Halacha for Monday 28 Iyar 5781 May 10 2021

The Laws of the Bedtime Keri’at Shema Regarding Women and Following Halachic Midnight

In the previous Halacha, we have explained that one should recite the “Hamapil” blessing before reciting the bedtime Keri’at Shema. This blessing should be recited along with Hashem’s name like all other blessings. We have also explained that although one should preferably take care not to speak at all following the bedtime Keri’at Shema so as not to interrupt between reciting it and going to sleep, nevertheless, if one did in fact speak, one should not repeat this blessing and the blessing one has already recited is not a blessing in vain. The reason for this is because the essence of this blessing does not relate to the personal sleep of the individual reciting it; rather, it relates to the behavior and nature of mankind who go to sleep at night.

Based on the simple understanding of the matter, clearly, one should recite the “Hamapil” blessing along with Hashem’s name whether one goes to sleep at the beginning of the night or the end, for the entire night is considered a time that people sleep and as long as this is the case, one should still recite this blessing.

Hagaon Harav Yeshaya Bassan (one of the foremost sages of Italy and rabbi of the Ramchal, Rabbeinu Moshe Chaim Luzzato) writes in his Responsa Lachmei Todah (Chapter 21) that someone claimed that according to the Kabbalah, one should not recite the “Hamapil” blessing when going to sleep after halachic midnight; however, he writes that the truth is that one must recite this blessing at any time one goes to sleep at night. Nevertheless, several great Mekubalim write that this blessing should not be recited past halachic midnight; Hagaon Rabbeinu Yosef Haim of Baghdad rules likewise in his Responsa Rav Pe’alim (Sod Yesharim, Chapter 14). Indeed, the Chessed Le’Alafim writes that the custom of the Mekubalim of Jerusalem is not to recite the “Hamapil” blessing past halachic midnight. Other great Jerusalem luminaries write likewise. Thus, since the prevalent custom regarding this matter is not necessarily in line with the ruling of Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch in addition to several other disagreements which exist here and the fact that regarding blessings, we usually follow the rule “When in doubt regarding a blessing, do not bless,” Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l rules that when going to sleep past halachic midnight, one should recite the “Hamapil” blessing without Hashem’s name and merely thinking Hashem’s name in one’s mind will be sufficient out of concern for the opinion of the Mekubalim regarding this matter.

All of the above is based on what Maran zt”l has written in several of his works. Nevertheless, we should point out that the personal custom of Maran zt”l on this matter was to ignore the opinion of the Mekubalim and to follow the ruling of the Poskim and he would recite the “Hamapil” blessing along with Hashem’s name even when going to sleep after halachic midnight. Maran zt”l indeed instructed his son, Hagaon Harav David Yosef Shlit”a to write in his Sefer Halacha Berura that halachically speaking, in his opinion, the “Hamapil” blessing should be recited along with Hashem’s name even after halachic midnight.

Women are also obligated to recite the bedtime Keri’at Shema, for the bedtime Keri’at Shema serves as a protection and women likewise require such protection. Thus, although women are exempt from the daytime Keri’at Shema according to the letter of the law (although it is proper for them to recite Keri’at Shema every morning while omitting Hashem’s name from the blessings of Keri’at Shema), they are nevertheless obligated to recite the bedtime Keri’at Shema. They are likewise obligated to recite the “Hamapil” blessing, for this blessing is not considered a positive, time-bound Mitzvah (such as the Mitzvot of Shofar, Sukkah, Lulav, etc.). Rather, it is a blessing of praise to Hashem that, in essence, applies at all times; however, since people do not usually sleep at all times, this blessing is not recited during the day. In any event, women are obligated to recite this blessing before going to sleep.

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