The Jewish bedtime prayer ‘Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, Who brings sleep to my eyes’ is a beautiful way to give thanks before going to sleep. This prayer recognizes God as the source of all blessings in life, including the gift of peaceful sleep.
If you’re short on time, here’s the essence of this article: This Jewish prayer gives thanks to God for the blessing of sleep. It’s recited daily by observant Jews and reminds them that all good things come from God.
In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the meaning behind the words of this prayer, its significance in Jewish tradition, the ritual of reciting it before bed, and how it can enrich your spiritual life.
The Literal Meaning of the Prayer’s Words
Blessed Are You, Lord Our God, King of the Universe
The first line of the bedtime prayer, “Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe,” is a statement praising and acknowledging God. It recognizes God’s sovereignty over all of creation. The prayer opens by blessing God and affirming faith in Him before making any requests.
This line aligns with similar phrases found throughout Jewish liturgy, reminding the person praying that God is eternal, all-powerful, and deserving of honor.
The word “blessed” here literally means praiseworthy. To say that God is “blessed” is to offer Him respect, adoration, and exaltation. The titles “Lord,” “God,” and “King” further establish God’s supreme authority.
He is Lord over all realms, the ultimate God above any false idols, and the King who reigns over the whole Universe. Praying this establishes the right mindset of humility before making petitions to the Almighty God who governs all things.
Who Brings Sleep to My Eyes
This line recognizes God’s role as the giver of the gift of sleep. The phrasing “Who brings sleep to my eyes” attributes the help in falling asleep solely to God’s action of bestowing sleep. This affirms God’s attentiveness in caring for even the smallest details of human lives, like ensuring proper rest.
It is an acknowledgement that sleep is not something humans can attain purely by their own doing, but is ultimately granted by God.
The specificity of sleep coming to the “eyes” has theological significance. In the Bible, closing one’s eyes is associated with death and eternal rest (Psalm 13:3). So this prayer uses “eyes” to tie physical sleep with the spiritual peace found in God.
Overall, reciting this phrase is a reminder of gratitude and dependence on God’s daily grace as one prepares for bed.
The Prayer’s Roots in Jewish Tradition
Part of a Bedtime Ritual
The Jewish bedtime prayer, known as the Shema Yisrael, has been part of the bedtime ritual for Jews for over 2,000 years. Reciting the Shema before sleep connects Jews to their faith and reminds them of God’s oneness and protection through the night (https://reformjudaism.org/practice/prayers-blessings/shema-bedtime-ritual).
The ritual typically begins by blessing one’s children before bed. Parents place their hands on their children’s heads and recite blessings asking God to help keep them safe through the night. After the parental blessing, children recite the first paragraph of the Shema, which affirms belief in one God, followed by wishing their parents goodnight.
Reciting the Shema not only grounds Jews in their monotheistic faith but also connects each generation to the ones before through a shared nightly ritual. Just as their parents and grandparents recited the prayer at bedtime, Jews continue the tradition with their own children.
Connections to Scripture and Talmud
The Shema prayer originates from a biblical verse in Deuteronomy 6:4 which states, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord is one.” This powerful, succinct statement of Jewish monotheism later became the opening line of the Shema.
In the Talmud, Rabbi Joshua ben Levi instructs people to recite the Shema twice a day, evening and morning. He refers to Deuteronomy 11:19 which commands Jews to teach the Shema to their children and discuss it “when you lie down and when you get up.” This formed the basis for making the Shema part of the bedtime ritual.
Today, in addition to the verses from Deuteronomy, the full Shema contains passages from Numbers and Exodus. By reciting the Shema last thing before going to sleep, Jews link back to the origins of their faith in the Torah and honor the age-old rabbinic instruction to make it part of their nightly routine.
Spiritual Significance for the Person Reciting It
Expression of Gratitude
The bedtime prayer provides an opportunity for the individual to express gratitude for the blessings received throughout the day. Reciting the prayer reminds us that all good things come from God, which fosters humility and appreciation.
Pausing to reflect on the day’s gifts—both big and small—cultivates an attitude of thankfulness. This practice can bring peace and contentment before sleep.
Recognition of God’s Providence
The prayer text affirms God’s providence in watching over us while we sleep. Reciting these words is a way of entrusting oneself to the protective care of God overnight. There is comfort in knowing that God never slumbers nor sleeps, but continually watches over His people (Psalm 121:4).
Turning our minds to divine protection can alleviate anxiety and fear, providing assurance that we can rest secure.
Petition for Protection Overnight
A key theme of the prayer is requesting God’s protection during the night. By praying these words aloud, the person is actively seeking refuge under the Almighty’s wings until morning (Psalm 63:7). This petition reminds us of our dependence on God’s defense against all dangers, whether seen or unseen.
Praying for angelic guardians to watch over us as we sleep invites heavenly hosts into our dwellings to guard us.
Opportunity for Contemplation Before Sleep
Reciting the bedtime prayer institutes a sacred time of reflection and mindfulness before retiring for the night. The familiar words prompt deep spiritual thoughts about God’s nearness, care, and faithfulness.
This meditation quiets the mind, body, and soul, tuning out anxious distractions and focusing wholly on the presence of God. Stilling oneself to commune with the Almighty fosters peace as we transition into sleep.
Enriching Your Life by Regularly Reciting this Prayer
Cultivating a Grateful Heart
Reciting the Jewish bedtime prayer, known as the “Modeh Ani” or “I give thanks”, first thing in the morning helps cultivate a grateful heart (Chabad). By thanking God for restoring your soul each morning, you start the day with an attitude of gratitude.
This act of appreciating the gift of a new day promotes positivity, resilience, and overall wellbeing according to research (Harvard Health).
Strengthening Your Awareness of God’s Presence
The bedtime prayer serves as a reminder of God’s constant presence in one’s life. Reciting it regularly makes you more conscious of God being by your side night and day. This strengthened spiritual connection brings comfort, peace, and support in coping with life’s challenges.
Studies show that people of faith who feel God’s presence tend to experience less anxiety, depression, and loneliness (NCBI).
Setting a Peaceful Tone for Restful Sleep
Saying the Jewish bedtime prayer establishes a calming ritual that eases the transition into sleep. The soothing words thanking God for protection dispel worries and quiet the mind before bed. This nightly practice signals the body to relax, making it easier to fall asleep.
Getting good, uninterrupted sleep is vital for processing emotions, consolidating memories, creativity, concentration, productivity, and overall wellness (Sleep Foundation).
Passing Tradition to Children
Teaching children to regularly recite the bedtime prayer passes on this meaningful tradition across generations. It instills Jewish identity and faith at a young age. Beyond the religious significance, it is an opportunity to foster gratitude, self-reflection, and resilience in children.
Research shows that practicing gratitude, prayer, and mindfulness bolsters kids’ overall wellbeing and happiness while reducing behavior issues (NCBI).
The Jewish bedtime prayer blessing God for bringing sleep offers much wisdom and comfort despite its brevity. Reciting its meaningful words of thanks each night can enrich your spiritual life by focusing your mind on the providence of God before a period of unconscious rest.
This beloved ritual has connected generations of Jews in a shared experience of gratitude. Even if you’re not Jewish or religious, pausing to consciously appreciate the blessing of sleep as you get into bed can be a peaceful, meditative practice.