Asher Yatzar - A bathroom blessing?
Asher Yatzar is a well known blessing that is part of Shacharit, the morning prayers. The blessing is also commonly recited after using the bathroom to thank God and to show appreciation for our healthy, functioning bodies. The act of reciting this blessing after performing our bodily functions is a meaningful way to maintain an ongoing awareness of the gift of good health.
The beauty of Jewish prayer is that it touches on topics that span the breadth from the most holy to the most mundane. Even the lowly act of using the bathroom is elevated into an opportunity to praise God for creating us with the ability to relieve ourselves and a chance to show our thanks to Him for our sound bodies.
Those of us who have visited a hospital at some point have seen all too well how vital it is that we not take our functioning bodies for granted. Should there be a problem with a part of our bodies not opening, closing, or working as it is supposed to, we can quickly find ourselves in an unbearable situation.
Asher Yatzar - the blessing and its origins
"Praised are you, Lord our God King of the universe, who with wisdom fashioned the human body, creating openings and organs. It is known before your exalted throne that should but one of them, by being blocked or opened, fail to function, it would be impossible to exist. Praised are you, Lord, Healer of all flesh who performs wonders."
The idea of reciting a blessing when leaving the bathroom can be traced back to a discussion in the Talmud regarding the exact wording and format of the blessing. What is not up for debate is the necessity of reciting such a blessing altogether. It is clear that we ought to praise God for taking such care in creating the intricate workings of the human body.
Medieval commenter Rashi explains that the body is wondrous in its ability to maintain its contents despite having pores and openings throughout. In other words, what needs to stay inside our body stays in, and what needs to stay out, stays out. The body is able to eliminate waste while retaining what it needs.
A state of constant appreciation
In faith, we often focus on our minds and our emotions, but when you stop to consider it, our bodies are truly astounding creations as well. Every one of our organs exhibits a miraculously detailed level of functional design.
Displaying the Asher Yatzar blessing in our home or outside of the bathroom ensures that we retain our wonder and appreciation for what is so easy to take for granted. Scanning and reciting these ancient words on a regular basis keeps their meaning in our consciousness.
The Asher Yatzar blessing is a simple show of thanks for something we do without giving it a second thought, but it is more than that if we choose to delve further. It is an invitation to reflect on our body’s seamless ability to function. As we grow to understand more about our wondrous human body, we realize just how much there is to be thankful for.