Wednesday, August 15, 2012

who created man with wisdom...

When Stalin came to power in the Soviet Union, Yiddish was outlawed. Why? Because in Yiddish the toilet paper is "asher yotzar papir", or "asher yotzar paper". Asher Yotzar means "who created" and is the beginning of the blessing made after one relieves himself. The reason for the blessing is to acknowledge that the body is working properly: everything that needs to stay open is open and anything that needs to be closed stays closed. Now, taking time a few times a day to marvel at how G-d keeps your body functioning can bring a lot of meaning. Or not. But Stalin knew that if even lowly toilet paper will be reminding Jews that there is G-d and not Stalin who is in charge of their bodily functions, then Yiddish could not be a secular language despite whatever the enlightened Jews were trying to tell him.

Today I wanted to go over the text of Asher Yatzar with 6 yo. He has been saying it for years, and he knows the gist of this one, but I wanted more details. I decided to browse online and came upon this website:

It has a nice printable poster of Asher Yatzar, with translation and transliteration and visual reminders and holiness-inducing reminders. Many of you probably have this in your homes, next to the bathrooms. (If not, here it is, print and use and thank G-d for your functioning body!) What I found to be amusing was that there  are minor differences in the text. Some have to do with order, some have to do with adding or subtracting words. The meaning is still the same, and the idea is, too. But isn't it a bit funny that Jews among themselves cannot agree what should come first: the opening or the closing of body orifices, and whether it is important to say that you cannot survive "even for one hour"? Or whether you cannot survive only or survive and stand before G-d?

Being grateful for a functioning body is such a basic idea, so why are we all sectarian about it? Why isn't there one standard text?

On the same subject, we were doing third pasuk in perek 22 in Vayeira with 8 yo. He asked me about who are the two servants who walked with Avraham. Before I answered, he decided to look in Rashi and got his answer. Then he asked: why two? I said that the rest of Rashi has the answer. I had to help him translate it. He asked me, what does it mean to take care of his openings at a distance? I did not give it to him, but hinted. I also explained how they do not have bathrooms in the desert, so one had to go find a private sand dune and distance himself. He liked this Rashi.

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