Asher Yatzer

This week’s shiur began with a continuation of last week‘s discussion of qedushah (as in “asher qidishanu vemitzvosav”) and taharah (“al netilas yadayim”).The discussion of qedushah’s “separation for” and taharah’s “separation from” was used to flow into discussing the various vectors of human personality — with a detour into the Beis haMiqdash. (That parallel between man and miqdash actually comes up later in the shiur.) These three vectors can be seen as addressing the next triad of berakhos: Asher Yatzar, E-lokai Neshamah and Birkhos haTorah. (Other reasons for the structure were also given.)The rest of the shiur was a textual study of Asher Yatzar in light of the themes that recur in the various rishonim — often the same theme is associated by different rishonim to different parts of the text. Themes of birth, the wisdom of creation as a whole, Torah and human wisdom, maintenance of health vs being cured, and the wonderous fact that an intangible soul can be associated with a body. The major issues were:
  • Is the berakhah one of praise? If so, why do we sayor one of action?
  • What is the chokhmah being referred to in “who formed man with/of chokhmah”?
  • How do chalulim differ from neqavim, that the berakhah lists both? Does Hashem create holes, or does He allow them to exist by creating around them?
  • Why do we say “before Your throne of honor”, rather than “before You”?
  • Why do we speak of opening and closing holes in particular?
  • What’s the debate over wnether one should say “afilu sha’ah echas” (even one moment/hour)?
  • If the closing of a berakhah must always address one theme, how do “afilu sha’ah achas”, “rofei khol basar” and “umafli la’asos”?

With berakhos for the best of health and an enjoyable Shavu’os!

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  1. Shlomo says:

    The time when I had the best kavana, ever, for asher yatzar was in yeshiva right after we publicly shechted and dissected a sheep.

  2. Jon Baker says:

    I always thought that “before Your throne” was just a pun, because the toilet (outhouse) is the “beit ha-kissei”. Which would also explain why it’s in parentheses, so some don’t say it.

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