Friday, April 16, 2010

Sleep On It

Before going to bed, it is customary to recite Kriat Shema Al Hamitah, the bedtime Shema (which can be found here in Hebrew and here in English). Before reciting the primary blessing and subsequent prayers, there is a very meaningful, short paragraph in which we express our forgiveness of others and hope that God will forgive us for our transgressions:

"Master of the universe, I hereby forgive anyone who angered or antagonized me or who sinned against me - whether against my body, my property, my honor or against anything of mine; whether they did so accidentally, willfully, carelessly, or purposely; whether through speech, deed, thought, or notion; whether in this transmigration or another transmigration - I forgive every Jew. May no man be punished because of me. May it will be Your will, Hashem, my God and the God of my forefathers, that I may sin no more. Whatever sins I have done before You, may You blot out in Your abundant mercies, but not through suffering or bad illnesses. May the expressions of my mouth and the thoughts of my heart find favor before You, Hashem, my Rock and my Redeemer."

From a practical standpoint, this is a very important statement because we are making a conscious effort to let go of all the minor things others have done to us throughout the day. In order to get a good night's rest, it's crucial to be at peace with yourself and free from anger and stress. From a spiritual perspective, this paragraph is also extremely significant because we are acknowledging our connection to fellow Jews. Although there are times when we separate ourselves based upon petty differences, at the end of every day we reaffirm to God that we are ultimately all part of the Jewish people. And since we are all one family, we wish no ill upon a fellow member because it would also hurt us.

Getting in the habit of saying this short paragraph before going to bed can really improve our character. It helps develop unselfishness as well as a sincere concern for others. Just as we all hope that others will overlook anything wrong we may have done to them, we also try our best to overlook all the wrongs others may have done to us (as long as what occurred isn't truly evil). When we get in the habit of being more easy-going and less brazen, this will become a natural response. Whatever your personal case may be, I'll leave you with that famous Edward R. Murrow quote:

"Good night, and good luck."

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