] Chayeh Adam; P”M 239 A”A 5 question ruling of M”A ibid; M”B ibid; Kaf Hachaim 239:11

[18] Sefer Hakavanos Derush Halayla 5, brought in Beir Heiytiv 239:4; Mishnas Chassidim Miseches Hashechiva 2:1

[19] Rav Ginzberg in Seder Kerias Shema Sheal Hamita p. 6

[20] See Rama 239:1; Birchas Habayis 31:2; Kaf Hachaim 239:7; Ketzos Hashulchan 27:9; Piskeiy Teshuvos 239:3

[21] Ketzos Hashulchan 27:9

[22] Implication of Rama 239:1; Siddur Yaavetz; M”B 239:4

[23] Makor Chaim of Chavos Yair 239; Piskeiy Teshuvos 239:3

[24] Seder Hayom, brought in M”A 239:3; Birchas Habayis 31:2

[25] Kneses Hagedola 239, brought in M”A ibid; Chayeh Adam 35:4

[26] See Birkeiy Yosef 239; Kaf Hachaim 239:8; Piskeiy Teshuvos 239:2

[27]  Admur 6:8; Ketzos Hashulchan 5:5 footnote 10; 27:9

[28] Ketzos Hashulchan 5:5

[29] Admur 61:9; Michaber 61:10; Rama 239:1; M”A 61:8; Ketzos Hashulchan 27:9

[30] M”A 239:12

[31] Kaf Hachaim 239:2 and 12

[32] See Igros Kodesh 17:169; 18:358

[33] Igros Kodesh 17:245

[34] Igros Kodesh 18:358

[35] Igros Kodesh 4:159; 6:159

[36] Igros Kodesh 6:206

[37] Admur 63:1; Michaber Even Haezer 23:3; Kitzur SHU”A 71:5; M”B 239:6; Brachos 13b

[38] See Shabbos 151b; Admur Hilchos Shemiras Haguf Vihanefesh Halacha ; Kaf Hachaim O.C. 239:17; Y.D. 116:49; Piskeiy Teshuvos 239:10

[39] See Michaber 231:1; Rama 4:16; Encyclopedia Hilchatit Refuit Vol. 2 Erech Sheina p. 674 and 688

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