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There is a custom that I've seen in many homes whereby the most honourable person (e.g. the bal habayit, a cohen, a rav) actually goes last in the order of netilat yadayim. I've heard the reason given is because this means they have to spend the least amount of time not talking, and I believe I heard that it also is the best halachic situation because they have the shortest hefsek between washing and hamotzi.

However, combine this with another idea I once heard. The idea is that yidden have a beautiful minhag whereby everyone fills the cup for the next person. Everyone is still filling a cup, but they are doing it for someone else rather than themselves, and is thus more selfless and kind, at no extra cost!

Note though, that the first person will have to fill 2 cups! The last person doesn't fill any cup!

It therefore makes a lot of sense that the very last person is being honoured the most, as they are not serving anyone else, and yet are being served. The first person is being honoured the least, as they serve and are not served.

Does anyone know if this is a given reason for the above minhag anywhere?


I apologise that I do not have a source for these minhagim and would appreciate if anyone has any

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    Filling a cup for someone else between washing and saying the blessing is arguably a hefsek. Do you have a source that such a practice is a time-honored custom of Jews?
    – Double AA
    Jan 18, 2023 at 13:45
  • @DoubleAA as it stands, I only have a memory of the Rav in yeshiva who told me this.
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Jan 18, 2023 at 13:46
  • @DoubleAA I re-read your words and I want to point out nowhere did I say, nor did my Rav say, that one should fill the next cup between washing and the bracha of netilat yadayim. However, your point still stands if you meant the bracha of hamotzi, which is indeed what I am talking about
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Jan 18, 2023 at 17:19

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The Shulcahn Aruch in Orach Chaim 165:2 says:

אם רבים מסובין בסעודה הגדול נוטל ידיו תחלה והרא"ש היה רגיל ליטול באחרונה שלא להפסיק ושלא לדבר:

If many people are at a meal, the most important one should wash first. And the Rosh was careful to wash last in order that he should not have a pause, and he should not speak.

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  • I deleted my previous comment because I misread what you wrote about the Rosh. So is what is mentioned about the Rosh the source of the "minhag" mentioned in my question?
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Jan 18, 2023 at 13:37
  • Wouldn't the hefsek be equally problematic for whomever washes first?
    – shmosel
    Jan 18, 2023 at 21:00
  • Personally I like to wash as soon as possible after kiddush to avoid issues with קידוש במקום סעודה.
    – shmosel
    Jan 18, 2023 at 21:09

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