Halacha for Sunday 30 Tishrei 5781 October 18 2020

Question: Is speaking between washing one’s hands with Mayim Acharonim and Birkat Hamazon permissible?

Answer: We have already explained that one who eats a bread meal is obligated to wash his hands with a small amount of water before reciting Birkat Hamazon. We have also explained that women are likewise obligated to wash their hands with Mayim Acharonim based on the ruling of Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch (Chapter 181) that “Mayim Acharonim is an obligation.”

Regarding interruption with speech after washing with Mayim Acharonim, the Gemara (Berachot 42a) states, “Immediately after hand-washing, one must recite the blessing.” We have already explained in a previous Halacha that the Rishonim disagree regarding whether the Gemara is referring to Netilat Yadayim before the meal or the hand-washing (Mayim Acharonim) following the meal. Indeed, the Rambam explains that the Gemara is referring to the prohibition to interrupt between Mayim Acharonim and Birkat Hamazon. However, it is permissible to interrupt with speech or unrelated matters between Netilat Yadayim and the “Hamotzi” blessing according to the Rambam’s opinion.

Others explain that the Gemara is referring to the original hand-washing, i.e. Netilat Yadayim, and thus, one may not interrupt with speech or other matters between Netilat Yadayim and the “Hamotzi” blessing. Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch rules in accordance with the Rambam’s opinion in that according to the letter of the law, one may interrupt between Netilat Yadayim and the “Hamotzi” blessing (although it is preferable to take care not to speak then either, as we have explained); however, it is forbidden to interrupt between Mayim Acharonim and Birkat Hamazon.

Maran writes in his commentary on the Rambam, Kesef Mishneh, that according to the opinion of Rashi and the Rambam, the only kind of interruption forbidden between Mayim Acharonim and Birkat Hamazon is an actual interruption, such as eating or drinking; however, there is no prohibition to speak between them. Nevertheless, in his Bet Yosef (commentary on the Tur), Maran changes his mind and writes that it seems according to all opinions that the reason to prohibit interruption between Mayim Acharonim and Birkat Hamazon is because immediately upon washing with Mayim Acharonim, one is considered to have begun blessing since Mayim Acharonim is a preparation for Birkat Hamazon. Thus, even speaking is forbidden between Mayim Acharonim and Birkat Hamazon.

Halachically speaking, one must act stringently and refrain from speaking at all between Mayim Acharonim and Birkat Hamazon. If one has already spoken between Mayim Acharonim and Birkat Hamazon, one should preferably wash one’s fingers once again as Mayim Acharonim in order to place Mayim Acharonim and Birkat Hamazon immediately one after the other without any interruption between them.

Ask the Rabbi


8 Halachot Most Popular

The Mitzvah of Counting the Omer

The Torah states (Vayikra 21, 15): “And you shall count for yourselves, from the day following the Shabbat, from the day the waved Omer offering is brought, seven complete weeks shall they be.” Our Sages (Menachot 65b) have a tradition that the “day following the Shabbat” ref......

Read Halacha

Question: How many “Kezayit”s (olive’s volume) of Matzah must one consume during the Pesach Seder?

Answer: One is obligated to eat altogether three “Kezayit”s of Matzah during the Pesach Seder. Every Kezayit amounts to approx. 30 grams of Matzah. Nevertheless, there is room for stringency to eat four or even five “Kezayit”s of Matzah, as we shall now explain. The Order......

Read Halacha

What Constitutes a “Permanent” or “Professional” Knot

In previous Halachot we have explained that is forbidden to tie a “permanent” knot on Shabbat, i.e. a knot which is not meant to be untied in the near future. It is likewise forbidden to tie a “professional” knot on Shabbat, i.e. a knot which requires some skill to tie. Howev......

Read Halacha

Chol Ha’Mo’ed

The days between the first and seventh days (outside of Israel between the second and eighth days) of the Pesach holiday and the days between the first day of Sukkot and the holiday of Shemini Atzeret (outside of Israel between the second day of Sukkot and Shemini Atzeret) are called “Chol Ha&......

Read Halacha


The Laws of Tying and Untying on Shabbat

The Mishnah in Masechet Shabbat (73a) lists the thirty-nine forms of forbidden work on Shabbat. The Mishnah includes “tying and untying” among them. One who ties or unties a knot on Shabbat is tantamount to having kindled a fire or planted wheat on Shabbat. There are several detailed ......

Read Halacha

Knots Forbidden To Be Tied on Shabbat by Rabbinic Enactment and Those Permitted to be Tied

In the previous Halacha we have explained that two of the forbidden works on Shabbat are tying and untying a knot. We have likewise discussed some forms of knots which are forbidden to be tied on Shabbat by Torah law. We shall now discuss several forms of knots which are forbidden to be tied as a re......

Read Halacha

Everything is Foreseen and Permission is Granted

Israeli Independence Day is celebrated today. Since we have discussed this topic several times in the past, we will not delve into this matter lengthily at this point. Let us just note that according to Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l, although one must show thanks to Hashem for removing the ......

Read Halacha

Separating the Tzitzit Strands

Question: My younger son wears a “Tallit Katan” (Tzitzit garment). When I see that the Tzitzit strands become entangled, may I untangle them on Shabbat? Answer: Before reciting a blessing on a Tallit or a Tallit Katan (Tzitzit garment), one must separate the Tzitzit strands from one a......

Read Halacha