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Shabbat Parashat Yitro 5773

Ask the Rabbi: Hamapil for Those Who Take a Long Time to Fall Asleep

by Rav Daniel Mann

Question: I recently discontinued the practice of saying Hamapil because I don’t fall asleep quickly, and I find that I sometimes end up talking. Besides Rav Moshe Shternbach’s opinion not to recite Hamapil, am I justified?


Answer: Reciting the beracha of Hamapil is mandated by the gemara (Berachot 60b) and codified as halacha (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 239:1). We say it in conjunction with Kriat Shema prior to going to bed, which is also an obligation, and other p’sukim and texts that relate to our desire for divine protection while sleeping. There are different opinions as to the order of recitation, but the prevalent one is to say Kriat Shema, then Hamapil, and then the other p’sukim (see Mishna Berura 239:2). Hamapil’s main content is to thank Hashem for the benefits of sleep and request a pleasant sleep without fright or improper thoughts.

Your reference to Rav Shternbach is apparently a mistake. He just conjectures (in Teshuvot V’hanhagot II:131) why many individuals and some prominent groups do not say Hamapil (we will mention one of his ideas). In the final analysis, he says that the problems that may arise are overshadowed by the need to follow the gemara.

Let us see the extent of the problem to speak between Hamapil and falling asleep, which will help determine whether you made the right choice. The gemara says that one makes the beracha as he prepares to lie down in bed to sleep. The Rama (OC 239:1) says that one should not eat, drink, or talk between Kriat Shema and actually sleeping. Most assume that this applies as much or more to interruptions between Hamapil and sleeping.

A break could be particularly problematic after Hamapil for two reasons. First, if one made a break after Kriat Shema, he can repeat Kriat Shema upon returning to bed, whereas one cannot recite Hamapil, which is a beracha, at will (Mishna Berura 239:4). Furthermore, there is a fundamental question as to Hamapil’s function. The Chayei Adam (35:4) says that the beracha is a general thanks to Hashem for providing sleep, and it is appropriate to recite it at night, when people generally go to sleep. He says that the beracha was appropriate even if one did not end up falling asleep, because other people did sleep. This is similar to the idea of reciting Birkot Hashachar for things from which people benefit in the morning, even for one who did not benefit that day (Shulchan Aruch, OC 46:8). On the other hand, many cite the Seder Hayom, who says that Hamapil should be said very close to the time one falls asleep, as the beracha relates to one’s personal sleep. The Biur Halacha (239:1) strengthens this opinion by pointing out that Hamapil was composed in the first person, implying it refers to the sleep of the one reciting the beracha (see Shaarei Teshuva 46:12). Rav Shternbach (ibid.) understood that those who do not recite it reason that it must be said close to falling asleep and it is hard to determine when that will be.

The Biur Halacha is uncomfortable deciding between these two approaches and recommends not reciting Hamapil if one is not confident he will fall asleep. The Biur Halacha does not uproot the obligation out of concern that one will unexpectedly not fall sleep.

We will take a similar approach for you. If you have specific reason to believe you will be unable to refrain from speaking before falling asleep, then it may be safer to not make the beracha (even though we prefer the opinion that your intention at the time of the beracha is the critical factor- see Yechaveh Da’at IV:21). If you recite Hamapil and a long time passes before you fall asleep, it is unclear how great the need has to be to be allowed to speak or eat (see Ishei Yisrael 35:9 and Piskei Teshuvot 239:3). We believe that one can be lenient on the matter (see Tzitz Eliezer VII:27). However, if you want to avoid the situation of doubt of whether you can eat or talk for an extended period of time, you can wait until you are getting closer to falling asleep to recite Hamapil. If you fall asleep before reciting it, you are not to be blamed.


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