Psychologists who study dreams tell us that the last five conscious minutes of our day determine what we’ll be dreaming about at night. And we all know that how we slept at night determines a lot of how we perform the next day.
That’s one good reason to get into the “Bedtime Shema” routine. Find it in your prayer book (or here). Do it like this:
Don’t try to rush through this like you did rush-hour traffic. Pause. Let go of the maddening thoughts of the day. Empty your mind.
Let the highlights of your day flash through your mindLet the highlights of your day flash through your mind. Look for the sparks of beauty you came to this world to find. Discard the dross, the mess-ups. Next time, you’ll do it right.
You want those mess-ups to be forgotten. The best way to accomplish that is by forgetting the mess-ups of others that affected you. As Rava, the Talmudic sage, would say, “Those who ignore the impulse to get even, all their sins are ignored in the heavenly record.”
That’s why we preface the Bedtime Shema with a short paragraph composed by Rabbi Isaac Luria, declaring our forgiveness for all who may have slighted us.
Now you say the Shema Yisrael, declaring that behind all that happened today there is only One G‑d. Say it with intense mental focus and it cleanses the soul.
Ponder G‑d’s kindness that allows you to start each day anew. Say the vidui (confession) prayer that follows the Shema. Move your soul closer to Him and further from that which ties you down.
Finish with the Hamapil blessing, requesting a peaceful night, entrusting your soul into G‑d’s faithful hands, and praising Him for that which you witnessed today, that His glory illuminates the entire world. Once you’ve said that blessing, avoid food or drink until you’ve reawakened.
Having difficulty falling asleep? Try saying, thinking or visualizing the words of Shema.