Ask The Rabbi

Can You Stand It?

Become a Supporter Library Library
Topic: Shma, Why do we Sit

Mel Etra wrote:

Dear Rabbi,

Why is it customary (or is it?) to remain seated while reciting Sh'ma in the morning and the evening? It would seem that during such an important and central prayer, we should show the utmost respect and attention by standing.

Dear Mel Etra,

As King Solomon said: "Don't be too righteous." It's perfectly OK to sit during the morning Sh'ma. In fact, it's preferable.

The Shulchan Aruch says that being strict by standing for the morning Sh'ma is wrong. It's like taking the words "when you get up" literally. The verse "You shall speak them [the words of Sh'ma] ... when you lie down and when you get up" means that Sh'ma be said morning and evening. It does not mean you should stand up or lie down to say it.

Accordingly, at night one who is standing shouldn't try to be strict by sitting/lying down.

Before I was married, someone invited my friend and me for the Friday night meal. After the meal he reminded us to repeat the Sh'ma, suggesting we do so right away. (In many communities, the evening service is held before nightfall, requiring that you repeat Sh'ma after dark.) He and my friend were already sitting. I began moving toward a chair.

"Don't sit down," said our host.
"Can I?" I asked.
"No," he said.
"Can I sit down?" I asked again.
He looked at me with disbelief. "No!"
"I repeated the Sh'ma already," I said, trying not to smile. "I just want to sit down!"

  • Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 63:2
  • Ibid. Mishna Berura 7
  • Aruch Hashulchan 63:3

Enter Search Phrase:    
Browse By Keyword: a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

Ohr Somayach International is a 501c3 not-for-profit corporation (letter on file) EIN 13-3503155 and your donation is tax deductable.