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Wash after meal

Question:

Hello,
I recently came across mention of washing after meals. I see that some say it is obligation, others say custom and that there is also a difference of opinion regarding men and women.
Before doing research into this, I was slightly aware of the practice but forgot because I am not used to it. Do I have to do anything to make up for it?

How common is this practice now? What if one eats some of the food with the fingers? What about if it is eaten with a glove on?

Answer:

Washing after meals is called mayim achronim (lit. after water). If you didn’t wash mayim achronim there is nothing that you have to do about it, as you can’t make it up, and as you stated there are poskim whom you can rely on, who say that it doesn’t have to be done. There are many people who are makpid to wash mayim achronim, and this is the general minhag.

There are two main reasons why we wash mayim achronim. The first is because there is a certain type of salt called melach sidomis that can cause blindness if it gets into one’s eyes. It is possible that during the course of the meal the person touched some of this salt (it can get mixed into regular salt). The second reason is because if grease etc. that got on the person’s hands during the course of the meal. Part of the reason why some don’t wash, is because they say that we don’t have this kind of salt nowadays. Regarding the second reason, they say that nowadays we are not careful to wash off a little residue from what we eat. A person who ate with gloves would not have this concern, however a person that ate with his fingers would have more of this concern. Another point, there is a third reason brought in the Magen Avrohom that we should wash mayim achronim even if both of these reasons don’t apply because of kabalistic reasons. Therefore, there is reason to wash mayim achronim even if one wore gloves.

Best wishes

Sources:

O:CH 182-1,10, M:B 182-22.

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