click here to jump to start of article
  • Torah Reading: Naso
Join Our Newsletter

Get latest articles and videos with Jewish inspiration and insights​

God Makes a House Call

God Makes a House Call

A little blockage enables one man to appreciate the wonders of the human body -- and the power of genuine prayer.


This is not my usual illuminating commentary on the deep mysteries of our faith; this is more of a medical megillah. It's a true story and I've got a note from my doctor to prove it.

It's 2 a.m. and I've got -- excuse my French -- a urinary blockage. My wife, a Florence Nightingale, an experienced RN, understands immediately. We're off to the ER.

"Where's George Clooney?" I mutter in hysteria. "I want George Clooney!"

This episode began a week before with a series of "procedures." "Procedures," the mantra of the medical community, since it doesn't raise visions of blood, pain, and tears.

"Procedure? Sure Doc, let's do a procedure. You didn't say cutting, slicing, sewing, cauterizing, removing, did ya? Procedure -- such a nice non-intrusive word. Do it."

And we did. Lots of ‘em for a week -- topped off by two days in that strange piece of real estate downtown that has 400 bedrooms, 400 baths -- not one fireplace -- and a large non-kosher cafeteria. And if you're lucky, the rent's covered by Medicare.

So now I'm home, after a week you'd wish on the commander of Hizbullah. It's supposed to be all over. I'm supposed to be as free flowing as the mountain brook as it splashes playfully down Mount Hebron to the sea. But uh oh. All of a sudden -- that problem.

Now here I must digress to educate readers who are more into Seinfeld, Dershowitz, and Larry King than Maimonides or Rashi, the great Torah commentators. We Jews have an exalted view of He who created the cosmos and the capillary; He who activates the pulse of the migrating Monarch butterfly, the mother fox who knows to suckle her young, and the astronomer who peers into the Milky Way.

A speck of dust in a pink passageway -- and you're toast.

C. S. Lewis, the great Christian philosopher, calls our bodies: "vast and perilous estates pulsating with the energy that made the worlds." We Jews share his awe of the human frame and understand that we only lease these earthly quarters. Laced with a million possibilities for failure, the body only works because of some sleight of hand we don't understand. Its operation is a mathematical nightmare. A defiance of the laws of probability that would make an engineer wince.

Thought, sensation, breathing, digestion, locomotion, and elimination all depend on a synchronous performance by a set of perfectly functioning systems. A speck of dust in a pink passageway -- and you're toast.

To declare their admiration, awe, and thanks for these beneficent operations, observant Jews have a daily prayer -- Asher Yatzar. You create man with "many openings and hollows" it says. And if "one of them were to be ruptured... or blocked, it would be impossible to survive." It goes on to say, "Blessed are You, Lord, Who heals all flesh and acts wondrously."

Now from the sublime back to my bedroom, eerily illuminated by the nightlight. My "hollows" -- one of them -- as blocked up as Pharaoh's heart.

Back to the ER? Unbearable.

Then I saw it on the bedside table. My son -- impelled by a faith far stronger than mine -- had sent it. A large, garish, laminated poster. The prayer, Asher Yatzar, in the middle, surrounded by cartoon-like illustrations. Primitive, almost laughable, especially to me: a tightly affiliated but imperfect Jew, whose mitzvah batting average does not qualify me as a Hall of Famer. But there are no atheists in a foxhole or the ER, as any nurse will testify. And when you're drowning in a sea of suffering, if they throw you a noodle lifeline, you'll hang on.

I read the prayer as I ached. Twice. In English and in Hebrew. The ardor, the passion of my Yom Kippur prayers was a whisper compared to this whirlwind. I said it twice, reading each word slowly and distinctly. I wanted no misunderstanding of my plight or my passion. The Master Healer must have a clear, comprehensive diagnosis.

And then it happened. Relief. No ER, no intrusive techniques. Asher Yatzar -- an Internet engine of such power that it immediately reaches the sublime portal. Petitioners, penitents, praisers, pleaders worldwide -- all simultaneously trying to connect. Human crevices and corridors stopped up all over this troubled world. Billions of prayers -- airborne -- shading the earth itself; and MINE, on the wings of Asher Yatzar went through.

It stands now on my bedroom wall. (You can get a copy of your own by calling 1-800-700-9577.) I admit that the ER number is also scribbled in pencil on a pad on my night table. But it's well below Asher Yatzar, and rapidly fading in the sunlight streaming through my bedroom windows.


February 1, 2003

Give Tzedakah! Help create inspiring
articles, videos and blogs featuring timeless Jewish wisdom.
The opinions expressed in the comment section are the personal views of the commenters. Comments are moderated, so please keep it civil.

Visitor Comments: 7

(7) Christine, February 9, 2016 2:55 PM

Thank you for sharing your personal story.

This is a wonderful prayer I will share with my husband. After years of ESRD, a successful kidney transplant, and its many side effects, this is what he will want to pray daily to thank The Almighty, Blessed Be He, for this miraculous bodily function.

(6) Daniel, November 12, 2008 4:24 PM

Cured, but still curing

I was diagnosed with incurable ulcerative colitis and early colon cancer when I made my personal covenant with G-d: get me outta this and I'll keep Shabbos. Two years later, I have no disease at all, and still have all my intestines. You can bet your bupkis I say Asher Yatzar at the appropriate times. Thanks for your story.

(5) Anonymous, July 10, 2003 12:00 AM

Here's the text of the blessing...

Baruch Atta Ado - nay /G-d, You are the source of all blessing,
Elokeinu Melech HaOlam / our G-d and the King of the Universe
Asher Yatzar Es HaAdam / the One Who has created man(kind)
B'Chochma / With Wisdom
U'Vara Vo / and the One Who created in him (man)
Nekavim Nekavim / numerous openings
Cha-loo-lim Cha-loo-lim / and numerous hollow places
Galuy V'Ya'Duah / It is revealed and known
Li-F'nei Chee-Say Chi-Vo-Decha / before Your Holy "Throne"
She-im Yee-Pah-Say-Ach Echad Mayhem / that if one of them were to be ruptured
Oh Yee-Sa-Same Echad Mayhem / or one of them were to be blocked
Eee Ef-Shar Le'Hiskayem / It would be impossible to exist
Vi-La-Amod L'Fanecha / and to stand before You.

[So in acknowledgement of all the parts of my body that are working in unison and making it possible for me to be standing here saying this blessing, I end...]
Baruch Ata Ado - nai / G-d, You are the source of all blessing
Ro-Fay Chol Basar / Who heals all flesh,
Oo-Maf-Lee La-Asos! / and Who does this and other actions wonderously.
This blessing is traditionally said after relieving one's self. An nineteenth century Jewish scholar commented that if one would truly take the time to contemplate all the details that had to go right for one to be able to relieve themselves, they would send a telegram home to celebrate the completion of the process. (If anyone has ever had a baby who was not dirtying a diaper properly, and the problem was found and fixed, they know the joy of that first dirty diaper.) Is 20 seconds to think about it, and have some gratitude for our bodies working so well, too much to spend? Do we, G-d forbid, need an experience like the author to appreciate our bodies working?

("ch" in the Hebrew portion should be pronounced as the gutteral "Kh" sound--as in Yech!)

(4) Eunice Juanita Raber, March 2, 2003 12:00 AM

urinary blockage

How ironic I found this I took my son to the doctor just this past week, he says my son has Dilated renal.....something, (he feels the need to go alot) will do a test next week, his name is Brian, he is very stubborn about the notion of the Almighty and everything that goes with it. I was recently diognosed with diverticulocis and am doing well on my high fiber diet! God is so Good to me, please pray for us your story touched my heart. :)

(3) Angie, February 9, 2003 12:00 AM

Just what the doctor ordered

I was encouraged by your story. And very grateful for the prayer. This is the first time I've ever visited this site and it amazes me how I stumbled across your article; seeing that I was diagnosed two weeks ago with diverticulitis, a problem involving the other "hollow." The prayer you shared has given me hope. Thanks for not being to embarrassed to share.

See All Comments

Submit Your Comment:

  • Display my name?

  • Your email address is kept private. Our editor needs it in case we have a question about your comment.

  • * required field 2000
Submit Comment