Hebrew Bible

Kiddush Cups: Everything You’ve Wanted To Know

You might be familiar with the phrase ‘kiddush’ in a few different scenarios, so let’s just clarify the situation before discussing the cup in question. 

Kiddush, means ‘separation’ from the same root as the Hebrew for ‘holy; distinguished’. It is said before the Shabbat meals Friday night and Saturday morning, as well as the other holidays. This is not be confused with kaddish, said in a synagogue service. You will also hear this word used for certain blessings that have nothing to do with cups of wine, like kiddush levanah (sanctification of the Moon), but that is just using same word in a different context. 

What is Kiddush?
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In addition to kiddush said on Shabbat, a kiddush cup is often brought out for Havdalah that ends Shabbat, at a Passover seder, and at a wedding ceremony. Strictly speaking, the wine needed for each of these different important Jewish events is not kiddush except over wine at Pesach seders, but many like to use a kiddush cup in order to fulfill these other wine-demanding commandments.

So just to boil it down, true kiddush precedes dinner and lunch meals on Shabbat and holidays commanded to Moses like Passover and Sukkot, though not later ones like Hanukkah and Purim.

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Kiddush Cup Requirements
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Technically any cup could be a kiddush cup must if it holds a revi'it of wine, (3.8 fl. oz. or 112 ml.), but traditionally silver or otherwise ornate has been a favorite for kiddush cups to embellish the mitzvah. Nowadays many new modern kiddush cup designs have emerged with unique designs. 

The person who said the blessing or bracha for kiddush should have an amount that could fill one cheek, roughly half of the cup, and if there isn't enough for all of your guests after, just mix in new wine and dole it out in small cups.

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What Wines Can Go in a Kiddush Cup
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Many wines are specifically branded as being kiddush wines, though these tend to be extremely sweet and not the nicest to drink a whole glass of. Otherwise, other kosher wines are going to be a good bet, with more varieties today than ever before, from vineyards on every inhabited continent. 

 

Even if it would be enjoyable, pomegranate wine and other non-grape drinks should be saved for the meal. Some people prefer to use 100% grape juice instead of wine, which is fine too. This will almost always have a label saying it is kiddush grape juice.

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Traditional Kiddush Cup
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Many people like to use traditional kiddush cups in order to evoke the memory of a beloved relative who made kiddush for the family, or just to add history and gravity to a very important mitzvah. Traditional kiddush cups will either have a flat bottom so as to hold it from underneath with the palm facing upwards, or they will stand on a stem like a typical wine-glass. 

 

Traditionally, silver cups have been the norm, though a number of ceramic varieties are also used. These will be decorated with different messages such as “Shabbat kodesh” (holy Sabbath), “borei pri hagen” which is the ending of the blessing for wine, or will contain iconography of the Old City of Jerusalem and the Temple. Others may have other time tested designs to look floral or lace.

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Modern Kiddush Cup
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Many cups might be suitable, but it is best to make the blessings over something that is beautiful and special for Shabbat and holidays. Most importantly, it should be something that speaks to you. 

Newer, more modern kiddush cup designs feature gorgeous combinations of materials, like glass or ceramics with metal, and have a greater variety of colors and textures than more traditional looks. This is a great way to showcase your family’s unique style and give your own flavor to this beautiful mitzvah.

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Small Kiddush Cups and Kiddush Fountains
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There are a number of kiddush cups that might look like they could be repurposed for a toddler or used as a shot glass, but the reasoning is much deeper. The real purpose for these cups is to have something small to pour the kiddush wine so that it can be passed around. Some ornate kiddush cups have a fountain that allows you to pour the kiddush wine from the main cup into the others all at once. 

Many Jews, especially with Lithuanian customs, use 6 small cups placed in a circle to form a ‘crown’ around the kiddush cup when reciting the prayers. Even with other customs, it is good to have a set of small kiddush cups on hand to dole out to others at the table.

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Elijah’s Cup
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The Cup of Elijah is a special cup brought out for the Pesach seders to (hopefully) present to the prophet who is believed will announce the arrival of Moshiach, and end the exile. These special cups are not specifically for kiddush, though it will be used for the holiday to hold a glass of wine. These are often decorated to look great on the table for Pesach, and to display year round. 

 

No matter what the day is, you should make sure that all your kiddush cups are special, and look beautiful to you. Look at the full set of modern kiddush cups or more traditional kiddush cup designs on the site.

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