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Peninei Halakha > Prayer > 15 - Keriat Shema > 10 – The Manner in which to Recite Shema

10 – The Manner in which to Recite Shema

It is permissible to recite Shema while standing, sitting, or lying down on one’s side. Indeed, according to Beit Shamai, one must recite the Shema of the evening while lying down, and the Shema of the morning while standing, as it says, “When you lie down and when you rise up.” Yet, the halachah follows Beit Hillel who interpreted the verse to mean the times that one is required to recite Shema – when people lie down (to go to sleep in the evening) and rise (wake up in the morning). According to Beit Hillel, whether the person stands, sits, or lies down is optional (Berachot 10a; Shulchan Aruch 63:1).

We can learn from this halachah that faith is not something detached from this world, something that can only be achieved under specific circumstances. Rather, the faith expressed in saying Shema encompasses all of a person’s life in this world, and therefore it is possible to recite Shema in any position.

In principle, it is permissible to recite Shema even while walking, as it says, “When you are walking on your way.” However, the Chachamim maintain that it is not proper for a person to accept upon himself the yoke of Heaven casually. Therefore, one who is walking should stand still when he recites the first verse of Shema (Shulchan Aruch 63:3; Mishnah Berurah 9). It is also forbidden to say Shema while lying on one’s stomach or back, since this is not a respectful recital (Shulchan Aruch 63:1; and see Shulchan Aruch, Even HaEzer 23:3).[8]

Because of the importance of the first paragraph, in which we accept upon ourselves the yoke of Heaven, a person must be careful while saying it not to occupy himself with anything else, and not signal with his eyes, fingers, or lips (Shulchan Aruch 63:6).

[8]. According to the ShulchanAruch 63:1, based on the majority of Rishonim, one may l’chatchilah recite Shema while lying on his side. However, according to Talmidei Rabbeinu Yonah, only when a person has already gotten undressed, lies down, and it is difficult for him to sit up, is he permitted to recite Shema on his side, yet, l’chatchilah, Shema should not be recited while lying on one’s side. The Rama rules like them. Regarding the recital of the bedtime Shema, which is not a biblical obligation, it is the opinion of the MagenAvraham that one need not be strict about this. Also see MishnahBerurah 239:6.

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The Laws of Pesach - Joshua Wertheimer
The Laws of Zemanim - Moshe Lichtman

Editor: Nechama Unterman