Thursday, December 21, 2006

Asher Yatzar

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה' אֱלֹ_ֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם אֲשֶׁר יָצַר אֶת הָאָדָם בְּחָכְמָה וּבָרָא בוֹ נְקָבִים נְקָבִים חֲלוּלִים חֲלוּלִים. גָּלוּי וְיָדוּעַ לִפְנֵי כִסֵּא כְבוֹדֶךָ שֶׁאִם יִפָּתֵחַ אֶחָד מֵהֶם אוֹ יִסָּתֵם אֶחָד מֵהֶם אִי אֶפְשַׁר לְהִתְקַיֵּם וְלַעֲמוֹד לְפָנֶיךָ אֲפִילוּ שָׁעָה אֶחָת: בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה' רוֹפֵא כָל בָּשָׂר וּמַפְלִיא לַעֲשׂוֹת

Blessed are You, HaShem our God, King of the Universe, who formed humankind in wisdom by creating within each person many orifices and cavities. It is obvious and known before Your Throne of Glory that if one of them was ruptured or one of them was stopped up, it would be impossible to survive and to stand before you even one moment. Blessed are you, HaShem, the Healer of all Flesh and the Doer of Wonderous Things.

In the Talmud (Brachot 60b), Rashi asks what does this Doer of Wonderous Things refer to. He answers that the body is like a wine bag (or think of a balloon with water in it) -- it is hollow inside. Without liquid inside it, it could not stand or hold its shape. Even one hole within the wine bag would cause it to collapse. The body, however, is full of many holes, our mouths, our noses, our ears, etc., and yet it keeps its shape all the days of our life -- this is the wonderous thing that God does for us, and a sign of the great wisdom that God put into the design of our bodies.

The miracle of our bodies is obvious to me every day I work on the hospital. One of the most powerful things I have witnessed is when a person comes into our Emergency Room with a hole within his or her body -- perhaps from a gunshot wound -- and his or her literal lifeblood is pouring out onto the floor.

When I witness this, I feel deep in my heart that I am seeing a rupture in God's creation. God gave us the miracle that is bodies that are capable of holding our lifegiving fluids inside and that only take in and give out what is proper at the proper time. To shoot another person -- to cut an improper hole in them -- is a terrible sin not just against that person, but also against God as well. It creates a rupture in the miracle of all Creation.

This prayer, called Asher Yatzar, is a powerful reminder to us that Holiness is not something that is just found in beautiful Houses of Worship or a beautiful object or person -- it is found everywhere, even in the seeming simplest and most mundane of things. The traditional time for saying this prayer -- after relieving oneself in the bathroom -- could not be more mundane. Judaism -- as always -- goes even this far . There is no place God is not found and that God is not concerned about.

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