Praying for Health

I never noticed this until now, but when we say the Asher Yatzar bracha (blessing said after going to the bathroom), we say at the end:

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה’ רוֹפֵא כָל בָּשָׂר וּמַפְלִיא לַעֲשֹוֹת

Blessed are You, Hashem, Who heals all flesh and acts wondrously.

However, during Amidah, we pray to Hashem by saying this:

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה’ , רופֵא חולֵי עַמּו יִשְׂרָאֵל

Blessed are You, Hashem, Who heals all the sick people of the Jewish nation.

The first bracha in Asher Yatzar is a prayer to Hashem for healing all of mankind but the second bracha in the Amidah is only a prayer to Hashem for healing the Jews.  Why is this?

The gemara in Megillah 18b answers that each bracha in the Amidah is there for a specific reason.  The bracha on healing the Jews is the eighth bracha of the Amidah.  This corresponds to the eighth day of a Jewish baby, when he is circumcised.  Since only Jews have the commandment of having a circumcision, this blessing only applies to Jews and not the rest of mankind.  Therefore, the blessing only refers to healing of Jews.  However, the bracha of Asher Yatzar, which refers to blessing Hashem for allowing our bodily orfices to function properly is something that applies to everyone.  That’s why that bracha refers to all of mankind.

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Haman is the Pits

For those of you not following Daf Yomi, we just started doing the whole gemara in Megillah that discusses the story of Purim. Of course, with Purim coming in three weeks, this is very apropos. On Daf 14, the gemara discusses Haman’s ‘bargaining’ to Achashverosh to allow Haman to kill all the Jews. Haman offered plenty of good reasons to kill the Jews, including a large amount of money, but at the end, Achashverosh tells Haman to keep his money and that he too had wanted the Jews annihilated.

The gemara then goes on to compare the above exchange to two neighbors; one has a large pile of dirt and is looking to get rid of it, and the other has a large hole in the ground and is looking to fill it. When the neighbor with the hole in the ground finds out that the other guy can help him, he offers him money. The neighbor refuses the money because he is quite happy to get rid of his pile of dirt.

There’s an obvious question here. Why do we need the story following the one about Achashverosh and Haman? It’s obvious that they were both getting something they both wanted and that no money needed to change hands. So what is the story regarding the dirt teaching us?

Like many questions in Judaism, we answer this with another question. We see that both Achashverosh and Haman both equally wanted to wipe out the Jews. Yet at the end of the story, we see that Haman and his sons and followers are all destroyed, and Achashverosh not only maintains his dynasty, he also emerges as a part-hero! Why is this so?

So there are those that want to say that the pile of dirt is analogous to Achashverosh, and that Haman is analogous to the ditch. Achashverosh had a deeper understanding of the power of the Jews. and understood that Hashem played a big role in the final outcome. He had a respect for the power of Hashem. Achashverosh was therefore hesitant to kill the Jews unless he knew that they were in a state of constant sin. Achashverosh also knew that if things were going to go well for the Jews, that there was no way they could be defeated. That’s why Achashverosh is compared to the pile of dirt. The pile of dirt is elevated from the ground signifying his being on a higher level. On the other hand, Haman’s hatred for the Jews was so intense that no rational thought could motivate him NOT to kill the Jews. For Haman, the only thought on his mind was to wipe out every last Jew from the face of the Earth. Therefore, in the final outcome, Haman was killed and Achashverosh was allowed to live. Additionally, that is why Haman is compared to the ditch, which is something that is on a lower level.

We should all strive to be doing good stuff, so that the ball can be on our court.

Two days of Yom Tov in Chutz L’Aretz

As most of us know, we celebrate two days of yom tov in chutz l’aretz (CL”A).  The famous question is asked, that if nowadays we rely on Hillel’s calendar, what is the purpose of having two day’s of yom tov?  We all know exactly when things are going to fall out, so we should have only one day of yom tov.  This would be great for a bunch of reasons, including no 3-day yom tov’s, extra day of expensive food, and not overeating.

The classical answer is given that since in the olden days, when we weren’t sure exactly when Rosh Chodesh was, thus we were unsure of the exact date of yom tov, even though we now know when things fall out, we’re just doing it k’minhag avoseinu.

I was listening to the OU daf yomi podcast from yesterdays daf (Beitza 4b) and the maggid shiur brought what I thought was a great answer from the Meshach Chuchma.  He said then in the days of Mashiach, things are going to return to the old ways, including rosh chodesh and two-day yommim tovim.  If were were to rely solely on Hillel’s calendar, it would be showing a lack of emunah regarding the coming of Mashiach.  By continuing to have the two-day yomim tovim, we’re showing our emunah that Mashiach will come soon by continuing the schedule as we have it today.

Filtering water on Shabbos

Yesterday’s daf (50) was talking about leaving uncovered water out and how we’re concerned that a snake could come and drink from the water, thus injecting some of its venom into the water. If you were to want to drink the water, the gemara offers the following solution: filter it, even on Shabbos. The question is asked, but if you filter the water on Shabbos, isn’t that borer? You are specifically trying to separate the bad (the venom) from the good (the water)?

The reason we allow people to filter water is because we’re not sure that there is something bad in the first place. It is only there as a precaution. You might not be filtering out anything bad. In this day and age where filters are commonly found in people’s homes, it is not necessary to disable the filters just for Shabbos because there might not necessarily be bugs or whatnot in the water.