Sunday, September 19, 2010

Too Jewish

Remember this post?

Well, my appreciation of good design applies to Jewish ritual objects, too.

As I've increased my observance level over the past few years, I've begun saying the so-called "bathroom b'rachah," the blessing/b'rachah recited after going to the bathroom--we Jews thank G-d for everything, including the ability to eliminate naturally and safely from the body the material that is no longer needed. For this b'rachah, one needs a netilat yadayim (ritual hand-washing) cup.

But when I first bought a netilat yadayim cup for the bathroom, I was thinking more in terms of price than design.

Good grief, is it ugly!

Even worse than its appearance, though, is its design. The darned thing seems to have been designed deliberately to trap dirt. Even in this blurred shot, the "mud-catcher" on the handle is clearly visible.

[ ¶ ]

After cleaning off the "mud" with my fingernail one too many times, I'd had enough. So I went hunting for a netilat yadayim cup that was easy to clean, with as few hard edges to catch dirt as possible. I hoped to find one that wasn't too expensive.

I succeeded. More or less.

[ ¶ ]

Yes, it's brushed stainless steel, beautiful, and well-designed, with very few difficult-to-clean surfaces, and it wasn't too expensive, as these things go. But it's HUGE.
[ ¶ ]
Curious to see whether it was really as big as it looked, I poured some water into it from a measuring cup, and found that the dam-sized thing holds an entire quart (approximately 1,000 ML--does that make a liter?) of water, with about an inch to spare! I'm guessing that it was actually designed for use in a synagogue, Jewish day school, or other Jewish institution.
[ ¶ ]
A Conservative former rabbi of ours, a couple of rabbis back, once lamented that many of us non-Orthodox Jews don't understand that most of Judaism is actually practiced in places other than the synagogue. Boy, was he right--we're not used to having any ritual object in our bathroom, much less The Netilat Yadayim Cup That Ate Manhattan.


Anonymous Woodrow/Conservadox said...

You wrote: "For this b'rachah, one needs a netilat yadayim (ritual hand-washing) cup."

For "al netilat yadayim" or for "asher yatzar."? Although both are said after going to the washroom, they are separate prayers.

And: 1) I think asher yatzar is ideally said OUTSIDE the bathroom (as evidence by the versions of this prayer posted outside the bathroom in many O synagogues).

2) I read in someone's canned dvar torah that you should say al netilat yadayim as well (which I never knew before, and which is what you said). But I also read that you don't need a cup to say it- otherwise you'd never be able to say it outside home or shul, since presumably most people don't carry appropriate cups or substitutes for same with them everywhere.

Thu Oct 07, 12:51:00 AM 2010  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

I was under the impression that one needed a netilat yadayim cup for both b'rachot.

I use the netilat yadayim cup inside the bathroom, but I recite the b'rachah (or b'rachot) after leaving the bathroom. I have seen this set-up--cup in bathroom, b'rachah outside--in both Orthodox synagogues and Orthodox homes.

My understanding is that one says both b'rachot--"al netilat yadayim" and "asher yatzer"--after one wakes up and makes one's first morning trip to the bathroom. I was told that, for subsequent trips to the bathroom, one says only "asher yatzar." But that was just one layperson's opinion. I'll have to check. Maybe there's something in my (English) Shulchan Aruch.

"Permission" to do "asher yatzar" without a cup would be helpful, since, as you said, as most places don't have one. I usually skip it when not at home for that reason.

Thu Oct 07, 09:14:00 AM 2010  
Anonymous Abigayil said...

1. You DO NOT require a cup to recite asher yassar. As far as al netilath yadayim, I think you do need to have a cup. Perhaps people wash their hands when they get home or to their destination if they relieve themselves in transit.

2. I love your picture and am using it for my Facebook event since it is not copyrighted. Do you really object, please let me know. I promise to give you credit. I hope this isn't too presumptuous. I also plant to write that you replaced your cup. The event is 1,000 to Clean Their Kos Netilat Yadayim. Yours is the only picture I've ever been able to find for this misswa (mitzva) event.

3. Congratulations! You realized that your cup wasn't working out and you got a more hygienic one! Hazakha u'berukha! That's the whole premise of the event I'm doing. If you're on Facebook, I hope you'll join us and invite your friends.

All the best!

Thu Feb 03, 03:35:00 AM 2011  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Abigail, thanks for "permission" to skip the cup for "asher yatzar." :)

Have fun with my photo. I hope your event goes well.

May I assume, from your transliterations ("misswa" and "u'berukha,") that you're of the B'nei Edot HaMizrach (Child of the Countries[?] of the East) community? We Ashkenazim don't generally use a W sound in Hebrew, and tend to "convert" a lot more of our letter Bets to the Vet sound (I would pronounce that word "u-v'brachah"). As a former foreign language major--I have a B.A. in French--I tend to notice variations in language usage and/or pronunciation, and find them fascinating.

Thu Feb 03, 08:00:00 AM 2011  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Oops, I apologize for misspelling your name, Abigayil. You would that someone whose real name gets misspelled all the time would know better. :(

Sun Feb 06, 02:46:00 PM 2011  

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