The Restroom Prayer

One of the most important goals of both Jewish prayer and ritual is to infuse spirituality and meaning into ordinary moments and actions.

Our tradition asks/requires us to pray when we awaken, before and after eating, as we prepare to sleep … and after each use of the restroom. Here is the restroom prayer, called “Asher Yatzar” (Who Fashioned):

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ מֶֽלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, אֲשֶׁר יָצַר אֶת הָאָדָם בְּחָכְמָה, וּבָרָא בוֹ נְקָבִים נְקָבִים, חֲלוּלִים חֲלוּלִים. גָּלוּי וְיָדֽוּעַ לִפְנֵי כִסֵּא כְבוֹדֶֽךָ, שֶׁאִם יִפָּתֵֽחַ אֶחָד מֵהֶם, אוֹ יִסָּתֵם אֶחָד מֵהֶם, אִי אֶפְשַׁר לְהִתְקַיֵּם וְלַעֲמוֹד לְפָנֶֽיךָ. בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ, רוֹפֵא כָל בָּשָׂר וּמַפְלִיא לַעֲשׂוֹת.

Blessed are You, Adonai [The Reconstructionist Siddur translates this word as “The Architect”], our G-d, Ruler of the world/universe, who fashioned man(kind) with wisdom and created within him a system of ducts and conduits (others: “all manner of cavities and openings,” “pierced holes and hollow conduits”). It is evident and well known before Your throne of glory that if one of these should burst or one of these become blocked, it would be impossible to survive and stand before You. Blessed are You, Adonai, who heals all flesh and does wonders.

If you’ve ever experienced a rupture or a blockage, you know how literally true this prayer is: it is impossible to stand and, without healing, to survive! Yet, we often take for granted the proper minute-by-minute functioning of our extremely complex bodies – until any malfunction instantly consumes our full attention. Blithely ignoring the wondrous operation of our bodies deprives us of frequent opportunities for spirituality and gratitude.

Moreover, we know that all physical things require repair or renewal by external resources…and that living organizations must rid themselves of impurities in order to remain healthy and survive. Mindfully reciting this prayer, or something like it, after every restroom use reminds us how fortunate we are to have sufficient health – supplied by an external source -- to continue living. It also reminds us that, to be healthy, we must continuously strive to separate the pure from the impure in every aspect of our lives. Gratitude for the gifts of life and health, and striving for purity in all we do, are foundations of spirituality.

Reference: Lawrence Hoffman, Ed., My People’s Prayer Book, Vol. 5, Birkhot Hashachar.

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A bird that you set free may be caught again, but a word that escapes your lips will not return.
Jewish Proverb