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The gemara (Brachot 60b) gives us the text of the blessing after going to the bathroom - and we still recite nearly exactly the same

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם אֲשֶׁר יָצַר אֶת .הָאָדָם בְּחָכְמָה וּבָרָא בוֹ נְקָבִים נְקָבִים חֲלוּלִים חֲלוּלִים גָּלוּי וְיָדוּעַ לִפְנֵי כִסֵּא כְבוֹדֶךָ שֶׁאִם יִפָּתֵחַ אֶחָד מֵהֶם אוֹ יִסָּתֵם אֶחָד מֵהֶם אִי אֶפְשַׁר לְהִתְקַיֵּם וְלַעֲמוֹד לְפָנֶיךָ .אֲפִילוּ שָׁעָה אֶחָת .בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְהֹוָה רוֹפֵא כָל בָּשָׂר וּמַפְלִיא לַעֲשֹוֹת

Blessed are You, HaShem, Our God, King of the universe, Who created the human with wisdom and created within him many openings and many cavities. It is exposed and known before Your Throne of Glory, that if one of them were to be ruptured or one one of them were to be blocked it would be impossible to survive and to stand before You [for even one hour]. Blessed are You, HaShem, The physician of all flesh who acts wondrously.

I often wondered about the words לִפְנֵי כִסֵּא כְבוֹדֶךָ (before Your Throne of Glory). They seem extra, it could have been enough to say "it is known that if one of them etc."

So why this specific wording?

  • Maybe it is trying to invoke a specific idea from Yirmiyahu 14:21? – rosends Nov 20 '17 at 14:47
  • You are asking about a subject that deals with kabbalistic concepts. If an honest answer is written, it will precipitate unwanted harassment. If you wish to see hints that point toward the answer, look at the commentary of Rabbeinu Bechaye to the opening posukim to Bereshit and the references in the Chavel edition to Sefer Ezrach b'Yisroel. – Yaacov Deane Nov 22 '17 at 14:15
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In the siddur Ha'Grah/Avnei Elyowhu The vilna Gaon explains that to contradict those that claim that Hashem does not personally involve himself in every minute insignificant (in our eyes) detail going on in the world, the beracha purposefully stresses that Hashem, all the way from his throne, involves himself in even such a low animalistic phenomenon in human nature.

Abudraham says (according to my understanding) that being that our 'lives' are at stake in those moments, as we declare in the beracha, therefore we say "your throne of glory", which is where all the souls are found and taken care of and granted 'life'.

I would like to offer another explanation.

In Tamid the mishna says that in the tunnel underneath the azarah there was a bais ha'kissei shel kovod meaning there was a restroom which provided not only relief to the kohanim but provided respect to them as well.

The respect was brought out by never having more than one person in there.There was a siman that there was someone there already which told them to wait until he comes out before entering.

Now in this beracha we declare that we may have a kissei shel kovod but Hashem is nevertheless with us and does see all that we do even in there.Therefore the only one which truly has a kissei ha'kovod which no one else can have a glimpse inside it is only Hashem.

This is what we say 'it is known before your throne of glory', for you Hashem see in to all other thrones, limiting the true throne of glory to yourself only.

  • That explains why it says lifnei kisse khvodekha, as opposed to lfanekha, but it doesn't w explain why we would bother emphasising that it is something God knows in the first place. – mevaqesh Nov 27 '17 at 5:15
  • hidabroot.org/question/115246 – ezra Aug 27 '18 at 2:29
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In Aleinu Leshabeiach, volume 3, pages 117-118, Rav Zilberstein addresses this question.

We tend to think that Hashem’s Throne of Glory is a concept relegated to lofty spiritual matters, not to the mundane aspects of our lives. After all, the Throne of Glory is the seat of Hashem’s presence, the holiest possible point in the universe.

It is interesting to note, however, that the Throne of Glory is mentioned in only one blessing, and that blessing relates to a very mundane, even lowly, aspect of life. The blessing is Asher Yatzar, recited after a person relieves himself. “It is obvious and known before Your Throne of Glory,” we say, “that if but one of them were to be ruptured...” This shows us that even the bodily functions that seem to be the furthest removed from holiness are under the direct supervision and care of Hashem.

Hashem fashioned human beings in such a way that we have to relieve ourselves a number of times every day. Each time we recite Asher Yatzar, we should realize that there is no aspect of our lives that Hashem is not involved in, no matter how lowly and undignified it may appear to be.

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I read a very interesting explanation - but would love to see more traditional ones.

Kenneth Prager (a doctor at Columbia Medical Center in NY) explains a majority of illnesses are the result of the obstruction or rupture of bodily structures such as blood vessels or other channels as described in the asher yatzar blessing. For example, blockage of the coronary artery leads to a heart attack; blockage of a blood vessel in the brain leads to a stroke, blockage of a bronchial tube leads to pneumonia. Not infrequently such blockage or rupture leads to death.

How were Chazal aware of this fact 1600 years ago? The divine influence on the talmudic process might be the answer.

(note 77, p. 98, in Reason to believe by R Chaim Jachter)

The blessing says "it is known before Your Throne of Glory" -- maybe because it only know before your throne of glory but not before man!


Incidentally the same Kenneth Prager has a moving story related to asher yatzar here (but not connected to the explanation above).

See also here

  • " majority of illnesses are the result of the obstruction or rupture of bodily structures such as blood vessels or other channels as described in the asher yatzar bless" hazel never said most illnesses are caused by opening or obstructions. They said that if bodily systems were opened or obstructed, man would not last. – mevaqesh Nov 20 '17 at 14:23
  • "How were Chazal aware of this fact 1600 years ago?" As noted, they weren't. – mevaqesh Nov 20 '17 at 14:24
  • Forget the majority - the fact Hazal knew that obstructions were a major cause of illnesses/death is indeed quite remarkable - remember the state of medicine at the time was 100x less than today - bloodletting was the cure to most diseases... – mbloch Nov 20 '17 at 14:37
  • "the fact Hazal knew that obstructions were a major cause of illnesses." But they didn't say that; you said that! – mevaqesh Nov 20 '17 at 14:38
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    While I don't see it in Prager's article (granted that I scanned it), I had heard something about a Gentile physician was watching a patient mumble something after exiting the restroom, and he asked him what he was saying. After explaining the words, the physician was so amazed that (if I heard, correctly), he began saying this prayer (or some form of it), himself, afterwards. – DanF Nov 20 '17 at 18:03

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