SECTION 6 Laws Relating to the Blessings Asher Yatzar and Elokai Neshamah, and their Meanings. (1–9)

סימן ו דִּין בִּרְכוֹת אֲשֶׁר יָצַר וֵאלֹהַי נְשָׁמָה וּפֵרוּשָׁיו, וּבוֹ ט סְעִיפִים:

1 According1 to the law as stated in the Gemara,2 it is not necessary to recite the blessing Asher Yatzar unless one relieves himself. Nevertheless, it has become universal custom to recite this blessing every morning immediately after the blessing Al netilas yadayim, for every day a person becomes a newly-created being.3 Thus every single day it is appropriate to recite a blessing [which praises G‑d for] “form[ing] man with wisdom.”

A person who wishes to leave no room for doubt should make a point of relieving himself immediately after washing his hands in the morning.4 After leaving the lavatory he should wash his hands a second time and recite the blessing Asher Yatzar. With this blessing, he fulfills his obligation even if he had earlier been obligated to recite it as an expression of gratitude for having become a newly-created being, for the one blessing serves both purposes.5

It is preferable that the blessing Al netilas yadayim not be recited until after he washes his hands this second time, after leaving the lavatory.6 In particular, this [postponement of the blessing Al netilas yadayim] is advisable if [when he rose] he felt the need to relieve himself, in which instance it would have been forbidden for him to recite a blessing.7

א א אַף־עַל־פִּי1שֶׁמִּדִּינָא דִּגְמָרָאב,2 אֵין צָרִיךְ לְבָרֵךְ בִּרְכַּת "אֲשֶׁר יָצַר" אֶלָּא כְּשֶׁעָשָׂה צְרָכָיו, מִכָּל מָקוֹם נָהֲגוּ הָעוֹלָם לְבָרֵךְ בְּכָל שַׁחֲרִית תֵּכֶף אַחַר בִּרְכַּת "עַל נְטִילַת יָדָיִם" בִּרְכַּת "אֲשֶׁר יָצַר",ג לְפִי שֶׁבְּכָל יוֹם נַעֲשֶׂה הָאָדָם בְּרִיָּה חֲדָשָׁה,ד,3 לָכֵן שַׁיָּךְ לְבָרֵךְ בְּכָל יוֹם וָיוֹם "אֲשֶׁר יָצַר אֶת הָאָדָם בְּחָכְמָה". וְהָרוֹצֶה לְהִסְתַּלֵּק מֵהַסָּפֵק – יִזָּהֵר לַעֲשׂוֹת צְרָכָיו תֵּכֶף וּמִיָּד אַחַר נְטִילַת יָדַיִם שַׁחֲרִית,ה,4 וּכְשֶׁיֵּצֵא מִבֵּית הַכִּסֵּא יִטֹּל יָדָיו פַּעַם שֵׁנִית וִיבָרֵךְ "אֲשֶׁר יָצַר", וְיֵצֵא יְדֵי חוֹבָתוֹ בְּבִרְכַּת "אֲשֶׁר יָצַר" זוֹ, אַף אִם הָיָה מְחֻיָּב לְבָרֵךְ "אֲשֶׁר יָצַר" עַל מַה שֶּׁנַּעֲשָׂה בְּרִיָּה חֲדָשָׁה, כִּי בְּרָכָה אַחַת עוֹלָה לְכָאן וּלְכָאן.5 וְטוֹב שֶׁלֹּא יְבָרֵךְ בִּרְכַּת "עַל נְטִילַת יָדָיִם" עַד לְאַחַר נְטִילָה שֵׁנִית, שֶׁנּוֹטֵל אַחַר יְצִיאָתוֹ מִבֵּית הַכִּסֵּא.6 וּבִפְרָט אִם צָרִיךְ לִנְקָבָיו, שֶׁאָז אָסוּר לוֹ לְבָרֵךְ.7

2 Some people, when desiring to go to the synagogue to pray immediately after rising in the morning, are accustomed to delay reciting the blessing Al netilas yadayim until they reach the synagogue. There they recite it together with all the other Morning Blessings, for washing the hands in the morning was mainly instituted so that we may sanctify ourselves and purify our hands before our Divine service, like a priest who would sanctify his hands before his service [in the Beis HaMikdash]. Thus, since the fundamental element of our Divine service is praising and lauding G‑d and praying to Him, it is appropriate that the blessing Al netilas yadayim be recited directly before prayer. For if there would be no prayer, there would be no [obligation to] wash our hands.

ב יֵשׁ נוֹהֲגִיםו כְּשֶׁמַּשְׁכִּימִין בַּבֹּקֶר וְרוֹצִים לֵילֵךְ תֵּכֶף וּמִיָּד לְבֵית הַכְּנֶסֶת לְהִתְפַּלֵּל – מַמְתִּינִיםז לְבָרֵךְ "עַל נְטִילַת יָדָיִם" עַד בּוֹאָם לְבֵית הַכְּנֶסֶת, וּמְסַדְּרִין בִּרְכוֹת "עַל נְטִילַת יָדָיִם" עִם שְׁאָר בִּרְכוֹת הַשַּׁחַר, מִפְּנֵי שֶׁעִקַּר תַּקָּנַת נְטִילַת יָדַיִם בַּשַּׁחַר הוּא כְּדֵי לְהִתְקַדֵּשׁ וּלְטַהֵר יָדֵינוּ קֹדֶם עֲבוֹדָתֵנוּ,ח כְּמוֹ כֹּהֵן שֶׁהָיָה מְקַדֵּשׁ יָדָיו קֹדֶם עֲבוֹדָתוֹ, וְכֵיוָן שֶׁעִקַּר הָעֲבוֹדָה הוּא לְהַלְלוֹ וּלְשַׁבְּחוֹ וּלְהִתְפַּלֵּל לְפָנָיו, לָכֵן קֹדֶם הַתְּפִלָּה שַׁיָּךְ לְבָרֵךְ "עַל נְטִילַת יָדָיִם", שֶׁאִם אֵין תְּפִלָּה – אֵין נְטִילַת יָדַיִם.

3 When does the above apply? When one goes to the synagogue directly after washing his hands and immediately begins to recite the series of blessings. It is, however, forbidden to make an interruption between washing and reciting the blessing by studying, by [reciting] any prayer, and certainly by interposing any other activity.

If someone does want to interpose something else [before reciting his prayers] — as with those who recite Psalms before praying, or as during the days of Selichos8 when these [additional] prayers are recited before the regular Morning Service — he should make a point of reciting the blessing Al netilas yadayim at home, directly after washing his hands.9

ג בַּמֶּה דְּבָרִים אֲמוּרִים, כְּשֶׁהוֹלְכִין לְבֵית הַכְּנֶסֶת תֵּכֶף אַחַר נְטִילַת יָדַיִם,ט וּמַתְחִילִין מִיָּד לְסַדֵּר סֵדֶר הַבְּרָכוֹת. אֲבָל אָסוּר לְהַפְסִיק בֵּין נְטִילָה לַבְּרָכָה בְּלִמּוּד אוֹ בְּשׁוּם תְּפִלָּה,י וְכָל שֶׁכֵּן בִּדְבָרִים אֲחֵרִים. וּמִי שֶׁרוֹצֶה לְהַפְסִיק בֵּינְתַיִם, כְּגוֹן אֵלּוּ שֶׁאוֹמְרִים תְּהִלִּיםיא קֹדֶם הַתְּפִלָּה, וְכֵן בִּימֵי סְלִיחוֹתיב,8 שֶׁאוֹמְרִים סְלִיחוֹת קֹדֶם הַתְחָלַת הַתְּפִלָּה – יִזָּהֵר לְבָרֵךְ "עַל נְטִילַת יָדָיִם" בְּבֵיתוֹ תֵּכֶף אַחַר הַנְּטִילָה.9

4 During the days of Selichos and the Days of Awe, some people are accustomed to making an interruption [after washing their hands] by reciting Selichos, Psalms, and the like, and only then do they recite the blessings Al netilas yadayim and Asher Yatzar. In light of subsection 3 above, these people should be rebuked, for this practice is unacceptable whichever way it is perceived. If they have not already recited the blessings Al netilas yadayim and Asher Yatzar, such a delay constitutes a prolonged and improper interruption, as has been explained. And if they have already recited the blessings, repeating them now would mean that they were reciting blessings in vain.

Even the sheliach tzibbur who leads the prayers should not recite the blessings twice. Even if the second time his intent is to enable the congregation to fulfill their obligation by listening, this still constitutes a blessing in vain. For in the present age people are all considered proficient: they know how to recite the blessings and they each recite them independently.

If a sheliach tzibbur does not desire to change the prevailing custom and refrain from reciting the blessings Al netilas yadayim and Asher Yatzar when leading the congregation, he should take care not to recite those blessings before his communal prayers. Moreover, he should take care not to make an interruption between washing his hands and reciting the blessing Al netilas yadayim by interposing Psalms, or study, or, how much more so, anything else.

ד לְפִיכָךְ מַה שֶּׁנּוֹהֲגִים בִּימֵי הַסְּלִיחוֹת וּבְיָמִים נוֹרָאִים, שֶׁלְּאַחַר שֶׁמַּפְסִיקִין בַּאֲמִירַת הַסְּלִיחוֹת אוֹ בַּאֲמִירַת תְּהִלִּים וּשְׁאָר דְּבָרִים – מַתְחִילִין לְבָרֵךְ "עַל נְטִילַת יָדָיִם" וַ"אֲשֶׁר יָצַר" – מִמַּה נַפְשְׁךָ לֹא יָפֶה הֵם עוֹשִׂיםיג וְצָרִיךְ לִמְחוֹת בְּיָדָם: אִם לֹא בֵּרְכוּ עֲדַיִן "עַל נְטִילַת יָדָיִם" וַ"אֲשֶׁר יָצַר" – אִם כֵּן הֱוֵי הֶפְסֵק מְרֻבֶּה וְלֹא נָכוֹן לַעֲשׂוֹת כֵּן כְּמוֹ שֶׁנִּתְבָּאֵר, וְאִם כְּבָר בֵּרְכוּ – אִם כֵּן הֵם עוֹשִׂים עַכְשָׁו בְּרָכָה לְבַטָּלָה. וַאֲפִלּוּ הַשְּׁלִיחַ צִבּוּר – לֹא יְבָרֵךְיד שְׁתֵּי פְּעָמִים.טו וַאֲפִלּוּ אִם הוּא מְכַוֵּן בַּפַּעַם הַשְּׁנִיָּה כְּדֵי לְהוֹצִיא אֶת הָרַבִּים יְדֵי חוֹבָתָןטז – אֲפִלּוּ הָכֵי הֱוֵי בְּרָכָה לְבַטָּלָה, שֶׁהֲרֵי בַּזְּמַן הַזֶּה כֻּלָּם בְּקִיאִים וְיוֹדְעִים לְבָרֵךְיז וְכָל אֶחָד מְבָרֵךְ לְעַצְמוֹ. וּשְׁלִיחַ צִבּוּר שֶׁאֵינוֹ רוֹצֶה לְשַׁנּוֹת הַמִּנְהָג שֶׁלֹּא לְבָרֵךְ "עַל נְטִילַת יָדָיִם" וַ"אֲשֶׁר יָצַר" לִפְנֵי הַתֵּבָה – יִזָּהֵר שֶׁלֹּא לְבָרֵךְ אֵלּוּ הַבְּרָכוֹת קֹדֶם יְרִידָתוֹ לִפְנֵי הַתֵּבָה, וְגַם יִזָּהֵר שֶׁלֹּא לְהַפְסִיק בֵּין נְטִילַת יָדָיִם לְבִרְכַּת "עַל נְטִילַת יָדָיִם" בַּאֲמִירַת תְּהִלִּים וְלֹא בְּלִמּוּד, וְכָל שֶׁכֵּן בִּדְבָרִים אֲחֵרִים.7

5 There are, by contrast, others who recite the blessings Al netilas yadayim and Asher Yatzar in their homes, directly after washing their hands. When they come to the synagogue, they recite all the Morning Blessings with the exception of those which they recited at home, which should not be recited a second time.

This is a desirable custom and it is proper to follow it, for as a rule, the blessing over any mitzvah should precede its performance.10 However, since in this case one cannot recite a blessing before washing his hands,11 it is postponed until after the washing. Accordingly, the blessing should be recited as close as possible to the washing, without any intervening delay.

ה אֲבָל יֵשׁ נוֹהֲגִין לְבָרֵךְ "עַל נְטִילַת יָדָיִם" וַ"אֲשֶׁר יָצַר" בְּבֵיתָם מִיָּד אַחַר הַנְּטִילָה,יח וּכְשֶׁבָּאִים לְבֵית הַכְּנֶסֶת מְבָרְכִים כָּל בִּרְכוֹת הַשַּׁחַר, לְבַד מֵאוֹתָן בְּרָכוֹת שֶׁבֵּרְכוּ בְּבֵיתָם שֶׁאֵין מְבָרְכִים אוֹתָם פַּעַם שְׁנִיָּה. וּמִנְהָג זֶה יָפֶה הוּא,יט וְרָאוּי לִנְהֹג כֵּן, שֶׁהֲרֵי כָּל הַמִּצְוֹת צָרִיךְ לְבָרֵךְ עֲלֵיהֶן קֹדֶם לַעֲשִׂיָּתָן,כ,10 אֶלָּא שֶׁבִּנְטִילַת יָדָיִם אִי אֶפְשָׁר לְבָרֵךְ קֹדֶם הַנְּטִילָה,11 לָכֵן נִדְחֵית הַבְּרָכָה עַד לְאַחַר הַנְּטִילָה,כא אִם כֵּן כָּל מַה דְּאֶפְשָׁר לְקָרֵב הַבְּרָכָה שֶׁתְּהֵא סְמוּכָה לְהַנְּטִילָה – צָרִיךְ לְקָרֵב, וְלֹא לְהַפְסִיק בֵּינְתַיִם.

6 All blessings begin with Baruch [Atah A-donai...] — “Blessed [are You, G‑d...],” except for a blessing in direct sequence to another blessing.12 For example, Ahavah Rabbah13 follows directly after Yotzer Or,14 and [the opening phrase] Baruch... which begins Yotzer Or suffices for both.

There is another exception to this principle — blessings of thanksgiving,15 such as the blessing that begins, “We thank You for each and every drop,” which is recited [in appreciation of abundant] rainfall. This blessing need not begin with [the phrase] Baruch... because it is entirely an expression of gratitude. Similar laws apply in all analogous situations.

ו כָּל הַבְּרָכוֹת פּוֹתְחִין בְּ"בָרוּךְ",כב חוּץ מִבְּרָכָה הַסְּמוּכָה לַחֲבֶרְתָּהּ,12 כְּגוֹן “אַהֲבָה רַבָּה"כג,13 שֶׁהִיא סְמוּכָה לְ"יוֹצֵר אוֹר"14 וְדַי לָהּ בְּ"בָרוּךְ" שֶׁבִּפְתִיחַת "יוֹצֵר אוֹר"; וְחוּץ מִבִּרְכַּת הַהוֹדָאָה,כד,15 כְּגוֹן “מוֹדִיםכה אֲנַחְנוּ לָךְ עַל כָּל טִפָּה וְטִפָּה כו'" שֶׁמְּבָרְכִים עַל הַגְּשָׁמִים, שֶׁאֵין צָרִיךְ לִפְתֹּחַ בָּהּ בְּ"בָרוּךְ", כֵּיוָן שֶׁהִיא כֻּלָּהּ לְשׁוֹן הוֹדָאָה. וְכֵן כָּל כַּיּוֹצֵא בָּאֵלּוּ.

7 The blessing beginning Elokai Neshamah... (“My G‑d, the soul...”) does not [necessarily] follow in direct sequence to the blessing Asher Yatzar.16 For according to the ruling of the Gemara17 one is obligated to recite Elokai Neshamah immediately upon arising, whereas there is no obligation to recite Asher Yatzar until one relieves himself. The reason that Elokai Neshamah does not begin with Baruch... is that it is a blessing of thanksgiving.

Nevertheless, it is desirable to recite [Elokai Neshamah] directly after Asher Yatzar so that the two blessings will be recited as blessings that follow in sequence, in which case [the opening phrase] Baruch... at the beginning of the first blessing serves the second one too.18

ז בִּרְכַּת "אֱלֹהַי נְשָׁמָה" אֵינָהּ סְמוּכָה לְבִרְכַּת "אֲשֶׁר יָצַר",כו,16 שֶׁהֲרֵי מִיָּד שֶׁנֵּעוֹר מִשְּׁנָתוֹ צָרִיךְ לְבָרֵךְ "אֱלֹהַי נְשָׁמָה" מִדִּינָא דִּגְמָרָא,כז,17 וַ”אֲשֶׁר יָצַר" אֵין צָרִיךְ לְבָרֵךְ עַד שֶׁיַּעֲשֶׂה צְרָכָיו. וּמַה שֶּׁאֵינָהּ פּוֹתַחַת בְּבָרוּךְ, הַיְנוּ לְפִי שֶׁהִיא בִּרְכַּת הַהוֹדָאָה.כח וּמִכָּל מָקוֹם טוֹב לְסָמְכָהּ לְבִרְכַּת "אֲשֶׁר יָצַר", כְּדֵי שֶׁתְּהֵא בְּרָכָה הַסְּמוּכָה לַחֲבַרְתָּהּ, שֶׁדַּי לָהּ בְּ"בָרוּךְ" שֶׁבִּתְחִלַּת בְּרָכָה רִאשׁוֹנָה.כט,18

8 When a person gets up early and knows that he will return to sleep for a significant period,19 he should recite the blessing Elokai Neshamah without concluding [with the phrase Baruch Atah A-donai...].20 And when he lies down to sleep a second time, he should recite the blessing HaMapil without the opening, [Baruch Atah A-donai...]. Instead, he should begin it with the words, Baruch hamapil chevlei sheinah... and continue to the end, except for the concluding words, [Baruch Atah A-donai...].21

When he wakes up the second time, he should recite Elokai Neshamah and conclude [Baruch Atah A-donai...]. This time, however, he should not recite the blessing Al netilas yadayim; he should do this only the first time he rises, as is stated in sec. 4[:14].

ח הַמַּשְׁכִּים לָקוּם וְיוֹדֵעַ שֶׁיִּצְטָרֵךְ עוֹד לִישֹׁן פַּעַם שְׁנִיָּה שְׁנַת קֶבַעל,19 – יֹאמַר “אֱלֹהַי נְשָׁמָה" בְּלִי חֲתִימָה,לא,20 וּכְשֶׁיִּרְצֶה לִישֹׁן פַּעַם שְׁנִיָּה – יֹאמַר בִּרְכַּת "הַמַּפִּיל" בְּלִי פְּתִיחָה, רַק יֹאמַר "בָּרוּךְ הַמַּפִּיל חֶבְלֵי כו'" עַד הַחֲתִימָה וְלֹא עַד בִּכְלָל,21 וּכְשֶׁיָּקוּם בְּפַעַם שְׁנִיָּה – יֹאמַר "אֱלֹהַי נְשָׁמָה כו'" עִם חֲתִימָתָהּ. אֲבָל בִּרְכַּת "עַל נְטִילַת יָדָיִם" – לֹא יְבָרֵךְ, רַק כְּשֶׁקָּם מִמִּטָּתוֹ בְּפַעַם רִאשׁוֹנָה, כְּמוֹ שֶׁנִּתְבָּאֵר בְּסִימָן ד.לב

9 It is the custom of some people22 that after [several congregants assemble in the synagogue] one of them recites the Morning Blessings, and all those present respond Amen to each blessing. One of those who responded then recites all the Morning Blessings likewise, and all the others respond Amen to each blessing. And so they continue, each person who already answered Amen taking his turn, in order to complete the recitation of Amen 90 times a day.23

One should not challenge their [practice] by arguing that they already fulfilled their obligation [to recite the blessings] with the Amen that they answered at the outset. For none of those reciting the blessings intended to fulfill the obligation on behalf of the others. And even if one of those reciting a blessing did intend to fulfill the obligation on behalf of the others, they for their part did not intend to fulfill their obligation by listening to his blessing.24

ט יֵשׁ נוֹהֲגִיןלג,22 שֶׁאַחַר שֶׁבֵּרַךְ אֶחָד בִּרְכוֹת הַשַּׁחַר וְעָנוּ אַחֲרָיו אָמֵן – חוֹזֵר אֶחָד מֵהָעוֹנִים אָמֵן וּמְבָרֵךְ גַּם כֵּן כָּל בִּרְכוֹת הַשַּׁחַר וְעוֹנִין אַחֲרָיו אָמֵן, וְכַסֵּדֶר הַזֶּה עוֹשִׂין כָּל אוֹתָן שֶׁעָנוּ אָמֵן תְּחִלָּה, וְעוֹשִׂין כֵּן כְּדֵי לַעֲנוֹת צ' אָמֵנִים בְּכָל יוֹם.23 וְאֵין לְעַרְעֵר עֲלֵיהֶם וְלוֹמַר שֶׁכְּבָר יָצְאוּ יְדֵי חוֹבָתָן בְּאָמֵן שֶׁעָנוּ תְּחִלָּה, מִפְּנֵי שֶׁהַמְבָרֵךְ אֵינוֹ מְכַוֵּן לְהוֹצִיא אֲחֵרִים יְדֵי חוֹבָתָן, וַאֲפִלּוּ אִם הָיָה הַמְבָרֵךְ מְכַוֵּן לְהוֹצִיא אֲחֵרִים יְדֵי חוֹבָתָן – הֵם אֵינָם מְכַוְּנִים לָצֵאת בְּבִרְכָתוֹ.לד,24