Often I find I need some time at the end of the day to reflect on the day, calm my mind, and get ready to sleep. I am not the kind of person who falls asleep the instant my head hits the pillow. I find having a bedtime ritual helps bringing the day to a close.
My ritual involves saying the Shema at bedtime each night. I typically recite it after I have turned off the light and gotten in to bed. I take a deep breath, center myself, focus on the words I am saying.
In Hebrew the words are: Shema Yisrael Adonai Elohainu Adonai Echad
The meaning of these words can be translated in a variety of ways:
Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God, The Lord is One.
Listen Israel, The one God is your God.
I am your one God. I listen to you.
I hear you Israel. I am your one God.
Understanding the exact meaning of the words is not necessary. The words can be used as a chant or mantra, the very cadence of the words themselves can give comfort. After I say the Shema, I think back on my day. I thank God for the things that went well, and ask for help on the things I am struggling with.
Sometime I use this quite time to journal or I just sit in silence meditating on the ideas in the prayer: God, oneness, listening.
This ritual has become so important to me that I do it with my daughter at bedtime as well. We say the Shema together and then I ask her to think of something that happened that day that she wants to thank God for. There are evenings when she relates wonderful stories about her day, and sometimes she is silly. But either way it is a special moment in the day that we share together. If I am rushing to get her to sleep and forget to prompt her, she always remembers, “Mommy, we need to say Shema.”
This ritual of calming one’s self before sleep and feeling grateful for the good things in our lives, brings nice closure to the day.