Jewish Law of the Day

May 2nd, 2018

The Beracha of Asher Yatzar after Using the Bathroom

The Rabbi Jacob S. Kassin Memorial Halacha Series
Authored by Rabbi Eli J. Mansour (5/2/2018)

 

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by Isaac Moses

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Description: The Beracha of Asher Yatzar after Using the Bathroom

The Shulhan Aruch, in Siman 6, delineates the Halachot of “Asher Yatzar”-the Beracha recited after using the facilities. The Shulhan Aruch, which as a rule is a code of law, makes a rare exception and not only presents the Halachot of the Beracha, but also offers interpretations of its text as well. This indicates that the Beracha is of supreme importance, and Maran wanted to insure that the reader would also recite it with proper Kavana. 

Maran offers three interpretations of the first phrase of the Beracha: “Asher Yatzar Et Ha’Adam B’Hochma-Who created humans with wisdom.” 

First, “B’Hochma-With Wisdom” connotes that Hashem made the human body in a wondrous way, which he explains with the analogy of a balloon, which only holds the air inside if it remains whole. If punctured, the balloon loses its air. Yet the human body contains air in the lungs, despite the many holes in the body. This is the magical wisdom and the wonder of Hashem’s creation, which we see every day, but rarely pay attention to. 

The second interpretation is that “wisdom” refers to wise sequence in which Hashem created man. First he created the world, with the vegetation and animal to serve as a food chain for humans, and only once the “table was set” did he create man, at the end of the sixth day. 

The third interpretation of the Shulhan Aruch is that the wisdom in the creation of man refers to the amazing human biology. From the respiratory system to the neurological system to the digestive system-they are all so intricate and detailed. Professors of biology can devote their entire lives just to studying one specific system. One doctor of pediatric neurology once said that he had studied the brain for over fifty years, and science has only barely scratched the surface of the unknown potential of the brain. This is the praise of the Asher Yatzar. 

There is additional interpretation brought by Rabbi Mordechai HaCohen of Tsfat, one of the Arizal’s disciples. One of the greatest spiritual and moral challenges of the human being is overcoming his ego. When untamed, the ego leads to arrogance and promotes the Yesser HaRah. On the other hand, humility leads to the greatest accomplishments, for example, Moshe Rabbenu, was the humblest of all men. Moshe said about himself, “Va’Anachnu Mah? -What are we worth, when compared to God?” The Beracha of “Asher Yatzar” enables one to humble himself, because it forces him to contemplate his lowly nature as demonstrated by the fact that he can’t go more than a few hours without having to relieve himself. When considering that he has all these wastes in his body that must be expelled, how arrogant can he become, knowing his limitations? Thus, the Hochmah-wisdom is to be humble, as conveyed by the word “Hochmah” whose letters can be rearranged to spell “Koach Mah”-meaning, “What power do I have?” just as Moshe said “Va’Anachnu Mah”- “what are worth?”