On Tuesday evening, June 30, Rabbi Ben Tzion Shafier, Director of The Shmuz, shared a livestreamed shiur on appreciating our bodies, which was hosted by Asher to the Yatzar, Chazaq, and www.TorahAnytime.com.
Rabbi Shafier explained how the brachah Asher Yatzar defines the wisdom of Hashem in creating the human body. We recite this brachah eight to ten times daily, which means that in a year we say it 3,500 times. He pointed out that an activity can be life-changing or robotic. In reality, if we recite this brachah with the proper understanding, it can be powerful and life-changing. Sadly, we rarely take time to understand it.
He then detailed the meaning. “Blessed be You, our G-d, King of the universe. You created man with wisdom. The human body has ten major systems and each is interrelated. It would take volumes to describe each system.” He noted that “one body cell is more complex than New York City.” The circulatory system is 60,000 miles. There are veins and capillaries, and the heart is the size of a fist. It beats 60 to 100 beats a minute, which means 100,000 times a day. It pumps out 2,000 gallons of blood a day. We have 600 muscles. Amazingly, the heart doesn’t get fatigued. It is designed by Hashem to work constantly.
Hashem created openings and many multitudes of openings. The hollow organs are each designed for a specific job.
“It is revealed and known in front of You.” If one opening should open, we couldn’t be standing in front of You. Rabbi Shafier demonstrated the amazing workings of the digestive system, which is very complex. It takes 24 hours to fully digest food. The mouth has 2,000-4,000 taste buds. Saliva moisturizes food. It begins processing the breaking down of the food. The tongue is a complex system that pushes food into different teeth. Then it moves back to the throat.
He noted how a baby has a sucking reflex and a swallowing reflex. Swallowing begins waves of muscular contractions down your body to the esophagus which is ten inches long. The stomach is the size of a tennis ball. Stomach acid is one of the most potent acidic forces on the planet, he taught. So the stomach digests the food. After this, the food goes to the small intestine, which is 21 feet long; its job is to absorb all the nutrients. It’s lined with villi, which add surface area to help with nutrient absorption. Food then ends up in the large intestine, which is five feet long. Left over nutrients are absorbed and then pushed into the colon and the rectum. Salts and minerals are separated and then excretion happens.
The body amazingly knows what to do. “It is a perfectly mechanized system. One little leak or flaw and a person cannot walk a block.” He taught that when an embryo is inside the mother, it doesn’t breathe. All nutrients are supplied through the umbilical cord. When the baby is born, it instantly is able to breathe. The circulatory system changes at birth. Hashem created such a complex harmonious system to function flawlessly.
When we recite the brachah of Asher Yatzar, we need to be mindful that Hashem gave us this complex body and we are thanking Him for helping us to maintain it. When we have something day after day, it lacks its marvel and wonder. We must reintroduce the marvel and wonder of the wonderful human body. Rabbi Shafier suggested to imagine that you are Adam HaRishon and the wonder he saw when he saw the world for the first time. He experienced the world with his senses. One difficulty we face is that we grow accustomed to it. Chazal teach that before Hashem created Adam, He “consulted” with the angels and said, “Let us create Man.” Hashem told the angels that man’s wisdom was greater than theirs because Adam was able to name all the animals. The name he gave defined their essence in Lashon HaKodesh.
Rabbi Shafier taught that Hashem is the maker of everything, and the maintainer and orchestrator of everything. Hashem is the Adon HaKol. Adam defined Hashem’s relationship to everything. Why does Adam call himself Adam, which means earth or dirt? Adam explains that he was made from the ground. The greatness of Adam is his neshamah. Rabbi Shafier poses the question that naming himself after the dirt seems disparaging. He then explained that Hashem created the human being in a fragile state so the human being could remember that he’s not the master of his destiny. Hashem created many creatures with needs and lacks. The human was created with needs so he would realize that Hashem is the Master. Adam named himself dirt because he was formed from the ground and he is the humble servant to his Creator. A person is supposed to think about this reality every day. This is the reason this particular brachah is so important. It reminds us that Hashem is the master and I am the servant.
“Reciting the brachah of Asher Yatzar helps us to recognize our dependence on Hashem.” If you say this brachah and think about what it means, it is truly a life-changing experience.
The ideas in this shiur have had a powerful impact on this writer. And I believe that thinking about this brachah now, during this difficult time when the world needs a r’fuah, will surely bring us merit. May it bring the z’chus of a complete r’fuah to those who are ill and to the whole world.
This shiur can be viewed on www.TorahAnytime.com.
By Susie Garber