Title: Asher Yatzar
Rabbi Moshe Dovid Lebovits
Israel Bookshop Publications
Rabbi Moshe Dovid Lebovits, author of the Halachically Speaking series of books for everyday living, is back with a short and equally accessibly title: Asher Yatzar: the prayer one says after using the facilities. It is easy to say but easy to forget. Yet, we need to appreciate our digestive health. Rabbi Lebovits’ new book reveals the halachos involved in this prayer, along with stories and insights in how to say it with more meaning and concentration. Rabbi Lebovits has partnered with Asher to the Yatzar to bring this volume to life and to instill new meaning into this prayer we say multiple times per day. Asher to the Yatzar’s founder, Yossi Hecht provides an introduction to the book. Hecht, who was left paralyzed after a tumor was found in his spine in 2019, started the organization to raise awareness of the wonders of the human body. We all have what to be thankful to Hashem for. We should use the health we have to serve Hashem.
The Chafetz Chaim would recite Asher Yatzar from a siddur with great devotion. Reb Chaim Kanievsky concurred with the hanging of Asher Yatzar posters next to bathrooms, positing that it was not like an open sefer. Rabbi Lebovits’ own rebbi, Rav Yisroel Belsky, zt”l, appreciated the bracha of Asher Yatzar all the more so when his intestines ruptured, a tekufah from which he made a full recovery.
The Asher Yatzar book discussed the kavanos we should have while eating: food should serve as a function with which we should have the energy to serve Hashem. We should but be a slave to indulgences. Rabbi Lebovits discusses the various facets of the human body: if one of these were to stop working “afilu sha’ah achas,” even for a short amount of time, a person would be in grave danger, rachmana latzlan. This book shares with us the insights Chazal, who instructed us to say the Asher Yatzar prayer, had into digestive health. We are taught the various halachos of this prayer as well. For example, when it must be said, who must say it and how.
Do we really stop to think what would happen if we went for an extended period of time without the “need” to say this great prayer? We would not be able to survive, let alone function. As Rabbi Avigdor Miller has noted, Hashem could have made the need for fuel as mundane as filling up our cars with gas; yet He made eating an enjoyable experience. Our goal should then be to thank Him for it. When we relieve ourselves, we are expelling the waste our body has to get rid of. It is for this reason that we recite the line, Rofei Chol Basar: if even a small amount of waste remained in one’s stomach, he would die, G-d forbid. The ability to go to the bathroom is nothing to laugh at or shy away from. This bracha cannot be overlooked nor can we take going to the bathroom for granted.
Rav Shalom Arush has noted that we have so much to be thankful for: each breath is a blessing. Yet, how can we possibly praise Hashem for each breath? While that would be impossible, we should want to recite a blessing for each one. My father’s non-Jewish friend was suffering from cancer when he asked my father, “What is the blessing Jews say after they go to the bathroom?” My father provided him with the English translation, the text from which this man read until the end of his life. How much more so must we who have the obligation to say Asher Yatzar, say it right. Rabbi Lebovits’ recent publication really makes you stop and think about digestive health and how it must not be taken for granted. After reading this work, I was able to concentrate better on the bracha of Asher Yatzar, which now has new meaning to me. Hashem formulated our wondrous bodies; it is a great segulah to read the blessing of Asher Yatzar inside with great devotion and concentration. This book will make you want to do just that.