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Thought for the Day: After the Washroom -- Thanking the Creator for Holes and Cavaties

I think most fathers and zeidys will appreciate this story, most mothers will be aghast, and most bubbies will just shake their heads.  We were on a chol ha'mo'ed trip last Pesach and it involved a significant (hour or two) car ride to reach our destination.  I was playing the alphabet game with the older (6 and 7 year old) grandchildren.  The game is to look for an "A", then look for a "B", etc.  License plates, road signs, billboards, etc all provide fodder for the game.  Each time they found a letter, I'd say, "Ok... and what comes after C?", they would answer "D!", and the game continued.  Great way to practice the alphabet and keep everyone engaged.  We were most of the way through the alphabet when I asked, "What comes after P?"  They answered, "Q".  I said, "No; asher yatzar."  Puzzled looks turned to beaming smiles.  My grandson (the 6 year old) must have told that joke at least a dozen times over the next day or two, always to his mother or grandmother, always explaining the joke in detail.  His father and I were proud, his mother aghast, his bubby shook her head.

Without question, "asher yatzar" is the most said bracha.  Several times a day, we exit the wash room and praise the Creator that the plumbing worked -- again, Baruch HaShem.  We say it so often, in fact, that we barely give it a second thought.  This beautiful and sublime bracha, however, contains references to some of the deepest kabbalistic concepts:  HaShem's Throne of Glory (kisei ha'kavod) and the miracle of the body/soul duality that makes us human.  All of that after finishing taking care of one of our most basic and physical needs: clearing the waste from our system.  It's worth giving a bracha like that some serious contemplation.

Continuing the theme of juxtaposition of the mundane with the sublime, let's explore the grammar.  (Following the Taz.)  The bracha starts off with "yatzar"/created from more basic components, only to immediately switch to "bara"/created ex-nihilo.  Then we have "nekavim nekavim"/holes, holes; holes are holes... why the double expression?  Following that comes "chalulim chalulim"/cavities, cavities; some question on the doubling.  Moreover, though, why switch from noun to adjective?  It should be either be "nekavim" and "challalim" (space) or "nekuvim" (perforated things).  Next comes: "if one of those would open, or if one of them would become sealed it would be impossible to live."  Cavities are a problem if they open, holes a problem if the become sealed.  But holes were first, cavities second; why are we worried about breaking in the opposite order?

The Taz answers that holes and cavities are the same thing.  The respiratory system has both cavities -- lungs -- and holes -- the nose.  It is very important that those remain open and unsealed... once the person is born, that is.  Before he is born, in the womb, however, those holes and cavities better remain sealed.  A person has a belly button; very important that the belly button remain sealed.... once he is born, that is.  Before he is born, though, that belly button is a hole that must remain open to a vessels (tubular cavities, if you will) that must remain open.  The bracha therefore extols the wisdom of HaShem who created a being from parts that are designed from before their existence to be sometimes open and sometimes closed.  All at the right time, and the slightest deviation from that plan would leave the person unable to survive; not in the womb, and not in this world.

Take a few moments next time you leave the wash room to use that G-d given wisdom to contemplate the miracle of being alive.


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