MAYIM AḤARONIM (Heb. מַיִם אַחֲרוֹנִים; lit. "latter waters"), term for the ritual washing of the hands after a meal, and before the recitation of the Grace After Meals. The twofold injunction "Sanctify yourselves and be ye holy" (Lev. 20:7) was interpreted as commanding ritual ablution both before the meal and before the recitation of the Grace After Meals (Ber. 53b). The amoraim even contended that mayim aḥaronim was more important than washing before the meal (Yoma 83b; Ḥul. 106a). According to the Talmud, the duty was particularly insisted upon in order to prevent the danger of touching one's eyes with the salt which was used as a condiment during the meal (Ḥul. 105b). Because the variety of salt referred to by Judah b. Ḥiyya\>\> in the Talmud was a particularly potent one (melaḥ sedomit, "salt of Sodom"), containing an admixture of the acrid potash of the Dead Sea, tosafot (ibid.) maintained that the duty did not apply in France, where this particular salt is not to be found. This view is contested, however, by the Shulḥan Arukh (OḤ 181:10). No blessing is said before the performance of mayim aḥaronim (Sh. Ar., OḤ 181:7).

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

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