June 19, 2020

Brachot 60


In today’s daf (Brachot 60b) we are taught about the ‘Asher Yatzar’ bracha which is recited after going to the toilet.

However, the Gemara then records a fascinating debate between Rav and Rav Sheshet about the proposed ending of this bracha. Rav asserted that the bracha should end with the words ‘Rofeh Cholim’, meaning ‘who heals the sick’. However, some felt that these words implied that the entire world was in a state of unwellness and was therefore in need of healing. In response to this critique, the suggestion was ammended to ‘Rofeh Kol Basar’, meaning ‘who heals all flesh’. Contrasting this was the view of Rav Sheshet who was of the opinion that the bracha should end with the words ‘Mafli La’asot’, meaning ‘Who does wonders’.

In general, debates such as these are not merely expressive of artistic license, but rather, indicate a different philosophical attitude towards the topic at hand. The question is, what was the philosophical debate between Rav and Rav Sheshet leading them to such different proposed solutions?

In terms of Rav, he appears to understand the ‘Asher Yatzar’ as a universal bracha (as evident from the words ‘Kol Basar’ – all flesh) that highlights Gods constant presence in our lives and His ability to provide us with healing – both preventatively and proactively.

Rav Sheshet also viewed the ‘Asher Yatzar’ as a universal bracha. However, inspired by Tehillim 139 which speaks about the wonderous nature of conception and the development of babies in the womb, he believed that this bracha was about celebrating creation ‘by’ God, as opposed to healing ‘from’ God. We are not explicitly told why Rav Sheshet took this approach, but it is possible that it was inspired by the fact that Rav Sheshet was blind. Thus, in choosing these words, Rav Sheshet was acknowledging that there are certain things that are not easily fixed in life, but notwithstanding these limitations, life is still a wondrous gift.

Like this debate, there are times in life when we encounter challenges that need fixing and healing. But there are other times when we come to realise that there are certain things that aren’t easily fixed, but that does not mean we can’t change our attitude by appreciating the blessings that we have in life.

It seems that the Gemara agreed with both these points of view, and this is why we conclude the Asher Yatzar bracha with both statements – Rofeh Kol Basar U’Mafli La’asot – Who heals all flesh, and Who does wonders.

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