Sunday, October 28, 2012

Kel Melech Ne'eman


When should I recite "Kel melech neeman" before Shema?

We are taught that the male body is a system composed of 248 units ("eivarim") [the female body includes an additional four]. The three paragraphs of Shema, with the line "Baruch shem kvod malchuto l'olam va'ed", contain 245 words. By tradition, we add three words to Shema to draw a parallel between our declaration of spiritual faith and our human physique.

When reciting Shema in a minyan, one hears the chazan's repetition of "Hashem Elokeichem emet", and this completes the 248. One who is still reciting Shema at that time should pause in order to hear those three words from the chazan.

The Shulchan Aruch and Rama provide several options for an individual reciting Shema alone to reach 248 words. One option is to recite "Kel melech neeman" before Shema. Another is to repeat "Hashem Elokeichem emet" at the end, lest "Kel melech neeman" constitute an inappropriate interruption between Shema and its preceding berachah. A third option, for Shacharit, is to count the 15 "vavs" which begin the words following Shema as the equivalent of three added words; other options are presented for maariv.

There is significant debate regarding use of "Kel melech neeman" before reciting Shema on one's bed at night; one should follow his custom.

(Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 61:3; Magen Avraham 61:3; Mishneh Halachos 5:17; Piskei Teshuvos 61:3)

Have a great day,

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