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Do as I Do

Tuesday, 11 May 2010


I read your article on the Sh’ma and I am writing you to tell you a story concerning your father.

I was a young boy and I heard him explain to someone about why he said the Sh’ma every night before he went to bed.

I didn’t hear any part of the story except…

“…and that’s why I say the Sh’ma every night before I go to bed.”

Well, after hearing him say that I started to say it every night before I go to bed. I also say it in the morning.

It just seems like the right thing to do.


It so happens that it is the right thing to do. It certainly is the Jewish thing to do.

Rabbis, by nature, like to teach. And we love to explain. And elucidate. How easy it is to forget that sometimes we teach much more by our actions than by our words.

How many conversations we have with people over the years, never really knowing if we’ve made an impact. So I forwarded this letter to BossGiraffe. I was a bit curious what the explanation was that this young man had not heard. A one verse reply was all that was needed.

When you lie down and when you rise up.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Tuesday, 11 May 2010 11:13 pm

    By the end of first grade in the American public schools, a child has recited the Pledge of Allegiance more than 350 times. That does not, however, mean that this child understands the meaning of this pledge. That takes directed study led by a teacher who knows both the child and the material.
    I would assume that is no different for a Jewish child , or even an adult, reciting the Sh’ma. Any one can say the syllables. It takes concentration and directed teaching to make meaning of them.
    Thank you for continuing that process.

    • Frume Sarah permalink*
      Tuesday, 25 May 2010 9:38 pm

      I’m not certain that it is either/or. My kids knew the syllables before they had true comprehension. As they got older, we introduced the concepts in age-appropriate ways. Even syllables can be said with concentration. The amazing part is watching them realize the connection between the words on the page, the sounds in their mouths, and the meaning in their hearts.

  2. Melissa_O permalink
    Wednesday, 12 May 2010 1:03 pm

    My almost 3 year old daughter loves the Shema. She begs for “Adonai” or “Shema Yisrael” every night. She understands the words and can recite them. I explain to her that we say it before we go to sleep and when we wake up. And she always says it before she goes to bed. Someday she’ll say it when she wakes up…who knows, she might.

    It is a special time, sharing those words with her. I converted, and I grew up in a non-religious home, so I never was exposed to bedtime prayer. I hope the words make her feel safe.

    • Frume Sarah permalink*
      Tuesday, 25 May 2010 9:42 pm

      I am sure that they do. Part of it is just in the routine that you have created for her.

      It’s never too late for you to include bedtime prayer in your end-of-day ritual. In addition to the comfort and peace it will bring you, it will teach your daughter that the Bedtime Sh’ma is a life-time ritual and not just part of childhood.

      • Melissa permalink
        Sunday, 30 May 2010 8:52 pm

        I do say it before I go to sleep. I fully believe in being a role model for her 🙂


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