Question: Is it obligatory to read the bedtime Keri’at Shema? Similarly, should the blessing of “Hamapil” printed in Siddurim be recited before Keri’at Shema including Hashem’s name?
Answer: The Gemara (Berachot 60b) states: “One who goes into bed to sleep recites the blessing ‘Hamapil Chevlei Shena Al Einai.’” The Tosafot and Mordechi write that all of the blessings quoted in the final chapter of Masechet Berachot must recited along with Hashem’s name and kingship (i.e. “Baruch Ata Hashem Elokeinu Melech Ha’Olam”) like any other blessing. Thus, the “Hamapil” blessing is included in this rule and it must be recited along with Hashem’s name. Many other great Rishonim rule likewise. The Poskim explain that this blessing is to be recited before going to sleep at night. However, one going to sleep during the day should not recite this blessing. The Poskim add that it is also customary to recite the bedtime Keri’at Shema immediately before going to sleep and one should not interrupt with any speech between reciting Keri’at Shema and going to sleep.
Hagaon Rabbeinu Yosef Haim of Baghdad in his Ben Ish Hai (Parashat Pekudei) writes that although one should recite the “Hamapil” blessing along with Hashem’s name and this is likewise correct according to the teachings of the saintly Ari z”l, nevertheless, there are those who customarily recite this blessing without Hashem’s name lest they be compelled to interrupt by speaking between the blessing and going to sleep, rendering the blessing a blessing in vain. Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l writes lengthily to rebuff his opinion and writes that even if one speaks, for whatever reason, between Keri’at Shema and going to sleep, the blessing is not considered in vain and one should not repeat it, for the essence of this blessing was not instituted based on one’s personal sleep; rather, it was instituted based on the humanity’s collective need to go to sleep in general. Thus, halachically speaking, one should certainly not forgo the “Hamapil” blessing because of the concern that one may interrupt with speech before going to sleep, for even if one speaks, one has still not recited a blessing in vain. Many other great contemporary Poskim concur. Indeed, Hagaon Harav Eliezer Yehuda Waldenberg zt”l (a close friend of Maran zt”l) writes in his Responsa Tzitz Eliezer (Volume 7, Chapter 27) that if one is asked something after having recited the bedtime Keri’at Shema, one may respond to the individual. Nevertheless, Maran zt”l writes that one should preferably not interrupt with any kind of speech between Keri’at Shema and sleeping at all.
One who goes to sleep at night after halachic midnight should recite the “Hamapil” blessing without Hashem’s name. In the following Halacha, we shall discuss this law further as well as the obligation of women regarding this blessing.