During the Shema we cover our eyes. The act implies that one is shielding their sight during the prayer.

If an individual happens to be blind, are they still required to do this as a symbolic action or is it canceled out since the blindness they suffer from is shielding their sight during the Shema?

Is there a difference if the individual is blind (still possesses eyes that don't function) vs an individual who has lost their actual eyes to either an accident or disease?

I only ask because if the gesture implies one is covering their eyes and the person doesn't actually possess eyes, would that somehow change how they say Shema?

2 Answers 2


Since the simple, traditional reason for covering the eyes is in order not to be distracted [while reciting the Shema (proclaiming God’s kingship)], as stated in SA O.C. 61:5, therefore if one cannot see, due to a visual impairment, and covering the eyes won’t enhance focus there would be no reason to do so.

  • 1
    If this is the only reason for covering one's eyes, then, I assume that if one who sees is not distracted even when his eyes are open, then does he need to cover his eyes? And vice versa, if a blind person is distracted anyway, shouldn't he too, cover his eyes? I.e., is there anything specific about covering the eyes?
    – DanF
    Commented Jul 14, 2019 at 2:44
  • 2
    @DanF Your’e assumptions are correct. Covering the eyes is not obligatory. The specific “anything”, from a traditional perspective, is the reason given in SA. Though closed eyes typically aid in concentration [specially when reciting a single short verse]. Same goes for someone who preferred to just close his eyes and not place his hand on his face.
    – Oliver
    Commented Jul 14, 2019 at 3:22
  • In a place where there are many loud noises, would it be appropriate or required to cover one's ears?
    – rosends
    Commented Jul 14, 2019 at 12:33

I found the following here from the Yalkut Yosef authored by Rabbi Yitzchak Yosef sefardi Chief Rabbi of Israel.

ד נוהגים ליתן יד ימין על העינים בקריאת פסוק שמע ישראל, כדי שלא יסתכל בדבר אחר שימנע ממנו לכוין. וגם איטר יד יניח יד ימין על עיניו בקריאת שמע. ואין צריך להסיר המשקפיים בעת שנותן ידיו על עיניו בקריאת שמע. וגם סומא בשני עיניו יניח יד ימינו על עיניו בשמע ישראל. וכן יעביר הציציות על עיניו במקום שנהגו לעשות כן. [ילקו''י, שם הערה ד', עמוד תקלו. שאר''י ח''ב עמוד קסח] .

The custom is to place one's right hand over the eyes when reading the possuk Shema Yisroel in order not to stare at something which will stop one from concentrating. A left-handed person should also put his right hand over his eyes. It is not necessary to take off one's glasses when putting the hand over the eyes. Also someone who is blind in both eyes should put his right hand over his eyes and pass the tzitzis over the eyes where that is the custom.

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