By: R. Eliyahu Tobal
1. Reciting the Blessing of Relief
After performing bodily functions – even to a slight extent – one must wash hands and recite the blessing of Asher Yassar. The beracha should be recited loud enough to be heard, and if another Jew is nearby, one should ensure that the person can hear and answer “Amen.”
2. Hand Washing Before the Blessing
After using the restroom, and before reciting Asher Yassar, one must wash his hands with at least a revi’it (3 oz.) of water. One should wash as he does in the morning – three times from a utensil on each hand in alternating fashion, starting with the right hand.
3. Washing for Asher Yassar in the Morning
Upon waking in the morning, one should not touch any openings in his body before washing his hands, and thus one should wash his hands before using the restroom – without a beracha. After using the restroom, he should wash his hands again, recite the beracha of “Al Netilat Yadayim” for the morning, dry his hands, and then recite Asher Yassar and Elokai Neshama.
The beracha of “Al Netilat Yadayim” is not recited over the initial hand washing, as one may not recite a beracha while needing to use the restroom.
4. Reading from the Text
Many gedolim (leading Torah scholars) – including the Kaf Ha’haim, Hafess Haim and Steipler Gaon – made a point of reciting Asher Yassar from a written text, rather than from memory. This practice has been recommended as a means of avoiding and overcoming illness. One should also endeavor to recite the beracha standing still and while refraining from any other activity – including drying one’s hands.
5. Understanding the Beracha
The Ben Ish Hai (Rabbi Yosef Haim of Baghdad, 1833-1909) writes that both men and women should understand the meaning of the blessing of Asher Yassar, which praises Gd for the miracle of digestion. Five vital functions must operate in unison, and any glitch in the system would be fatal. One should therefore recite this beracha with sincere feelings of joy and gratitude to Hashem.
6. Reciting Within the Time Frame
The beracha must be recited within 30 minutes (Ben Ish Hai z.s.l.) or 72 minutes (Hacham Ovadia Yosef shlita) after using the restroom. One should consult with his rabbi for guidance as to which opinion he should follow. One who did not make the beracha within this time frame, may recite the blessing without mentioning the Names of Hashem; he should think the Names in his mind, without verbalizing them.
7. Frequency of Recitation
If after using the restroom one suspects that he will soon need to use it again, such as in the case of a stomach virus, he should not recite the beracha until he feels he has completed performing his bodily functions. If one is unsure, and he fears that by waiting he may forget to recite the beracha, then he may recite it, so long as he presently does not feel the need to use the restroom.
8. Asher Yassar before Meals
If one uses the restroom just before a meal, and must now wash his hands both for having used the restroom as well as for bread, he should wash his hands in alternating fashion and recite Asher Yassar. At that point, he should touch a part of his body which is usually covered (such as his armpit) or his shoe, thereby necessitating a new washing. He should then wash netilat yadayim for bread as normal.
Alternatively, he can recite the beracha of “al netilat yadayim” immediately after reciting Asher Yassar, before drying his hands.
9. Asher Yassar during Meals
If one ate food requiring the recitation of Boreh Nefashot, but before reciting the beracha he used the restroom, he should first recite Asher Yassar, followed by Boreh Nefashot.This is the view of Hacham Ovadia Yosef. If a person ate foods requiring Me’en Shalosh or Birkat Hamazon, then he should first recite that beracha, before Asher Yassar. If he fears that he might forget to recite Asher Yassar, then he may say Asher Yassar first.
The Ben Ish Hai maintains that Asher Yassar always takes precedence, as it is recited more frequently.
10. Asher Yassar during Prayer
· If one used the restroom before Baruch Sheamar, he should immediately recite Asher Yassar and continue his prayers.
· If this occurred between Baruch She’amar and Yishtabah, he should not recite the beracha until after Yishtabah, unless he fears he may forget.
· If one used the restroom after Yosser Or, he does not recite the beracha until after the Amida. He should make a reminder for himself so he does not forget.
· If one hears Kaddish or a beracha upon exiting the restroom before washing, he should wipe his hands on wood or another hard substance and may then respond.