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Washing the Hands (Netilas Yadayim) before Meals; Grace After Meals (Birkas HaMazon) & Other Blessings

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Sefer HaMinhagim
The Book of Chabad-Lubavitch Customs

Washing the Hands (Netilas Yadayim) before Meals; Grace After Meals (Birkas HaMazon) & Other Blessings

Translated by Uri Kaploun

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(a) Before Meals:

It is customary among chassidim to examine the hands to ensure that they are clean, and then to pour water over them three times.

For meals, one pours the water [over the right hand then over the left] three times[162] consecutively. A little of the water from the last pouring is left in the palm of the left hand, and with this both hands are rubbed together.[163]

It has by now become a universal practice among chassidim to wash the hands three times for meals while holding the vessel with a towel.[164]

It is our custom to dip the bread [over which one says HaMotzi] three times into the salt, rather than to sprinkle the salt on the bread.[165]

(b) Grace After Meals:

Cf. Siddur, p. 88ff.

Before rinsing the fingertips with Mayim Acharonim [which immediately precedes the Grace After Meals], one reads the following passages: al naharo bavel; lamnatzeiach bin'ginos; avorchah; zeh cheilek.[166]

On days when Tachanun is omitted the order is: shir hama'alos; livnei korach; avorchah; zeh cheilek.[167]

For Mayim Acharonim[168] one rinses the fingertips; whilst still wet they are passed over the lips - except during Pesach,[169] when one makes a point of not doing so.

After Mayim Acharonim one says the verse beginning vayedabeir eilai.[170]

The Grace After Meals is said over a cup of wine,[171] even when there are not ten [adult males] present [though there are three or more]. The cup is held[172] - in the palm of the raised [right] hand, the [four] fingers extending upward - until the end of the blessing: boneh b'rachamav Yerushalayim amein. It is then placed on the table and raised again for the blessing, borei pri hagafen.

In the paragraph beginning r'tzei, the letter beis in baal hayeshuos is vocalized with a dagesh [and hence pronounced b]; in u'baal hanechamos it is vocalized without a dagesh [and hence pronounced v].[173]

On Rosh Chodesh and Yom-Tov (New Moon and Festivals) when one says ya'aleh v'yavo, the person leading the Grace After Meals raises his voice slightly while reading the following three phrases, at the end of which all present answer amein:

  1. l'tovah (the second word being pronounced bo);

  2. u'fakdeinu vo livrachah (pronounced vo);

  3. v'hoshieinu vo l'chaim tovim (pronounced vo).

The paragraph concludes as follows: melech chanun v'rachum atah.

One does not respond amein after the word y'chasreinu.

The words, avi mori baal habayis hazeh v'es imi morasi ba'alas habayis hazeh, are said by everyone, even by a guest or by one whose parents are no longer alive.[174]

It has become customary among chassidim to say (in the series of sentences beginning harachaman) the following: harachaman hu yevareich es adoneinu moreinu verabeinu.[175]

(c) Other Blessings:

In the blessing shehakol, the yud of nihiyah is vocalized with a kamatz, not a segol.[176] [Cf. Siddur, p. 87.]

In the blessing borei nefashos, the kaf in al kol mah shebarasa is vocalized with a cholam, not a kamatz.[177] [Cf. Siddur, p. 95.]

One does say the blessing upon seeing a rainbow (unlike those who question this practice).[178] [Cf. Siddur, p. 87.]

After drinking wine and eating one of the kinds of fruit included in the Seven Species, the wording of the blessing known as Meiein Shalosh concludes as follows: ve'al pri hagafen ve'al hapeiros, baruch atah Hashem al ha'aretz ve'al pri hagafen v'hapeiros - and not ve'al hapeiros.[179] [Cf. Siddur, p. 94.]



  1. (Back to text) According to the opinion of Riv'a [i.e., the tosafist R. Yitzchak ben R. Eliezer], cited in Beis Yosef (and see also Shulchan Aruch), Yoreh Deah, beginning of sec. 69.

  2. (Back to text) HaYom Yom, p. 21; cf. ch. 2 of the maamar beginning HaMizbeach Etz, in Sefer HaMaamarim - Yiddish.

  3. (Back to text) Sichah delivered on Shabbos, Parshas Vayishlach, 14 Kislev 5714.

  4. (Back to text) HaYom Yom, p. 52; cf. Siddur HaAriZal (Kavanas HaMotzi), and ch. 8 of the Biur in Likkutei Torah to the maamar beginning Velo Tashbis.

  5. (Back to text) HaYom Yom, p. 27.

  6. (Back to text) When one is reciting Tehillim, one pronounces the word kol (in Tehillim 87:7) with a kamatz; in the introductory readings to the Grace After Meals it is pronounced with a cholam.

  7. (Back to text) HaYom Yom, p. 109.

  8. (Back to text) Likkutei Minhagim appended to the Haggadah (Kehot, N.Y., 5733).

  9. (Back to text) HaYom Yom, p. 27.

  10. (Back to text) Ibid., p. 112.

  11. (Back to text) From the Haggadah Shel Pesach im Likkutei Minhagim VeTaamim, p. 41.

    The following note by the Rebbe Shlita appears in Kovetz Michtavim - Tehillim (op. cit.), p. 210.

    According to Tur Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 183:4, and the Alter Rebbe's Shulchan Aruch 183:8, the cup should be raised to a height of [at least] a tefach [i.e., 8 cm., or a little over 3 inches] from the table. Our custom, as cited in the Likkutei Minhagim in the Haggadah, speaks of three tefachim. Perhaps, however, this is not required, but merely the preferred or ideal situation.

    This distinction gives us a ready solution to a seeming contradiction. The Zohar (II, 189b) writes that this height should be a zeres. (Here, as elsewhere, this means three tefachim, in keeping with the view of Or HaChamah, as distinct from the view of Ittur Sofrim.) In other sources, even in the Zohar itself (II, 245a and 273b), it is stated that the cup should be raised one tefach. [The first may be assumed to be the ideal height; the second, the required minimum.]

    The alternative solution proposed by the author of Or HaChamah is of course somewhat forced, especially since the cup commonly used in Talmudic times was about three fingerbreadths high (Pesachim 109a), not a tefach. At any rate, this will suffice for now.

  12. (Back to text) HaYom Yom, p. 42.

  13. (Back to text) The following passage briefly summarizes the relevant extract from a letter of the Rebbe Rayatz (8/18 Teves 5682), which appears in full at the beginning of Sefer Piskei HaSiddur [and in Igrois Koidesh (Letters of the Rebbe Rayatz), ed. R. Shalom Dober Levin (Kehot, N.Y.; Heb.), Vol. I, p. 202]:

    " reply to your query as to whether a person whose parents are no longer alive should say, 'May the Merciful One bless my father....' Everyone should read the text as printed in the Siddur, for this whole sequence of sentences beginning with harachaman corresponds [as explained in the original letter] to the Ten Sefiros, as follows: harachaman hu yimloch corresponds to the Sefirah of Malchus; horachaman hu yisborach bashomayim uva'aretz corresponds to Yesod; harachaman hu yishtabach... veyishadar banu - Hod; harachaman hu yefarneseinu - Netzach; harachaman hu yishbor ol galus - Gevurah; harachaman hu yishlach berachah - Tiferes; harachaman hu yishlach lanu es Eliyahu - Chessed. (According to the alternative scheme of correspondence, the breaking of the yoke of exile is a manifestation of the Sefirah of Chessed, as alluded to in the phrase, yemincha... tiratz oyeiv, while the Redemption is a manifestation of the Sefirah of Gevurah.) In the phrase, harachaman hu yevareich es avi... imi..., the words av and eim correspond respectively to Chochmah and Binah. Finally, mimarom yilamdu alav vealeinu zechus - this phrase corresponds to the Sefirah of Keser."

  14. (Back to text) Notation by the Rebbe Shlita (Kuntreis 99, p. 107).

  15. (Back to text) HaYom Yom, p. 61.

  16. (Back to text) Ibid., p. 35.

  17. (Back to text) Ibid., p. 100.

  18. (Back to text) Ibid., p. 29.

  The Chitas Study Cycles Instituted by the Rebbe Rayatz: Chumash, Tehillim, TanyaThe Prayer for Travelers: Tefillas HaDerech  
     Sichos In English -> Books -> Halachah & Customs -> Sefer HaMinhagim

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