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אשר יצר | Asher Yatzar prayer for recognizing the Divine Image in all our bodies by Emily Aviva Kapor


בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ מֶֽלֶךְ הָעוֺלָם,
אֲשֶׁר יָצַר אֶת הָאָדָם בְּחׇכְמָה,
וּבָרָא בָֽנוּ נְקָבִים נְקָבִים חֲלוּלִים חֲלוּלִים.
מוֺדוֺת אֲנַֽחְנוּ לָךְ, שֶׁנָּתַֽתָּ בְּכֹּחֵֽנוּ
לְהַכִּיר בִּקְדֻשָּׁת צֶֽלֶם אֱלֹהִים,
לְהִתְיַצֵר לְאֹֽרֶךְ יָמֵֽינוּ,
וּלְהִתְקַיֵּם לְפָנֶֽיךָ.
מָה רַבּוּ מַעֲשֶֽׂיךָ יְיָ,
כֻּלָם בְּחׇכְמָה עָשִֽׂיתָ.
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ, רוֹפֵא כׇל בָּשָׂר וּמַפְלִיא לַעֲשׂוֺת׃
Praised are You, our God, who transcends time and space,
for You formed human beings with wisdom,
creating in us all sorts of ducts and tubes.
We are grateful to You for enabling us
to recognize the holiness of the Divine Image,
to continuously create and recreate ourselves,
and to establish ourselves in Your presence.
How diverse are Your works, God—
You have made them all with wisdom!
Praised are You, God, Healer of flesh, Maker of wonders.

Asher Yatzar (the “bathroom blessing”, traditionally said every morning and after every time one goes to relieve oneself) has always rung hollow to me, at best, and at worst has been a prayer not celebrating beauty but highlighting pain.

The original version praises bodies whose nekavim nekavim ḥalulim ḥalulim (“all manner of ducts and tubes”) are properly opened and closed—yes, in a digestive/excretory sense, but it is quite easy to read a reproductive sense into it as well. What do you do if the “ducts and tubes” in your body are not properly opened and closed, what if one is open that should be closed, or vice versa?

The prayer goes on to say that if one of the “ducts and tubes” that should be open was closed, or vice versa, “it would be impossible to stand and become established in Your presence”. The ableist implications of this have always also rung hollow. Many people cannot stand. Many people can stand, and it is not impossible for them to be established in the Divine presence despite the imperfections of their bodies. There’s a whole range of experiences here.

How can we affirm these experiences rather than continue to celebrate the normativity thrust upon us by a normative society? That’s something I struggle with every day. This is my attempt at changing that.

The Hebrew word be-ḥokh’mah means “with wisdom”, and it has the same syntactic ambiguity as in English: did God create by utilizing God’s own wisdom in our creation, or did God create humanity to embody wisdom as part of our deepest strata of being? I think it can be both, but it can be often difficult for us—disabled people, transgender people, all sorts of people with non-normative bodies—who often feel disconnected and pained about our bodies, to have to hear repeatedly that God “made us with wisdom”, for a reason. I think you can read it as the latter: we have been given wisdom—the wisdom to recognize the divinity within each of us, the sacredness of our essence, the power and potential for continuous creation and re-creation. That’s what it means to be created in God’s image: God may be a creator, but so are we. We are creators, and that is a sacred and beautiful task.

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