[Avodah] What is mayim achronim (washing hands at the end of the meal) and is it obligatory?

Micha Berger micha at aishdas.org
Tue Nov 9 11:23:34 PST 2021

On Wed, Nov 03, 2021 at 01:29:08PM +0000, Prof. L. Levine via Avodah wrote:
> From today's OU Kosher Halacha Yomis

>> Q. What is mayim achronim (washing hands at the end of the meal)
>> and is it obligatory?

Something we discussed here in the past is the machloqes between
historians of halakhah.

Agus and Ta-Shma hold that Sepharadim show more influence from Bavel
than Ashkenazim do. After all, Ashkenaz (the Holy Roman Empire) was
largely settled by Jews whose immediate prior residence was in Italy or
Provence, both of which had many slaves and refugees from Churban Bayis
Sheini and the suppression of Bar Kokhva. And so, in terms of
Chazal's communities, Minhag Ashkenaz continues the same stream found in
EY during the period of the geonim.

R/Dr Haym Soloveitchik holds quite the reverse. I do not know his
argument, because RRW studied under Agus, not "Dr Grach". So, my
introduction to the topic was lopsided. And in any case, I want to
look at things from the first perspective anyway.

Say Ashkenazim have a richer mix of Minhag EY, this would be an example.

In the Yerushalmi, the only reason given for mayim acharonim is to protect
oneself from melach sedomis.

In the Bavli, though, that is only one of two reasons given. Eiruvin 17b
mentions the salt, but Berakhos 46b, 53b, Sotah 4b, and Chullin 105a-b all
talk about tum'ah. (And comparison / contrast to mayim rishonim.)

Meanwhile, Ashk are much more lenient about mayim acharonim bizman hazeh
than are Seph. I know Sepharadi homes where the women wash with a revi'is
before bentching.

It could be because Ashk are thinking like EY and are only worried about
melach sedomis, and therefore there isn't much cause for mayim acharonim
beyond keeping minhag going. Whereas Sepharadim not only have to worry
about those sloppy men getting salt on their hands, but everyone should
make sure their hands are tehorim before making a beraskhah mideOraisa.

On Mon, Nov 08, 2021 at 09:56:36PM -0500, Michael Poppers via Avodah wrote:
> What would the response be to someone stating, "Because we use washing
> machines nowadays and don't manually scrub at the edge of a body of water,
> we should no longer refrain from washing clothes during Chol haMoeid"?

Depends on whether

1- Is it a gezeira? Like chalav stam. The Peri Chadash said it was a pesaq
   in existing rules of kashrus, and therefore would change as the metzius
   did. The Chasam Sofer disagreed.

2- Even if it was a gezeira, was it the iqar gezeira or an envelope case.
   It is like a home-ground medicine on Shabbos? It is like tuning a
   musical instrument or hand clapping?

Here we have motive to permit, as a qula in melakhah on ch"m is a chumera
in simchas yom tov. (Assuming it enables you to wear your favorite outfit,
or you prefer your clothing clean.)

Tir'u baTov!

Micha Berger                 It is a glorious thing to be indifferent to
http://www.aishdas.org/asp   suffering, but only to one's own suffering.
Author: Widen Your Tent                    -Robert Lynd, writer (1879-1949)
- https://amzn.to/2JRxnDF

Tir'u baTov!

Micha Berger                 Man can aspire to spiritual-moral greatness
http://www.aishdas.org/asp   which is seldom fully achieved and easily lost
Author: Widen Your Tent      again. Fulfillment lies not in a final goal,
- https://amzn.to/2JRxnDF    but in an eternal striving for perfection. -RSRH

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