Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

27 Elul 5759 - September 8, 1999 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Home and Family
The Asher Yotzar Miracles
by Sheina Geffen

"Stop! Look! Concentrate!"

Sounds almost like what they drummed into us as kids -- the formula before crossing the street. It isn't, but these words are at least as important for your safety, that is, your physiological well being.

"Only twenty seconds, six times a day..." Two minutes a day; that's all it takes to do it right. Who can't spare two minutes? For one's own sake?

For those of us who have ever experienced diarrhea, or its opposite, the just-as-uncomfortable feeling of constipation; for those of us who have ever suffered from urinary tract infections, or stones (gravel) in the kidneys, hemorrhoids, who have swallowed down the wrong way, or done anything to make us aware of the processes of ingestion, digestion and elimination, we know how to be grateful for the normal routine when everything goes smoothly, when the channels that should be open, open, and the valves that must keep things shut are operating properly and we don't even think about these bodily functions.

But we should. First of all, in a sense of gratitude to our Creator, who made us operate in such a natural yet miraculous manner that we don't even think about it; these are regulated by automatic, involuntary reflexes in our body and hardly require conscious thinking on our part.

Nowadays, in our harried, hectic world, we need reminders to stop and think. And these are readily available. Who hasn't seen the attractive Asher Yotzar posters, or the handy wallet-size laminated cards with the printed text of this very important prayer? Their purpose is to help us concentrate, to tune in on our own bodies and exhibit the minimum of appreciation and gratitude to the One Who created them in such a marvelous fashion as to be self regulating. These posters can be found prominently exhibited in many public places where Jews pray and/or study, and can be obtained for distribution or private use (see below).

There are stories behind this, which the reader will surely find fascinating. Each mitzva, actually, has the power to heal and save a Jew, if one latches on to it firmly, as has been proven over and over. Perhaps, in the coming year, we should take upon ourselves this very simple practice, of saying "Asher Yotzar" with full concentration. After all, what is two minutes a day in our lives? And the benefits...

Let us go back to Biblical times, to Dovid Hamelech. It is stated that at one time, a hundred young men were dying every single day, and the king was deeply distressed. As head of the Sanhedrin, he instituted the practice of reciting one hundred blessings per day, many of which are incorporated in our thrice-daily prayers and bircas hamozon etc. One of these is the blessing over elimination. These hundred blessings, singly and collectively, protect a person and are a segula for good health. Chazal say so. And it is a fact that the young men stopped dying.

R' Yechezkel Levinstein zt'l, the famous Mashgiach, used to say that the miracle of these bodily processes is as great as the exodus from Egypt. R' Yeruchom of Mir remarked that if a person were to imagine to himself all the necessary steps that accompany the ingestion of food until its proper elimination, including digestion (distribution within the body) and nourishment of all the cells and organs respectively, he would be prompted to `send a letter home to report that all had gone well' at the end of that process, each time!

"He should not fling the blessing from his mouth," say Chazal. And the Mishne Brura expands, "but should concentrate upon the words and recite the blessing with composure." And it is advisable to do so from a written text. "It is forbidden to do anything else while reciting it," even a casual act like drying one's hands, putting on a jacket, walking, gesturing with hands or eyes, etc., so that this blessing not appear offhand and incidental.

Shimshon Halperin has claimed the propagation of awareness for this mitzva for himself -- and for Klall Yisroel -- and made it his `baby'. He has compiled articles, stories, facts, and has printed up tens of thousands of A. Y. posters and wallet-size cards for distribution. Beautifully illustrated, graphically attractive, they come with English commentary if desired, and can be ordered in Israel at 03- 5704633 and in New York at 914- 426-6188 for personal use or distribution. Let us glimpse at some of his fascinating material, one story of which we were privy to ourselves in a first-hand account of a miracle, to be presented in a later issue.

First, from his files: an [excerpted] article by Ted Roberts, a nationally syndicated (U.S.) columnist whose work has appeared in the New York Times, Hadassah Magazine, Wall Street Journal etc.

It's two in the morning when I realize I am having a `medical problem.' Let's just call it a stoppage or blockage. My wife, an R.N., understands immediately, so off we are to the Emergency Room. And so begins a week-long series of excruciating `procedures.'

Procedures, I discover, is the medical community's favorite word. It doesn't conjure up any image of blood, pain, or tears. "Procedure? Sure, Doc. Let's do a procedure." He didn't say cutting, slicing, splicing, sewing, cauterizing, or removing. Such an unobtrusive word. "Let's do it."

After a short hospital stay and a week of painful probes that you would only wish upon the commandant of Auschwitz, I come home. It's supposed to be all over. I should be as free flowing as a mountain stream winding its way to the sea. But all of a sudden... the same problem arises again.

The nightlight is still on and one of my apertures appears to be as blocked as Pharaoh's heart. What are my options? Back to the E.R.? I won't hear of it. Then I spot it on the bedside table. My son, impelled by a faith far stronger than mine, sent it to me: a laminated, illustrated poster of the Asher Yotzar blessing.

They say there are no athiests in foxholes, and at the moment, there aren't any in this bedroom, either. I recite the blessing. In fact, I say it twice: once in Hebrew and once in English. The ardor and passion at the peak of my Yom Kippur prayers don't compare to the devotion I am exhibiting now. I ache. I speak out each word slowly. I want there to be no misunderstanding of my plight. The Master Healer must have a clear and comprehensive diagnosis.

And then it happens. RELIEF. The mounain stream is at last one with the sea. No E.R. No medical `procedures.' The Asher Yotzar is an engine of such power that it reaches the sublime address with no waiting, no busy signal.

That laminated, illustrated poster now hangs securely on my bedroom wall. It reminds me of the wonder of it all. I admit that the E.R. number is also scribbled on a pad and sits on my night table, but it's well below the poster.

To be continued...


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