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I have heard mention of a Yeke custom of washing hands before kiddush but no explanation of why or whether it is done only by the person leading kiddush or everyone.

Further to the question about origin, how widely (geographically) was this practiced in German Ashkenazi communities?

Further to the question about how it is done, are there any other important elements to the minhag that need to be known to do it correctly?

I'd also be interested in hearing from anyone following this minhag whether it is has ever caused confusion with guests and how this can be avoided. Although this might be considered off-topic?

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To answer the last question:

When I was a bachur (single rabbinical student) in Monsey, NY, I frequently (every 5 weeks, to be Yekkishly exact) ate a meal by R' Shlomo Breslauer (who stems from Frankfurt), the rav of Beth Tefilla. To avoid confusion, he would, right before kiddush, explain his (father's) minhag (custom) that everyone, except the one making kiddush, washes beforehand: It reduces the hefsek (interruption) between kiddush and hamotzi, and keeps order (especially with small children), while not preventing the one making kiddush from saying additional things that strictly speaking are not required for the sake of kiddush.

Indeed, @kouty brings from Ateres Z'keinim (left margin) and Darkei Moshe that only the listeners should practice early hand washing – to avoid the kiddush-maker's speech being a hefsek. This is held by everyone, except for Rabbeinu Tam who sees shomeia' k'oineh (listening, with intention that it should be for himself, is as if he said it himself) as including the aspect of speech that constitutes a hefsek).

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    Now I found it: it is a Pshara between the minhag and the problematicity to make this lechatechila: the participants out of the mekadesh himself can continue to practice the minhag. to hear is not an hefsek (excepted for Rabenu Tam). But the mekadesh need to speak, so he must to be machmir and to wash after the kiddush it is in Ateret zekenim at left margin here – kouty Aug 16 '16 at 21:50
  • Also cited here in Darke Moshe – kouty Aug 16 '16 at 22:08
  • @kouty Thank you, that really brings value to my answer. – Adám Aug 17 '16 at 5:28
  • Consider to integrate it because comments are very biodegradable – kouty Aug 17 '16 at 5:43
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    Tokyo + Kyoto ~_ Kouty – kouty Aug 17 '16 at 6:10
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Leading the “wash before Kiddush” camp are Rabbeinu Tam and the Ri (Tosfot Pesachim 106b) (both of France), the Rosh (Pesachim chapter X siman 16) (German origin) and the Rema (OC 271, 12). Based on a remark of Rabbi Yitzchak, who observed Rav washing his hands before reciting Kiddush over bread, they point out that the recital of Kiddush after netilat yadayim and before eating bread does not constitute an interruption (Pesachim 106b). This is because the halacha rules in favor of Shmuel, who maintains that Kiddush must be recited over food – ein Kiddush ela bemakom seudah (Pesachim 101a) – and against Rav, who maintains that Kiddush can be recited in the absence of food."

(source: The Jewish Press, Halacha & Hashkafa, Washing ones hands before or after kiddush)

(We sometimes do this on sukkot due to pragmatism, despite not being Yeke)

  • The Rema is Polish, fwiw. – Double AA Aug 16 '16 at 0:39
  • This answer explain the heiter to make this, following .... it is allowed, but don't explain the reason of the minhag – kouty Aug 16 '16 at 20:12
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This is an embryonic answer because the references are not accompanied by links, you can find most links in the answer of @turnip.

This topic is very important for its subtext, we need to separate the reasons of the Minhag and the problems of the minhag.

  1. First, the Bet Yosef says in OC 271 that many people said him that this Minhag was the minhag in spain (Edot Hamaarav of Europe), and the Rashba (Barcelona) wrote in Shut about this minhag, not the Rosh (germanic immigrant in spain) only.
  2. The most discussed about this Minhag is if there is or, not a problem of interruption between washing hands and Birkat Hamotsi. The Tosfot gives some arguments to defend the minhag (Kiddush is not hefsek according to the Halacha, which stated that Kiddush is recited only at the meal place, to recite and prepare kiddush is a short and easy occupation which has no problem of serious interruptions between washing and motsi (no Hesech Hadaat) ...).
  3. One discussion treated a Bedieved case: is it allowed to continue after the kiddush without washing hands a second time? If the answer is yes, the interruption came from the man who recited Kiddush only or even from others who are quite by hearing only (Shomea Keone)?
  4. For the reason from which appeared the institution of the Minhag, some Acharonim said "Lo plug" to unify the custom of Kidush on wine and Kiddush on bread.
  5. For the conservation of the minhag (despite its problems), some Acharonim conserve it partially (for the man who recite no, but for persons who are hearing him yes), see the answer of @Adam (Rashbam in Pesachim 106b accreditated such a way according to all amorayim opinions), some other conserve it totally or cancel it totally.
  6. In Yeke communities there are 2 minhagim, Hamburg (conserving the minhag of the Rosh) and Frankfurt (following the Shulchan Aruch and most Acharonim {including Gra and Taz})

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