I was just wondering what is the halachic status of kriat shema al hamitah (the shema before bed). I have studied Masechet Berachot a few times and never remember seeing it discussing in any of the gemarot, so my inclination is that it’s just a minhag.
That leads on to a second question that follows on from the first:
If you wake up at, say, 3am, and intend to go back to sleep, do you have to say hamapil again, the whole kriat shema al hamita text again, or would you simply say nothing and go back to sleep.
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The Gemara in Berachot does discuss the bedtime shema, and you’ll find the discussion on pages 4b-5a. The Gemara writes that it is a mitzvah to recite krias shema upon one’s bed, and this is ruled (as an obligatory halachah) in the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 239). The various pesukim that are added (as found in the siddur) are matters of custom, but some of them have their source in the Gemara, and one should recite them–at least those that are mentioned in the Shulchan Aruch (339:1).
If one wakes up during the night, there is no need to repeat krias shema before going back to sleep. The krias shema one recites upon going to sleep for the first time is for the entire night.
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what is the significance of the paragraph of ‘hinei mitasi’ in the bedtime shema? it seems out of context with the previous paragraphs…
Do you mean the paragraph of Hinei Mitaso She-li-Shlomo? This paragraph is said as a token of shemira, “guarding” from the ‘dangers’ of nighttime. The pasuk states that sixty guards surrounded the bed of Shlomo, and this is applied metaphorically and spiritually to our own sleep.
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