Sunday, November 18, 2012

Guest Post: The Potty Prayer

When I teach youth about prayer or blessings, and how to connect to these potentially abstract ideas, I always share what my favorite prayer is and why.  Initially, when students hear about it they giggle or think I'm actually joking.

When I was a freshman in high school I first heard about 'The Pee Prayer', or 'Asher Yatzar', the prayer said after going to the bathroom.

The text of the prayer is almost mechanical in the way it describes the functioning of the body. The basic gist of the prayer is, 'Thanks G-d!  You created my body with all of its valves, tubes, and plumbing.  If just one of these various parts stopped functioning, even for an hour, it would be impossible for me to exist.'

At 14, I thought, 'Cool! There's even a prayer for peeing!'  And I began saying it diligently every time after I had gone to the bathroom.

Six years later, when I was 20, my favorite uncle, Johnny Goldberg, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.  Johnny was 46 years old and had three children. His youngest daughter would be celebrating her bat mitzva in just a few short weeks.

I went to say goodbye to him before I left for my sophomore year of college.  All of us (he too), knew his death was imminent.  I sat next to him on his bed and I knew it would be the last conversation with him.  I felt comfortable and curious enough to ask him, 'If you could have one thing right now, what would it be?'

I was sure he would say, 'To live to see Judy's bat mitzva', or 'To feel well',  or 'To have the pain go away.'  But without missing a beat he said, 'I would like to be able to go to the bathroom again.'

He died two days later.

And finally, for the first time, after years of saying the pee prayer, I understood just how miraculous our bodies are. How intricately they function.  And how when they breakdown, just how debilitating and devastating it is.

As unbelievable as it seems, ever since that September afternoon in 1989, I have said Asher Yatzer with more intention, understanding, and appreciation.

One of the many things that I love about connecting to various Brachot is how they can compel us to go through our lives with 'deliberateness'.  Brachot force us to recognize the miraculous in the seemly everyday, routine, and pedestrian.

For 6 years I said the Bracha, and it meant something.  But then the switch was thrown, and the Bracha became illuminated for me - I finally GOT IT.

Which of the Brachot that you often say 'speaks' to you?  Why?  And what does it say?

Rachel Goldberg was born and raised in Chicago and now lives with her family in Israel. Rachel's teaching experience includes Judaic Studies at the Oakland Hebrew Day School, the Endangered Spirits program, she has lectured for Hebrew University's Florence Melton Adult Mini-School, WUJS, and recently wrote and published an awesome curriculum on Jewish Identity for Birthright groups. She is one of the finest Jewish role models and informal educators that I have met.

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