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What is Kiddush?

by Rabbi Mendy Hecht

  

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A. “Kiddush” (pronounced KID-ish) means “designation”—physically or verbally designating or demarcating a person, place, thing or time for a higher purpose.

B. I’ll give ya a f’rinstance: f’rinstance, Positive Mitzvah #155 is to clearly delineate Shabbat as a day different than the days before and after it. This is done by Kiddush—making verbal statements at Shabbat’s start that Shabbat is distinct. The same is done at the start of Biblical Holidays. But, what does “making verbal statements” mean? To answer this, The Rabbis established a set text for Kiddush, to be recited on Friday night at the Shabbat table, and on the Eve of Holidays before the Holiday meal.1

C. Kiddush is recited while holding a cup of wine or grape juice.


How do I make Kiddush?

The Kiddush is to the Shabbat dinner table what the Opening Ceremonies are to the Olympics—it starts off the meal with a mix of solemnity and spirit that gets everyone going
1. Get to the right page

The Friday night dinner table routine starts with Shalom Aleichem and The Woman of Valor. Kiddush is recited after these preliminaries. The Kiddush can be easily found in the table of contents of your prayer book. (These preliminaries are not recited before the Holiday Kiddush).

2. Fill ‘er up and let it rip

Traditionally, the becher (pronounced BEH-khur) or Kiddush cup, is made of silver; any Judaica store carries a wide variety. After you’ve recited the things that come before Kiddush, you reach for the wine or grape juice and fill up your becher to the very brim, carefully holding in the palm of your writing hand once it’s full. Then you recite the Kiddush while standing, returning to your seat when you’re done to drink most of it down.

3. Families welcome

The Kiddush is to the Shabbat/Holiday dinner table what the Opening Ceremonies are to the World Cup—it starts off the meal with a mix of solemnity and spirit that gets everyone going. With the silverware and Shabbat candles sparkling on the table, family and guests standing by and smiling in their Shabbat best, and everything just so serene, Dad sings Kiddush and brings Shabbat in. When he’s done, he dispenses wine into little cups so everyone can be a part of Kiddush too. The Shabbat table brings families together, and Kiddush is its finest example.

Although the Shabbat/Holiday has already been sanctified at its onset, the Rabbis instituted an additional sanctification (Kiddush) with a shorter version of Kiddush to be recited at the onset of the Shabbat/Holiday daytime festive meal.

Footnotes

  • 1. Kiddush is also recited at the Shabbat/Holiday daytime meal.

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Mitzvah
(pl. Mitzvot). A commandment from G-d. Mitzvah also means a connection, for a Jew connects with G–d through fulfilling His commandments.
Shabbat
(pl: Shabbatot). Hebrew word meaning "rest." It is a Biblical commandment to sanctify and rest on Saturday, the seventh day of the week. This commemorates the fact that after creating the world in six days, G-d rested on the seventh.
Kiddush
Prayer recited at the beginning of the Sabbath or Holiday meal--both the evening and afternoon meals. This prayer, acknowledging the sanctity of the day, is recited over a cup of wine or grape juice.