Dear B’nai Shalom members, friends, and families:
As we experience a myriad of varied extremes of emotions and feelings on the different days of celebration, commemoration, and sadness we find at this time of year on the Jewish calendar, we learn that the underlying, fundamental lesson for us throughout all of these days is that of devotion, faithfulness, and commitment to Hashem and his Torah and its commandments.
The logical key to improving ourselves and working hard to be better people and better Jews is to take one small piece of Torah living, learn about that part of the life of a Jew, and determining how to include that component of Torah life into our own lives.
One such mitzvah is the recitation of the bracha: “Asher Yatzar,” the blessing recited by all when leaving the washroom after relieving ourselves in either of the two ways.
This is a blessing whose meaning and importance may be overlooked by many, especially those of younger ages. But when many of us reach midlife and find that we no longer take for granted the wondrous, miraculous, precise and intricate bodily systems that permit us to live full, healthy, normal lives, we may feel far more motivated to call out to Hashem with thanks and gratitude for a body that works and functions in the manner in which the all-knowing, compassionate Ruler of the Universe — Creator of all and of everything — intended for our bodies to serve us well.
The blessing refers to the many internal orifices that are part of the complex system of organs, valves, veins, arteries, muscles, nerves, and other parts of our anatomy which need to work in precise harmony and collaboration in order to result in our being able to rid our bodies of built up toxic wastes. As with many experiences of human life in which we do not appreciate a gift until that gift is no longer, we may not begin to acknowledge or appreciate the divine blessing of such internal workings until, and unless we have experienced challenges with any part of this elaborate, sophisticated system.
The actual reciting of this blessing can be accomplished in twenty to thirty seconds. Its inclusion as part of our daily regimen and regular line-up of blessings is not only a conspicuous demonstration of our appreciation for an integral part of our healthy living but an ongoing, recognizable display of our unfailing, never-ending love of, and appreciation for Almighty G-d and the Lord’s marvelous wonders in the most personal, intimate way.
It is not unusual for families and for synagogues to post a clear, legible chart or card with the blessing posted on it just outside the washroom as a reminder to each user to take the extra half minute to express one’s heartfelt gratitude for the divine, genius blessing of such a miracle allowing us to live and thrive.
In our own B’nai Shalom, when one comes out of either of the washrooms, men’s or women’s, immediately facing us on the bulletin board right in front of us is just such a card with the printed blessing on it.
Without meaning to tell people what to do or how to run their lives, as a teacher and advocate for Jewish living, I nonetheless strongly encourage everyone to take advantage of the opportunity to easily, effortlessly perform this mitzvah of great appreciation at each appropriate time. This is one mitzvah that can be incorporated into one’s life in such a way that its inclusion can soon become regular and automatic, with the act of showing appreciation for our remarkable bodies with astounding, working systems continually acknowledged.
With Torah blessings,
Rabbi Dr. Yaacov Dvorin