Volume 30 Number 90
                 Produced: Fri Jan 14  5:59:43 US/Eastern 2000

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Erev Shabbos Yidden
         [Yisrael Dubitsky]
Food banks and Jews
         [David I. Cohen]
Mayim Achronim (2)
         [Ari Z. Zivotofsky, Anthony S Fiorino]
Washing at the Shmorg
         [Carl Singer]


From: Yisrael Dubitsky <yidubitsky@...>
Date: Thu, 13 Jan 2000 10:15:06 +0000
Subject: Erev Shabbos Yidden

David Steinberg writes:
>I recall that that the Rav ztzal...
>said that while there are Shomer Shabbos Jews now, once upon a time
>there were Erev Shabbos Yidden ....

The statement appears as a footnote in *Al ha-Teshuvah*, ed. P. Peli
(Jerusalem, 1975) p. 57-58 [English translation: *On Repentance* (NY
1984), p. 88-89].

Compare also the almost identical sentiment expressed by Dr. H.
Soloveitchik in *Rupture and Reconstruction..." (Tradition 28:4 (1994)),
p. 98, wherein he refers to Yamim Noraim in an Israeli yeshiva in 1959
(and thereafter) as missing a certain "fear in the thronged student

Yisrael Dubitsky


From: David I. Cohen <BDCOHEN613@...>
Date: Wed, 12 Jan 2000 08:51:57 EST
Subject: Food banks and Jews

<<(It is safe to assume, in this case, that the food bank has no Jewish
clients.) >>

Wow, what a stereotype. And I am afraid an all too common
assumption. There is poverty among Jews in the US. And except for some
dedicated individuals (Project Ezra in NYC, comes to mind) most of the
community ignores the problem.
    This is similar to the mistaken notion that alcoholism, drug abuse,
domestic violence etc. are not problems in the Jewish community,
especially in the Orthodox community. I wish it were so. But over 20
years as a state prosecutor tells me that the reality is far different.
    David I. Cohen


From: Ari Z. Zivotofsky <azz@...>
Date: Tue, 11 Jan 2000 11:11:30 -0500
Subject: Mayim Achronim

 There has been alot of discussion recently about mayim achronim, in
particular about women washing.
 Below is something I wrote up a little while ago that deals with most
of the mayim achronim topics raised, and more, and I thought it might be
of interest.


Misconception : Washing for Mayin achronim is a chumra in which women
need not participate. The water used for Mayim Achronim needs to be
removed from the table or covered over.
 Fact: Washing before bentching is an obligation in which women should
also participate. There is scant basis for covering or removing the
mayim achronim.
 Background: Washing hands before saying birchat hamazon is discussed in
the Talmud (Brachot 53b and Chullin 105a-b) and accepted by the halachik
decisors as a chov - obligation (Rambam, Hilchot Brachot 6:2; SA OC
181:1) 1. The reasons for this washing are to remove the melech sdomit
(sodomite salt - a type of fine salt used in the Talmudic period that
was deemed dangerous if it got in the eye; Chullin 105b) and to clean
one's hands before saying a blessing (based on the verse "ve'hiyisem
k'doshim" - you shall be holy; Brachot 53b). Since medieval Europe did
not have melech sdomit, Tosafot (Brachot 53b; Chullin 105a) ruled,
probably in defense of the contemporary laxity (Aruch Hashulchan 181:5),
that it was no longer mandatory. This opinion is cited by the SA (OC
181:10), but the Mishna Berurah (181:22) notes that the Gra was strict,
and the Magen Avraham in the name of the kabbalists (and Zohar to
Pinchas) advises one to wash. The Aruch Hashulchan 181:5 says that
therefore, despite Tosafot's ruling, one should be exceedingly careful
to wash mayim achronim and to admonish one's family to wash.2 This is
especially true if one's hands are dirty and will need to be washed for
cleanliness purposes after the meal.3 While the SA (OC 181:2; based on
Chullin 105b) notes that there is some form of ruach ra - evil spirit -
on the used water, that is only if the water is spilled on to the
uncovered ground.4 If it is poured into a utensil, or even on to a pile
of twigs or the floor there is not ruach ra. There is almost no mention
or hint in any of the sources of a need to remove or cover the water, or
even that such a custom even exists. There is one exception, and that
seems to be based on a non-normative, kabbalistic understanding of mayim
achronim which takes it totally out of its talmudic context.
 The Kaf Hachayim (Sofer; 181:8) quotes Kaf HaChayim (Palache; 25:3)5
that if one does not have a special bowl for mayin achronim, or is lazy
to get their bowl, they can pour it into a food bowl, but just should be
careful to remove it from the table before saying the bracha. It is not
clear to me if he is indicating that only in such a case it has to be
removed from the table but not if a special bowl is used, or exactly the
opposite, that with a special bowl it is obvious, but in this case one
may forget to remove it and hence he emphasizes. In any event, this
concern is not cited by any other authorities and follows on the heels
(25:2) of a very kabbalistic interpretation of mayim achronim in which
he advocates washing first and then using only a little water on the
tips of the fingers for mayin achronim6 since it is an "offering" to the
"sitra achara" - the "other force."7 The halacha following his
admonition to remove it from the table (25:4) also deals with these
concepts. He warns in very strong language that one must be diligent in
mayin achronim and thereby give the sitra achara his due or else it can
cause one great harm.8 It was due to the neglect of mayin achronim,
according to Rav Palache in the name of the Yalkut Reuvani, that Iyov
(Job) suffered all of his travail. The reason to remove the water from
the table, therefore appears to be linked to it being an offering to the
sitra achra.9 This seems to not be the usual explanation for mayim
achronim (or for Iyov's travails), and it seems that it is only in this
context that there is a need to remove10 the water (or to wash only the
finger tips).
 There is one more small issue regarding how mayin achronim should be
performed. Most people today wash at the table and do not dry their
hands. According to the Rambam (Brachot 6:20 and 7:13) the hands are
dried after washing mayim achronim. Some interpret the Rambam's opinion,
here and elsewhere,11 that washing without drying is not called washing
(Mishna Berura 181:19). Others disagree about the need to dry one's
hands. The Shulchan Aruch (OC 173:3) says explicitly that for mayim
rishonim and emtzaim there is a requirement to dry the hands but not for
mayim achronima. The Gra (commenting on OC 173:3) explains that the only
reason to require drying is if there is either impure water present or
to prevent the unseemly eating of bread with wet hands, and neither
condition is present after mayim achronim and hence there is no
requirement to dry the hands. In another place the Shulchan Aruch
(181:8) presents both sides by noting that some12 say that there is no
need for drying mayim achronim but the Rambam says to dry. The Mishna
Berura (181:19), citing the Chayei Adam, observes that although the
Shulchan Aruch is lenient in this regard, if possible one should be

  1) Although after stating in 181:1 that it is an obligation, the SA
(181:10) acknowledges the opinion of Tosafot that there are some who
have a custom not to wash mayim achronim.
  2) Even in families that are careful to wash, there seems to be a
general laxity about women washing. Since all the reasons given for this
obligation are equally applicable to women, this negligence seems
inexplicable. This laxity has been decried by many significant
authorities who insist that the requirement for women to wash is
obvious. These include Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, Rav Yosef Chaim
Sonnenfeld (Salmath Chayim, letters at the beginning of book, note 2 and
vol. 4 no. 3:2), Rav Shlomo Chaim Hakohen Aviner (Am k'Lavi Vol 1:83),
and the Mor Uktziah (end of siman 181), who says that women should be so
instructed. He also suggests that the laxity is due to the fact that
women are more careful to eat neatly with utensils and with the lack of
melech sdomit may have less reason to wash for soiled hands. Others,
such as Rav Shmuel Halevi Wossner (Shevet Halevi vol. 4, OC no. 23),
have offered various post-facto rationalizations, based on SA OC 181:10,
to explain this laxity. Rav Moishe Sternbuch (Tshuvas v'Hanhagas 1:174)
writes that according to the Gra they must wash, according to the reason
in Brachot they must wash, and according to other reasons their
obligation is on par with at of men. See R. Yitzchak Yaacov Fuchs,
Halichos Bas Yisrael Vol. 1, pg 57-58 and R. David Auerbach, Halichos
Baysah, p. 92 for some of these sources.
  3) This rule is true not just bentching. No blessing should be
recited with unclean hands. (See Rav Shlomo Chaim Hakohen Aviner, Am
K'lavi, 1983, 1:83.) Furthermore, mayim achronim is for "cleanliness"
not an halachik washing like washing before the meal. Hence, no cup is
required. One can simply wash from the faucet (see: Kaf Hachaim 181:10
in the name of the Kol Bo, Raavad, Levush, and Eliyahu Rabba; Mishna
Berurah 181:21.)
  4) Magen Avraham 181:2; Kaf Hachaim 181:13; Aruch Hashulchan 181:7.
However, Kaf Hachaim 181:12 brings an opinion, also cited in Biur
Halacha to OC 181:2, that there is another opinion, one that he does not
think the SA holds of, that there is a ruach ra even when a utensil is
used to catch the water.
  5) There are two Kaf Hachaim's; the more common one by Rav Yaakov
Chayyim Soffer (1870-1939), and another by the great Sephardi authority
of the last century Rav Chayyim Palache (b. Izmir, 1788 - 1869,
published in 1859). For more on Palache see Encyclopedia Judaica
  6) Hence the source for washing only the tips of the fingers,
something that does not suffice, according to most authorities, if one's
hands are not clean enough to say a bracha. In the siddur Tslusa
d'Avraham, the commentary Shirusa d'Avraham (pages 361-362) points out
that even if it is to the sitra achara it should be equivalent to what
is used for mayin rishonim used before eating (a revi'it), just as the
Talmud states (Yoma 62a) that the sair ha'mistala'ach is equivalent to
the goat sacrificed to God. The Gra (Maaseh Rav 84) would wash all the
way to the palm and with at least a revi'it. The Mishna Berura (181:10)
decries those who are careful to wash yet use only a few drops thus
leaving the hands not clean enough for bentching. Rather, he states, one
must wash at least until the "second knuckles." The Aruch Hashulchan (OC
181:8) writes that he has seen some people use specifically less than a
revi'it, but there is no source for this and many great people use more
than a revi'it. For more sources on this, such as the Chida and Ben Ish
Chai washing only the tips and the Arizal washing his whole fingers, see
Minhag Yisrael Torah, OC 182:3.
  7) Based on Zohar (Shmot 154b). Possibly similar to one understanding
of the seir hamishtala'ach - the scapegoat (Zohar, Shmot 184b) - see
Siddur Tslusa d'Avraham, the commentary Shirusa d'Avraham (page 361).
  8) The Kav haYashar, end of Chapter 13, mentions in the name of Rabenu
Yishaya Segal that mayim achronim is for the sitra achar and he
therefore advises doing it in a respectable manner such as in a utensil
rather than on the ground and thereby the mazikim won't be able to do
him any harm. The Likutei Maharich disagrees and argues that just as the
morning washing is for the sitra achar and there is no need to do it in
a respectable manner, so too with mayim achronim.
  9) siddur Tslusa d'Avraham, the commentary Shirusa d'Avraham (page
362) assumed the reason some people remove the water was because of
ruach ra. He proceeds to show there is no ruach ra if it is in a utensil
and hence, he concludes, there is no reason to remove it.
  10)  Even he does not mention an alternative of covering it.
  11) The Mishna LaMelech to Hilchot Avodat Yom Hakippurim 2:2 comments
that the Rambam's opinion is that when the mishna (Yoma 3:4) notes that
the kohen gadol dried after immersing on Yom Kippur it was not merely
reporting the usual occurrence but was stating a required part of the
service. However Yom Kippur may be different that other "washings" and
that drying on Yom kippur may be required to avoid problems of a
chatzizah (interposition) between the body of the kohen gadol and his
special vestments.
  12) According to the Be'er haGola this is the Rashba and the Kol Bo in
the name of the Raavad.

From: Anthony S Fiorino <fiorino_anthony@...>
Date: Tue, 11 Jan 2000 08:53:47 -0500
Subject: Mayim Achronim

> From: Janet Rosenbaum <jerosenb@...>
> One of the posters in the mayim achronim thread stressed that the water
> has to be poured from a cup rather than from a faucet, and it turns out
> that neither of us know why.
> Can someone here address the difference between water from a cup vs.
> water from a faucet?  Does this difference relate at all to the
> difference between drawn and non-drawn water, as in a mikvah?

This again relates to the reason why one is washing mayim achronim.  If
the issue is simply to remove potentially dangerous salt, than it does
not matter how one washes - faucet, cup, whatever.  If, on the other
hand, one is washing to purify one's hands prior to tefilla, then the
water must be poured over them.

A related question that has bothered me - at the seder, we wash our
hands prior to karpas.  Most hagadot (the Gra's being an exception)
state that "al netilat yadayim" is not said here; certainly, our custom
today is not to wash on wet vegetables any other time of the year.
Nevertheless, since the reason for washing before eating wet vegetables
(to prevent transmission of tumah to the vegetables) is one that
requires uninterrupted concentration between the washing and the eating,
as is true for washing before bread, it would seem to me that one should
not be mafseik between washing and eating the karpas. I've never seen
such an issue mentioned in a hagadah. Is it because we don't really care
about the tumah in this case and that the hand-washing is simply a
zecher?  That would be an explanation, but I don't like the idea of
stripping the halachic significance out of any segment of the seder

Eitan Fiorino


From: Carl Singer <CARLSINGER@...>
Date: Thu, 13 Jan 2000 09:23:41 EST
Subject: Re: Washing at the Shmorg

The problem at the "shmorg" is frequently the lack of washing stations.
There's usually bread available -- usually those tiny little loaves near
the carving station.  The ambiance, of this not being a meal is
troubling.  Afterall, it's not long afterwards (just after the Chuppa)
that we sit to a table (with washing stands nearby) usually with
individuals rolls, and someone frequently makes Motzei on a kitka from
the head table.  (Is the Chuppa, or davening in between a separation,
and thus should we bench after making motzei at the smorgasbord?)

Carl Singer


End of Volume 30 Issue 90