The basic answer: While saying this important prayer, we are not to be distracted by anything around us. Closing our eyes enhances our concentration. (Code of Jewish Law, Orach Chaim 61:5)

The Talmud (Berachot 13b) traces this practice to the great Rabbi Judah the Prince. He would often interrupt his Torah lectures for Shema, and his students would observe him passing his hand over his eyes at the moment that he said the verse.

The deeper answer: The meaning of the Shema goes way beyond the belief in only one G‑d. Hashem Echad declares that there is no existence outside of G‑d.

Our world, and everything inside it, is created from G‑d’s speech at every given moment. (To learn more about that, please read Juice andWhat is G‑d?) For a few moments every morning, we close our eyes and live this reality. Our breakfast, our shirt, our job . . . behind all the packaging, it’s all essentially G‑dliness.

We then open our eyes and see a very different-looking place in front of us.

But we can make it past this. For we have been reminded.

And this reality remains with us until evening, when it will be time for our next charge, the nighttime Shema.

Let me know if this helps.