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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:
There are seven distinct prohibitions involved in eating insectsthey are less kosher than pork! People inspect their vegetables very carefully to get rid of all of them. Some Jews don't even eat brocolli or cauliflower because they are nearly impossible to inspect.
Right after you wake up, before doing anything else, you are supposed to wash your hands because: (a) your hands could be anywhere when you're asleep; and (b) sleep is a modicum of death, and there is a state called "tum'ah" (untanslatable) which is associated with death.
You must wash your hands before eating bread, so most meals are preceded with washing your hands. This is to get people used to being un-tamei (different conjugation of tum'ah, still untranslatable) when eating, which was necessary for eating from sacrifices, or if a priest or levite wanted to eat from their respective tithes. This washing is called "mayim rishonim", water before [the meal], and was considered less stringent than the post-meal washing (back when the latter was for health reasons). In general, Jewish law sees health as a higher priority than itself. (Barring three do-or-die commandments.)
The three hand washing laws, upon waking up and before and after meals, had significant impact on survival during the Black Plague. Jews faired much better than the rest of the population. To the extent that it was taken as "evidence" that the plague was some kind of Jewish conspiracy, leading some to set arson and murder.
There are no sexual relations from the time menstruation begins until a week after bleeding stops. Before resuming marital relations, the wife immerses herself in a mikvah, a ritual bath. Before going to the mikvah, she must be entirely clean, so that at least in potential, nothing comes between her and the water. In practice, this means soaking in a regular bathtub for roughly half an hour, flossing, making sure her hair has no knots, and other things.
In many communities, men go to the mikvah the day before a holiday, and often on every Friday. (Most only twice a year: before Rosh haShanah, and before Yom Kippur.) Some immerse themselves before prayers the morning after having sexual relations. The preparations are less grueling, as these are only custom, while the post-menstual immersion has a biblical source. However, it still means that men in these communities bathed quite often, as these things went before indoor plumbing.
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Daniel P. Faigin <email@example.com>