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Mayim Achronim

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Mayim Achronim Guide

Mayim Achronim, or “The Final Waters” is the tradition of pouring water over the finger tips prior to reciting the Grace after Meals or Birkat HaMazon in Hebrew. The tradition is an ancient tradition dating back to the Talmud and possibly to the priests in the Temple. The tradition arose out of a medical concern, specifically avoiding touching certain powerful corrosive salts to the eyes. Mayim Achronim is not uniform amongst Jews; most Ashkenazi Jews do not perform the ritual while the vast majority of Chassidic and Sephardic Jews do based on the ruling of Rabbi Joseph Karo that Mayim Achronim is an obligation.

When performing the Mayim Achronim ritual, the tradition is to wash one’s hands from the middle knuckle down to the fingertips. There are differences amongst groups, such as the Yemenite Jews who wash their hands as if they were washing before eating bread and pour the water up to the wrist.

Materials Used for a Mayim Achronim Set

In terms of the materials used to produce Mayim Achronim sets, they are usually made from a precious metal such as 925 sterling silver or copper. Sterling silver is especially popular. Lacquered wood is also popular; sets made of wood are usually brightly painted, typically with scenes of Jerusalem or other Judaism-related themes. Ceramic and Clay sets are less common; this is because of their fragile nature.

Mayim Achronim Styles

There are several different styles of Mayim Achronim sets. The most common form is a small cup that fits into a basin or saucer. The cup may be shaped like a Greco-Roman jug or like a miniature Kiddush cup. The decorations on these Mayim Achronim dispensers and receptacles vary; you may choose from floral patterns, grapes, pearls, and even detailed engravings of Jerusalem. In addition, you may personalize these sets with engravings, such as the names of a couple that just married.

Size & Decoration

There are also larger sized Mayim Achronim sets as well. These sets are usually considerably more expensive as they are generally made from 925 sterling silver. The water dispenser in these sets is usually shaped like a Greco-Roman jug or like a Wash Cup. They may also echo Renaissance-era Italian silver lavers. They may also be made from lacquered wood. In terms of their decoration, these Mayim Achronim sets are simpler in design and typically have floral patterns, if they are decorated at all. Large lacquered wood Mayim Achronim sets are usually painted with bright themes such as the Seven Species and may have verses from the Bible relating to Israel or thanking G-d for sustenance.

For More Information

For more information on Mayim Achronim or Shabbat, feel free to contact our Judaica experts with any questions or concerns.

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