By Ariel Scheib
Prior to going to sleep, there is a small composition of bedtime prayers to recite. These prayers are believed to bring peace and comfort to one as they sleep. Scholars used to teach that during the night demons come searching for innocent souls; however, completing these prayers would protect the soul from such dangers. The bedtime prayers are structured around saying the Shema. The Shema is also often uttered before one passes away. Many Jews believe that reciting the Shema before they go to sleep will protect them, if unexpectedly they die while sleeping. Other prayers include Psalm 91 and Psalm 3. The final prayer recited is Adon Olam, requesting that God watch over one’s soul as they sleep.
The Sh'ma at Bedtime
(excerpts from the traditional ritual)
Who Closes My Eyes...: A Blessing at Bedtime
Praised are You,
Adonai, our God,
Ruler of the universe,
who closes my eyes in sleep,
my eyelids in slumber.
May it be Your will,
My God and the God of my ancestors,
to lie me down in peace
and then to raise me up in peace.
Let no disturbing thoughts upset me,
no evil dreams nor troubling fantasies.
May my bed be complete and whole
in Your sight.
Grant me light
so that I do not sleep the sleep of death,
for it is You who illumines and enlightens.
Praised are You,
whose majesty gives light to the universe.
The Sh'ma Itself
(Deuteronomy 6: 4-9)
(God is a Faithful Ruler)
Hear, O Israel, Adonai, our God, Adonai, is One.
Blessed be the name of his glorious majesty forever and ever.
You shall love Adonai your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and you shall speak of them when you are sitting at home and when you go on a journey, when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be frontlets between your eyes. You shall inscribe them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
Hashkivenu: "Lie Us Down..."
Lie us down,
Adonai our God,
and raise us up again,
Spread over us Your Sukkah of peace,
direct us with Your good counsel,
and save us for Your own Name's sake.
remove from us
every enemy, pestilence, sword, famine, and sorrow.
Remove all adversaries
from before us and from behind us,
and shelter us in the shadow of Your wings.
For You are our
guarding and saving God,
yes, a gracious and compassionate God and King.
Guard our going out
and our coming in
for life and peace,
now and always!
A Prayer for Protection at Night
In the name of Adonai
the God of Israel:
May the angel Michael be at my right,
and the angel Gabriel be at my left;
and in front of me the angel Uriel,
and behind me the angel Raphael...
and above my head
the Sh'khinah (Divine Presence).
Source: Eisenberg, Ronald L. The JPS Guide to Jewish Traditions. PA: Jewish Publication Society, 2004; “Prayer Kriat Sh’ma”.
- ► 2008 (11)
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