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Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

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Question 11.2.4:
Sex and Purity: What are Jewish hygene practices?

Answer:

While traditional Judaism has a number of practices that are hygenic, there appears to be only one that is motivated by hygene. There is a law called "machayim achronim" (water after [the meal]), a rule that one must wash one's hands after eating. The claimed reason for this law is that people tended to eat sodom salt with their food. [Our common table salt, sodium chloride, was quite expensive. The Roman army paid their soldiers in it! Thus the expression "worth his salt".] Sodom salt, whatever it is, could injure the eye, so one should wash one's hands after the meal to avoid blindness. Today, since we don't use this kind of salt anymore, most do not feel the law is in practice. Others still keep the rule, as there is an allusion to it in the Torah.

However, other practices have hygenic effects:


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