There are 245 words in the shema. To get to the number 248 there are two minhagim that help achieve this. One is to quietly say keil melech neemon before the shema and the other is either to hear the chazan repeat Hashem elohechem emes or to repeat ani hashem elohechem emes.

the potential problem with the first option is being a hefsek (interruption) between the second bracha and shema since the phrase hashem melech ne'emon isn't part of the mitzvah of shema. The potential problem with the second option is that repeating words can also be a hefsek.

This being the case why is it so important to reach this specific number that we are willing to compromise having a potential interruption in our prayers at one of two places?

  • 1
    Sourcing the statements you make would strengthen this question.
    – mevaqesh
    Apr 21, 2017 at 6:49
  • 2
    Try googling "shema 248 words". It yields several relevant articles. It always preferable to do rudimentary research before asking a question
    – mevaqesh
    Apr 21, 2017 at 6:53

2 Answers 2


Chazal held that the human body had 248 bones/limbs. Therefore Shema which is the prayer of us accepting G-d's yoke should have 248 words signifying that we accept G-d's sovereignty over us with out entire body.

  • 1
    I have heard this is a reason and perhaps should have included in my question. what I still don't understand is why this outweighs the problem of potentially having a hefsek in davening one way or another. I would think kabalas oyl would include obeying all laws regarding tefilla and not breaking them just for an additional kavana
    – Laser123
    Apr 21, 2017 at 6:58
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    @Laser123 Obviously anyone practicing this is of the opinion that there is no violation of halakha.
    – mevaqesh
    Apr 21, 2017 at 7:14
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    thats why there are people who do not say kel melech neemon and say hashem elokeichem emet at the end as if they were the chazan when they daven to themselves Apr 21, 2017 at 7:31
  • @YosefMordechaiColeman that only addresses part of the question
    – Laser123
    Apr 21, 2017 at 22:30
  • 1
    it gives a reason but not why that reason is important enough to leave a question whether one is making a hefsek or not
    – Laser123
    Apr 23, 2017 at 1:05

This is a partial answer, I hope to add poskim.

It is a way to remember an agreement concluded between Jews and Hashem, this provides us a protection.

I remember a Midrash quoted in Meiri.

  1. Quote from the Meiri, in his Responsum number 1 in Magen Avot:

    והוא בילמדנו פורשת קדושים ובפרשת ואתחנן אל תהא קריאת שמע קלה בעיניך שרמ"ח תיבות יש בה ורמ"ח איברים יש באדם, אמר הקדוש ברוך הוא שמור את שלי ואשמור את שלך, ואין רמ"ח תיבות בקריאת שמע אלא בצירוף אל מלך נאמן וברוך שם כבוד מלכותו

    the midrash says on two places, that Kriat Shema is important because the number of words is equal to the number of members in human body... this count includes Kel Melech Neeman.

    אלא שאף הם חזרו ואמרו שכבר הקשו תלמידים צרפתים מזו לרבם ושהשיבם שבאותם דורות לא היו הציבור מברכים הברכות מפני שעמי הארץ היו אלא ש"ץ אומרם והן אומרים אמן וקורין את שמע שהיא עיקר המצוה יהיו רמ"ח תיבות עם אותו אמן שהוא במקום אל מלך נאמן או שהיו מחליפים אותו בעל מלך נאמן

    The students of Ramban said that this midrash address the situation of ame haarets who did say amen after the blessing of the officiant, equivalent to the 3 words Kel Melech Neeman, or they did say exactly Kel Melech Neeman.


    ואם כן רמ"ח איברים של עמי הארץ משומרים חברים מן המזיקים והחכמים והבקיאים אין איבריהם נשמרים התמנו תמהו יציבא בארעא וגיורא בשמי שמיא על כיוצא בזה אמרו השמע לאזניך

    So, according to the understanding of students of Ramban, the 248 members of ame haarets are protected and not the members of people who know to pray alone, this is a paradoxe!

  2. This stuff of the responsum of the Meiri quotes a Midrash Ylmedenu which demonstrates the importance of kriat shema through th number of words in KS, 248, which is equal to the number of members of the human body. The Meiri explain that to reach this count we needs to include the words Kel Melec Neeman and the words Baruch Shem Kevod Malchuto leolam vaed.

In the footnotes, we see that the same Midrash may be found in Midrash Tanchuma below quoted.

Midrash Tanchuma Parashat Kedoshim paragraph 6

אָמַר רַבִּי מַנִּי, לֹא תְּהֵא קְרִיאַת שְׁמַע קַלָּה בְּעֵינֶיךָ, מִפְּנֵי שֶׁיֵּשׁ בָּהּ מָאתַיִם וְאַרְבָּעִים וּשְׁמוֹנֶה תֵּבוֹת כְּמִנְיַן אֵיבָרִים שֶׁבָּאָדָם, וּמֵהֶן בָּרוּךְ שֵׁם. אָמַר הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא, אִם שָׁמַרְתָּ אֶת שֶׁלִּי לִקְרוֹת קְרִיאַת שְׁמַע כְּתִקְּנָהּ, אֲנִי אֶשְׁמֹר אֶת שֶׁלְּךָ.

G-d said if you take care for my things, I will take care for your (body)

לְכָךְ דָּוִד מְקַלֵּס, שָׁמְרֵנִי כְּאִישׁוֹן בַּת עַיִן (תהלים יז, ח). אָמַר לוֹ הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא, שְׁמֹר מִצְוֹתַי וֶחְיֵה (משלי ד, ד). אָמַר רַבִּי שִׁמְעוֹן בַּר חֲלַפְתָּא, מָשָׁל לְמָה הַדָּבָר דּוֹמֶה. לָאָדָם שֶׁהוּא בַּגָּלִיל וְיֵשׁ לוֹ כֶּרֶם בִּיהוּדָה, וְאָדָם אַחֵר שֶׁהוּא בִּיהוּדָה וְיֵשׁ לוֹ כֶּרֶם בַּגָּלִיל. אוֹתוֹ שֶׁבַּגָּלִיל הוֹלֵךְ לִיהוּדָה לַעֲדֹר אֶת כַּרְמוֹ, וְזֶה שֶׁבִּיהוּדָה הוֹלֵךְ לַגָּלִיל לַעֲדֹר אֶת כַּרְמוֹ.

עָמְדוּ זֶה עִם זֶה. אָמַר זֶה לָזֶה, עַד שֶׁאַתָּה בָא לִמְקוֹמִי, שְׁמֹר אֶת שֶׁלִּי בִּתְחוּמְךָ וַאֲנִי אֶשְׁמֹר אֶת שֶׁלְּךָ בִּתְחוּמִי.

Take care for my property in your territory and I take care for your property in my territory

כָּךְ אָמַר דָּוִד, שָׁמְרֵנִי כְּאִישׁוֹן בַּת עַיִן (תהלים יז, ח). אָמַר לוֹ הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא, שְׁמֹר מִצְוֹתַי וֶחְיֵה (משלי ד, ד). וְכָךְ אָמַר הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא לְיִשְׂרָאֵל, שִׁמְרוּ מִצְוַת קְרִיאַת שְׁמַע עַרְבִית וְשַׁחֲרִית וַאֲנִי מְשַׁמֵּר אֶתְכֶם, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: ה' יִשְׁמָרְךָ מִכָּל רָע יִשְׁמֹר אֶת נַפְשֶׁךָ (תהלים קכא, ח). ‏

(note: in Bet Yosef there is an other Midrash, Midrash Hanneelam)

The shut of the Meiri argues against the opinion of the Ramban who argues that kel melech neeman is an hefsek between bracha and KS, and that it is a wrong amen after owns bracha. The Meiri defends the minhag (of his faters, "Magen Avot"). He try to give proofs that this is not hefsek, that this kind of amen after owns bracha (if we let say that Kel melech neeman is a form of amen) is from the kind that chachamim did praise (as for bone Yerushalaym of birkat hamazon). He says also that this is from a category of minhagim that came from midrashim, not from Talmud, and there is not an obligation to follow it. He cites several midrashim in nusach of the birkat hashkivenu, which are not followed by the majority (as to bless hapors sucat shalom alenu in yom chol or vihi noam in motsae Yom Tov.

For Kel Melech Neeman, he says that this minhag is followen in Provence, France and Germany.

Halacha lemaase (but lo lemaase).

See SA OC 61, 3:

The SA says that the KS (including BSKMLV) counts 345 words, and the ה' אלוקיכם אמת repeated aloud by the officiant adds the 3 words for 348.

The RM Issarles says that there is no prohibition to repeat hashem ..emet with the officiant. When a person pray alone, he can count the 15 letters "vav" after emet, their gematria is 90 as 3 names "havaya" according to a special numerical combination, so 348 words are counted.

In conclusion, The RM Issareles, rules that a person praying alone can say Kel Melech Neeman, but not in tsibur (the minhag of the Meiri was to say it anyway)

He gives an other patent in tsibbur which is good for a person who reads slower than the shats, without amen after owns beracha, without purposeles interruption between bracha and shema. To say amen after the Beracha of the shats, amen is the equivalent of the 3 words Kel Melech Neeman (see SA 59, 4 who prohibits this lechaora and see Beur Halacha there).

  • 2
    Would you mind translating the Hebrew sources you quote, or at least summarize them?
    – DonielF
    Apr 21, 2017 at 15:40
  • @DonielF see edit
    – kouty
    Apr 23, 2017 at 6:19

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