Tuesday, 18 September 2007

Why Do Some Yekkes Wash BEFORE Kiddush?

Originally published 9/18/07, 5:25 PM, Eastern Daylight Time
My daughter e-mailed me as follows:
PS we were discussing customs and such in our Hilchot Shabbat class, and I wanted to know, what is the basis for washing before Kiddush again? I couldn't remember from the last time you explained it...

The Rema states that, despite everything, we DO wash before Kiddush; the question is WHY?

The Mishna Brura explains it as follows:
  • Since people often did NOT have wine they made Kidush on Bread. Thus, they needed to wash about 50% of the time anyway. So this became standard [SOP} to ALWAYS wash in order to make it consistent. [Lo Plug]
[BTW, the History Channel had a long show on the impact of the "little" ice age on Europe etc. Beer and liquor replaced wine as the drink in ALL of Northern Europe. There probably were very few grapes around the time of Rema outside of Italy and Spain, etc.]

I have another spin on this. The Talmud says about Rav:
  • When he felt like it he made Kiddush on Wine
  • When he felt like it he made Kiddush on Bread.
Most people see that as implying a different time for washing - the wine case AFTER Kiddush and the Bread case BEFORE However, It is possible to read Rav as being MUCH more spontaneous. Therefore if he ALWAYS washed First - then could make his preference impulsively RIGHT at the time of Kiddush without any earlier preparation. This takes Rav's feeling to mean RIGHT ON THE SPOT he made up his mind and therefore the Rema's practice has a Talmudic basis.

The problem with this explanation is that the Talmud itself elsewhere seems to say that once one has already washed, he/she should make Kiddush on BREAD instead. I could counter-argue that this passage might be disputing the other passage as far as the Rema is conerned and that by ALWAYS washing one ALWAYS has the option at the very last second to choose between bread and wine. The practical reasons are immense. We need to make Kiddush in the place of the meal. By walking back from the sukkah to the house to wash or in the case of a large dining room it compromises the continuity of the kiddush to the meal. The logistics of doing it continually makes a lot of sense, to go to the Dining room or Sukkah ONLY when the meal is ready to go without having to retreat to the kitchen to wash again. As far as eating later courses, that's OK because the BREAD - Hamotzi - Constitutes a meal! As long as the Kiddush and Hamotzi are one long continuous process then whatever comes later is OK.

Kesiva vaChasima Tova,
Best Wishes for 5768,


DrMike said...

Too much thinking. The reason they washed before kiddush is because, having come in from the muddy street outside, they removed their soiled clothes and washed their hands because they couldn't make the brachah on kiddush otherwise.

Rabbi Richard Wolpoe said...

I guess according to Dr. Mike I should have phrased the question:
Why do Yekkes Take a Shower Before Kiddush? :-)

DrMike said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Have you seen the discussion on this in שרשי מנהג אשכּנז חלק בּ ?

Rabbi Richard Wolpoe said...

re: Sharoshei Minhag Ashkenaz no I have not seen it although I do own the book. Back to you laterwhen I get a chance

Unknown said...

What about the mishnah in brachot 8:1?