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As the title asks: is it required or recommended before Al Hamichya (or for that matter, borei nefashos as well).

And if yes or no, why or why not?

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2 Answers

The Derisha (OC 181 sk 2) writes that the obligation to wash with water only applies to Biblically ordained blessings such as Brikat HaMazon and does not apply to rabbinic blessings. (He doesn't mention if this rule would apply to Birkot HaTorah according to the opinions that they too are Biblically ordained.)

Even so, the Mishnah Berurah (OC 181 sk 23) does note that for all blessings one must make sure his hands are not dirty and he would have to clean them first if they were; however, hands that have no obvious filth on them ("stam yadayim") do not need to be specially washed for ordinary blessings.

So, for Bracha Mein Shalosh or Borei Nefashot one would have to clean his hands if they were dirty from the food (per the Mishnah Berurah), but not necessarily through a ritual ablution (per the Derisha).

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I haven't (checked the D'risha. But MB :23 is commenting specifically on the view in the SA that mayim acharonim is (are?) not required, and saying that whenever that view requires washing for bhm"z it also requires it for other brachos. AFAICT MB does not comment at all w.r.t. other b'rachos according to the view that mayim acharonim is required. –  msh210 Feb 23 '12 at 18:08
    
@msh210 Yes, I'm making a two part argument. The drisha proves that mayim achronim is not required for derabanan berachot and then the mishna brurah puts a caveat that according to anyone and everyone you must at least make sure your hands are clean to say any bracha. (I suppose the second part does not strictly answer the question, but I think it is worth throwing in for completeness.) –  Double AA Feb 23 '12 at 18:18
    
@msh210 (I reread your comment) Are you implying that the view that requires mayim achronim would be more meikil by shaar brachot? –  Double AA Feb 23 '12 at 18:20
    
I thought you were citing the MB to support not washing before al hamichya if one has clean hands. (Your answer can be read that way.) I was countering that the MB only implies that leniency according to the view that one needn't wash before bhm"z if he has clean hands. –  msh210 Feb 23 '12 at 18:57
    
@msh210 I see. I was quoting it lechumra, you thought it was supposed to be lekula. Let me see if I can edit it to make it clearer. –  Double AA Feb 23 '12 at 19:02
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No. "pok chazi mai ama davar" (go and see how everyone acts).

As for the reason, if mayim achronim was because of melech sdomis (strong salts), I assume that would only apply to a meal, where they could have used such salts. If mayim achronim is for the bracha, I assume it only applies to a bracha as important as Birchas haMazon, but not a regular bracha achrona. Similarly, there is a halacha to wash before shemoneh esrei, but not before lesser brachos. (While its true we now have a custom to wash in the morning before any bracha, that wasn't the original halacha, and having some food on hands may be a more meikel issue.)

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