SECTION 181 The Rulings Concerning the Washing Before Grace. (1–9)

קפא דִּין מַיִם אַחֲרוֹנִים, וּבוֹ ט' סְעִיפִים:

1It is a mitzvah to wash before Grace1 as an expression of holiness,2 to sanctify oneself prior to blessing G‑d for [our] food, for hands that are soiled with the grime of food are unacceptable when reciting a blessing.2

[Our Sages] added [a further measure, making this washing] an obligation even for those who will not mention G‑d’s name in the Grace after Meals, but will [fulfill their obligation by] listening to the blessings recited by the one who recites [Grace].3 [The rationale: Our Sages said:]4 “After everything you eat, partake of salt.” [Among the salts used in the Talmudic era] was Sodomite salt which could cause blindness [if it touched the eyes].5 [There was reason for] concern that a person’s hands had touched a grain of Sodomite salt or other salt with the same characteristics as Sodomite salt that was mixed together with [other, more common] salt of which one partook after the meal. Thus if he would touch his eyes with his hands without washing them first, it would cause blindness. Accordingly, [those who wash for this reason] need not recite a blessing for this washing, just as one need not recite a blessing when taking precautions against other dangers, e.g., straining water at night because of the danger that [it might contain] a leech, or the like.

It would be fitting, by contrast, for the one who recites Grace3 and washes his hands as a mitzvah, for the sake of holiness, to recite a blessing over this [washing]. Nevertheless, at present, the mitzvah of reciting Grace is not performed in the manner ordained by the Sages — for their practice was to anoint their hands with pleasantly-scented oil after [first] washing to remove the grime from their hands.6 In the present era, [this type of] fragrant oil is not available. Thus, since we cannot fulfill the mitzvah as ordained, it has become customary that even a person who recites Grace does not to recite a blessing [over this washing].

א מַיִם אַחֲרוֹנִים מִצְוָה מִשּׁוּם קְדֻשָּׁה,א,1 לְהִתְקַדֵּשׁ לְבָרֵךְ ה' עַל הַמָּזוֹן,ב,2 שֶׁהַיָּדַיִם שֶׁהֵן מְזֹהָמוֹת מִלִּכְלוּךְ הַמַּאֲכָל – הֵן פְּסוּלוֹת לִבְרָכָה.ג,2

וְעוֹד הוֹסִיפוּ לַעֲשׂוֹת חוֹבָהד גַּם עַל אוֹתָם שֶׁאֵין מַזְכִּירִין אֶת ה' בְּבִרְכַּת הַמָּזוֹן אֶלָּא שׁוֹמְעִין מֵהַמְבָרֵךְ,ה,3 לְפִי שֶׁאָמְרוּ:4 "אַחַר כָּל אֲכִילָתְךָ אֱכֹל מֶלַח",ו וְיֵשׁ מֶלַח סְדוֹמִית שֶׁמְּסַמֵּא אֶת הָעֵינַיִם,ז,5 וְיֵשׁ לָחוּשׁ שֶׁמָּא נָגַע בְּיָדָיו בְּגַרְגִּיר מֶלַח סְדוֹמִית אוֹ מֶלַח אַחֵר שֶׁטִּבְעוֹ כְּמֶלַח סְדוֹמִיתח שֶׁהָיָה מְעֹרָב בַּמֶּלַח שֶׁאָכְלוּ אַחַר הַסְּעוּדָה, וּכְשֶׁיִּתֵּן אַחַר כָּךְ יָדָיו עַל עֵינָיו יְסַמֵּא אוֹתָןט אִם לֹא יִטֹּל יָדָיו תְּחִלָּה. לְפִיכָךְ, אֵין לָהֶם לְבָרֵךְ עַל נְטִילָה זוֹ, כְּמוֹ שֶׁאֵין מְבָרְכִין עַל שְׁמִירָה מִשְּׁאָר סַכָּנוֹת,י כְּגוֹן הַמְסַנֵּן מַיִם בַּלַּיְלָה מִפְּנֵי סַכָּנוֹת עֲלוּקָה וְכַיּוֹצֵא בָּזֶה.יא

אֲבָל הַמְבָרֵךְ3 שֶׁנּוֹטֵל יָדָיו מִשּׁוּם מִצְוָה וּקְדֻשָּׁה הָיָה רָאוּי שֶׁיְּבָרֵךְ עָלֶיהָ,יב אֶלָּא לְפִי שֶׁעַכְשָׁו אֵין עוֹשִׂין הַמִּצְוָה כְּתַקָּנַת חֲכָמִים וּמִנְהָגָם, שֶׁהָיוּ נוֹהֲגִים לִמְשֹׁחַ הַיָּדַיִם בְּשֶׁמֶן עָרֵב אַחַר הַנְּטִילָה לְהַעֲבִיר הַזֻּהֲמָא מֵהַיָּדַיִם,יג,6 וְעַכְשָׁו אֵין לָנוּ שֶׁמֶן עָרֵב, וְכֵיוָן שֶׁאֵין אָנוּ עוֹשִׂים הַמִּצְוָה כְּתִקְנָהּ – נָהֲגוּ שֶׁלֹּא לְבָרֵךְ אֲפִלּוּ הַמְבָרֵךְ בִּרְכַּת הַמָּזוֹן: יד

2 When washing mayim acharonim, one should not [pour the water he is using for this purpose] on the ground, because of the evil spirit that rests upon it7 when it is on the ground.8 Instead, it should be poured into a container. If one does not have a container, he should [pour the water] with which he washes on thin slivers of wood or the like. The same applies with regard to any entity that intervenes between the water and the ground, even flooring. For an evil spirit rests on this water only [when the water is poured] on the earth itself.

In a place where people do not pass by, [the water can be poured] on the ground when washing. Therefore, one may pour the water beneath the table. Even though, at times, the table will be moved, in the interim, the water will have dried.

ב מַיִם אַחֲרוֹנִים אֵין נוֹטְלִין עַל גַּבֵּי קַרְקַע אֶלָּא בִּכְלִי,טו מִפְּנֵי רוּחַ רָעָה שֶׁשּׁוֹרָה עֲלֵיהֶםטז,7 כְּשֶׁהֵם עַל גַּבֵּי קַרְקַע.יז,8 וְאִם אֵין לוֹ כְּלִי,יח נוֹטֵל עַל גַּבֵּי עֵצִים דַּקִּים וְכַיּוֹצֵא בָּהֶם.יט וְהוּא הַדִּין כָּל דָּבָר שֶׁחוֹצֵץ בֵּינָם לַקַּרְקַע, אֲפִלּוּ רִצְפָּה, שֶׁאֵין רוּחַ רָעָה אֶלָּא עַל גַּבֵּי קַרְקַע.כ

וּבְמָקוֹם שֶׁאֵין בְּנֵי אָדָם עוֹבְרִים שָׁם יָכוֹל לִטְּלָם עַל גַּבֵּי קַרְקַע.כא לָכֵן מֻתָּר לִטְּלָם תַּחַת הַשֻּׁלְחָן, וְאַף עַל פִּי שֶׁלִּפְעָמִים מְסַלְּקִין הַשֻּׁלְחָן, מִכָּל מָקוֹם, בֵּין כָּךְ וּבֵין כָּךְ יִתְנַגְּבוּ: כב

3 One should not wash mayim acharonim with water that is so hot it causes one’s hand to recoil, because such [water] makes the flesh more absorbent and does not remove the grime. There are authorities who apply this prohibition even with regard to hot water that does not cause one’s hand to recoil.7 One should rule leniently regarding a point of Rabbinic Law.9

ג אֵין נוֹטְלִין בְּחַמִּיןכג שֶׁהַיָּד סוֹלֶדֶת בּוֹ,כד מִפְּנֵי שֶׁמְּפַעְפְּעִין אֶת הַיָּדַיִם וְאֵין מַעֲבִירִין אֶת הַזֻּהֲמָא.כה וְיֵשׁ אוֹסְרִיןכו אֲפִלּוּ בְּחַמִּין שֶׁאֵין הַיָּד סוֹלֶדֶת בּוֹ.7 וְיֵשׁ לְהָקֵל בְּדִבְרֵי סוֹפְרִים: כז,9

4 There is no need to wash beyond the second joint of the fingers, because the food’s grime does not reach beyond that point.10 There is no need to wash more than once.

There is no required measure for the water of this washing. It does not resemble the washing before eating, for which the required measure is no less than a reviis.11

ד אֵין צָרִיךְ לִטֹּל אֶלָּא עַד פֶּרֶק שֵׁנִי שֶׁל אֶצְבָּעוֹת, שֶׁלְּמַעְלָה מִמֶּנּוּ אֵינוֹ מַגִּיעַ לִכְלוּךְ הַמַּאֲכָל.כח,10 וְאֵין צָרִיךְ לִשְׁפֹּךְ עָלֶיהָ אֶלָּא פַּעַם אֶחָת.כט

וְאֵין שִׁעוּר לְמַיִם שֶׁל נְטִילָה זוֹ,ל וְאֵינָם כְּמַיִם רִאשׁוֹנִים שֶׁשִּׁעוּרָם לֹא פָּחוֹת מֵרְבִיעִית: לא,11

5 One must position his fingertips downward while washing,12 so that the filth will descend [with the water]. (For that reason, one should not wash [by immersing his hands in water that is] in a container, but should pour water over them so that the filth will descend. Mayim emtza’im, a washing between courses, i.e., between eating cheese and a cooked dish that is fleishig,13may be performed [by immersing one’s hands in water] in a container.)

ה צָרִיךְ שֶׁיַּשְׁפִּיל רָאשֵׁי אֶצְבְּעוֹתָיו לְמַטָּה בִּשְׁעַת הַנְּטִילָה,לב,12 כְּדֵי שֶׁתֵּרֵד הַזֻּהֲמָאלג (וְלָכֵן אֵין לִרְחֹץ יָדָיו תּוֹךְ הַכְּלִי, אֶלָּא יִשְׁפֹּךְ עֲלֵיהֶם כְּדֵי שֶׁתֵּרֵד הַזֻּהֲמָא.לד אֲבָל אֶמְצָעִים שֶׁבֵּין גְּבִינָה לְתַבְשִׁיל שֶׁל בָּשָׂרלה,13 – יָכוֹל לְרָחְצָן בְּתוֹךְ הַכְּלִי) לו:

6 If many people dine together, the least prominent among them should wash first,14 for it is degrading for the more prominent person to wash his hands [first] and [then have to] wait idly until all wash. Therefore, the person of least prominence sitting at the end [of the table] should wash first and the one of greater prominence should continue his activity, be it eating or another matter, until the water reaches him.

Those dining should wash in the order that they are seated. One should not honor another [by giving him precedence]15 in this washing, until [the water] reaches the last five persons,14 because one does not honor another person with regard to dirty hands.15

When there are five [remaining individuals] that have not washed and one of them is the person who will recite Grace, the one who will recite Grace should wash first. Afterwards, the other diners should [wash as they are seated] without honoring one another to wash first. Similarly, when there are only five who dined together, the one who leads Grace should wash first. [Washing in such an arrangement will enable] the leaderto review the Grace after Meals.14 Our Sages estimated that during the interval that the other four would wash, he could review the four blessings of Grace, and yet this interval would not be considered an interruption between his washing and the recitation of Grace.

[Our Sages’] statement that Grace should be recited immediately after this washing16 does not actually mean immediately, but within such an interval.17 Nevertheless, it is forbidden to interrupt without a pressing purpose. Therefore, the cup [of wine] used for Grace should be blended18 before this washing, so that the washing will be as close to the recitation of Grace as possible.19

[During the said interval,] it is forbidden to converse regarding any business concern or other matter,20 not even to speak words of Torah. Uttering two or three words, however, is not a matter of concern, except after one took the cup [over which Grace is recited] in his hands, as stated in sec. 183[:10].

ו אִם הַמְסֻבִּין הֵם רַבִּים – מַתְחִילִין מִן הַקָּטָן,לז,14 שֶׁגְּנַאי הוּא לַגָּדוֹל לִטֹּל יָדָיו וְיַמְתִּין יוֹשֵׁב בָּטֵל עַד שֶׁיִּטְּלוּ כֻּלָּם. לְפִיכָךְ, מַתְחִילִין מִן הַקָּטָן הַיּוֹשֵׁב בַּסּוֹף,לח וְהַגָּדוֹל עוֹסֵק בַּאֲכִילָהלט אוֹ בְּדָבָר אַחֵר עַד שֶׁיַּגִּיעוּ הַמַּיִם אֵלָיו.

וְנוֹטְלִין כֻּלָּם דֶּרֶךְ יְשִׁיבָתָם.מ וְאֵין מְכַבְּדִין זֶה אֶת זֶה,מא עַד שֶׁיַּגִּיעוּ לַחֲמִשָּׁה הָאַחֲרוֹנִים,מב,14 לְפִי שֶׁאֵין מְכַבְּדִים בְּיָדַיִם מְזֹהָמוֹת,מג,15 וְכֵיוָן שֶׁלֹּא נִשְׁאֲרוּ אֶלָּא חֲמִשָּׁה שֶׁלֹּא נָטְלוּ, שֶׁאֶחָד מֵהֶן הוּא הַמְבָרֵךְ – מַתְחִילִין מִן הַמְבָרֵךְ,מד וְאַחַר כָּךְ אֵין מְכַבְּדִין זֶה אֶת זֶה.מה וְכֵן אִם אֵין שָׁם אֶלָּא חֲמִשָּׁה מַתְחִילִין מִן הַמְבָרֵךְ,מו כְּדֵי שֶׁיְּעַיֵּן בְּבִרְכַּת הַמָּזוֹן בְּעוֹד שֶׁאֵלּוּ הָאַרְבָּעָה נוֹטְלִים,14 שֶׁשִּׁעֲרוּ חֲכָמִים שֶׁבְּשִׁעוּר נְטִילַת אַרְבָּעָה יוּכַל לְעַיֵּן בְּד' בְּרָכוֹת שֶׁל בִּרְכַּת הַמָּזוֹן, וְכֵן בְּשִׁעוּר זֶה אֵין בּוֹ הֶפְסֵק בֵּין נְטִילָה לִבְרָכָה.מז

וּמַה שֶּׁאָמְרוּ: מח "תֵּכֶף לִנְטִילַת יָדַיִם בְּרָכָה",16 לָאו "תֵּכֶף" מַמָּשׁ, אֶלָּא בִּכְדֵי שִׁעוּר זֶה.מט,17 מִכָּל מָקוֹם, שֶׁלֹּא לְצֹרֶךְ אָסוּר לְהַפְסִיק כְּלָל.נ וְלָכֵן מוֹזְגִין18 כּוֹס שֶׁל בִּרְכַּת הַמָּזוֹן קֹדֶם הַנְּטִילָה,נא כְּדֵי לִתְכֹּף הַנְּטִילָה לַבְּרָכָה בְּכָל מַה דְּאֶפְשָׁר.נב,19

וְאָסוּר לְהָשִׂיחַ בֵּינְתַיִם אֵיזֶה עֵסֶק וְעִנְיָן אַחֵר,20 אֲפִלּוּ בְּדִבְרֵי תּוֹרָה,נג אֲבָל שִׂיחָה בְּעָלְמָא ב' וְג' תֵּבוֹת – אֵין לָחוּשׁנד אֶלָּא מִשֶּׁנָּטַל הַכּוֹס בְּיָדוֹ לְבָרֵךְ, כְּמוֹ שֶׁיִּתְבָּאֵר בְּסִימָן קפ"ג: נה

7 There are authorities who maintain that there is no need to dry [one’s hands after] mayim acharonim. Another authority, by contrast, states that the one reciting Grace should dry his hands and then recite Grace. However, the others who dined [with him] need not dry their hands according to all opinions.21 Moreover, even with regard to the one who recites Grace, a lenient approach should be followed, [since this washing] is a Rabbinic ordinance. See sec. 173.22

ז יֵשׁ אוֹמְרִיםנו שֶׁמַּיִם אַחֲרוֹנִים אֵין צְרִיכִים נִגּוּב. וְיֵשׁ מִי שֶׁאוֹמֵרנז שֶׁהַמְבָרֵךְ מְנַגֵּב יָדָיו תְּחִלָּה וְאַחַר כָּךְ מְבָרֵךְ. אֲבָל הַמְסֻבִּין אֵינָם צְרִיכִים לְנַגֵּב לְדִבְרֵי הַכֹּל.נח,21 וְגַם בַּמְּבָרֵךְ יֵשׁ לְהָקֵל בְּדִבְרֵי סוֹפְרִים, עַיֵּן סִימָן קע"ג: נט,22

8 All types of liquids may be used for mayim acharonim, even oil, honey, or milk, because they all remove filth. Because of its importance — see sec. 160[:15]23 and 17124 — wine is an exception and may not be used.

Similarly, water that is disqualified for the washing before eating because work was performed with it25 or because its appearance changed26 is acceptable for mayim acharonim.

ח מַיִם אַחֲרוֹנִים נוֹטְלִים בְּכָל מִינֵי מַשְׁקֶה,ס אֲפִלּוּ בְּשֶׁמֶן וּדְבַשׁסא וְחָלָב,סב מִפְּנֵי שֶׁהֵם מַעֲבִירִין אֶת הַזֻּהֲמָא,סג חוּץ מִיַּיִן שֶׁאֵין נוֹטְלִין בּוֹסד מִפְּנֵי חֲשִׁיבוּתוֹ, כְּמוֹ שֶׁנִּתְבָּאֵר בְּסִימָן ק"ססה,23 וקע"א.סו,24

וְכֵן מַיִם הַפְּסוּלִים לָרִאשׁוֹנִים מִשּׁוּם מְלָאכָה25 אוֹ שִׁנּוּי מַרְאֶה26 – כְּשֵׁרִים לָאַחֲרוֹנִים: סז

9 [At present,] there are some who are not accustomed to washing mayim acharonim because Sodomite salt is not commonly found among us. Similarly, one need not be concerned about filthy hands. Since, at present, people are not meticulous about washing their hands from the residue of food, we do not consider [what is left on the hands] as filth.

Nevertheless, for a person who is delicate and used to washing his hands after a meal, such hands are considered [by him] as filthy and he is required to wash them before reciting Grace. [Indeed,] even if he desires to recite a blessing over wine in the midst of the meal, he should cleanse his hands before reciting the blessing [over the wine]. Nevertheless, it is proper for every person to be meticulous about washing mayim acharonim.27

ט יֵשׁ שֶׁאֵין נוֹהֲגִים לִטֹּל מַיִם אַחֲרוֹנִים, מִפְּנֵי שֶׁאֵין מֶלַח סְדוֹמִית מְצוּיָה בֵּינֵינוּ, וּמִשּׁוּם יָדַיִם מְזֹהָמוֹת אֵין חוֹשְׁשִׁין, הוֹאִיל וְעַכְשָׁו אֵין מַקְפִּידִין לְרָחְצָן מִלִּכְלוּךְ הַמַּאֲכָל – אֵין זֶה קָרוּי זֻהֲמָא לָנוּ.סח

וּמִכָּל מָקוֹם, מִי שֶׁהוּא אִסְטְנִיס וְרָגִיל לִרְחֹץ יָדָיו אַחַר הַסְּעוּדָה – הֲרֵי הֵן לוֹ יָדַיִם מְזֹהָמוֹת, וְצָרִיךְ לִטְּלָן קֹדֶם בִּרְכַּת הַמָּזוֹן.סט וַאֲפִלּוּ רוֹצֶה לְבָרֵךְ עַל הַיַּיִן בְּאֶמְצַע הַסְּעוּדָה – יְקַנְּחָן קֹדֶם שֶׁיְּבָרֵךְ.ע אֲבָל נָכוֹן לְכָל אָדָם לִזָּהֵר בְּמַיִם אַחֲרוֹנִים: עא,27