Mayim Achronim, Mezuman and More

Mayim Achronim

Many people have the custom of using mayim achronim (water to wash hands after a meal). But according to some opinions, to do so is not required by Jewish law.

Note: According to most opinions, women do not wash with mayim achronim.

Mezuman and Minyan

Saying birkat ha’mazon with a mezuman (or a minyan) is important since it gives honor to God.

You may join with other men to make a minyan or mezuman (a mezuman is any group of 3 or more Jewish men 13 years old or older and so a minyan is also a kind of mezuman) for birkat ha’mazon if, while you are eating:

You can see any other tables at which the other men are eating, or

You had the same waiter as the other men, even if you could not see the rest of the group (such as in an L-shaped room).

Say birkat ha’mazon as a mezuman if:

You don’t have enough men for a minyan (see above), AND

Two men wash, said ha’motzi, and ate bread, AND

One or more other men ate any food other than water and salt.

Note: If the three men’s eating overlapped in time with each other, they MAY say birkat ha’mazon with a mezuman.

If the three men began eating at the same time, they MUST say birkat ha’mazon with a mezuman.

You may say birkat ha’mazon with a minyan if:

At least seven men washed, said ha’motzi, and ate bread, with enough other men who ate some food (anything other than water or salt) to total 10 men.

Note: If the 10 men’s eating overlapped in time with each other, they MAY say birkat ha’mazon with a minyan.

If the 10 men began eating at the same time, they MUST say birkat ha’mazon with a minyan.

Women (even if 10 or more) do not make a minyan, only a mezuman. So do not say the birkat ha’mazon’s minyan introduction but simply say the mezuman introduction if:

10 or more women ate together, without men present;

At least two women washed, said ha’motzi, and ate bread; AND

At least one more woman ate some type of food.

Note: Women are never required to make a mezuman. So when three women are eating together and no men are present, they may say birkat ha’mazon as a mezuman but they are not required to do so.

You may join a mezuman by eating any food (except water and salt) up until the leader says “rabotai nevareich.”

To join a mezuman and continue eating:

1) Reply to “rabotai nevareich,” etc.,

2) Say amen after the leader says the first paragraph’s final blessing, and then

3) Finish eating and say birkat ha’mazon on your own.

Say baruch hu u’varuch shemo before birkat ha’mazon even if only three men are present; you don’t need a minyan.

Note: Only the leader (mezamein) says this, not the other two men.
Stand up a little to honor God when you say God’s name in the introduction (nevareich eloheinu) if you ate with 10 men. This is a non-binding custom, not a halacha.

Table

Knives on Table

You do not need to cover or remove a knife on the table before saying birkat ha’mazon on Shabbat.

Cover or remove a sharp knife from the table on weekdays before saying birkat ha’mazon.

This is a non-binding custom, not a halacha.

Bread on Table

Place the bread back onto the table before saying birkat ha’mazon if the bread had been removed during the meal. This is a non-binding custom, not a halacha.

Note: This is true for any meal, not just for Shabbat.

Copyright 2015 Richard B. Aiken. Halacha L’Maaseh appears courtesy of www.practicalhalacha.com Visit their web site for more information.

This material is provided for informational purposes only – not a substitute for the consultation of a competent rabbi.