From its Biblical origins to how Jewish families do Kiddush now, here’s a rundown of everything you need to know about Shabbat Kiddush.
As stated in the Torah, there are two aspects to keeping Shabbat: observe and remember (shamor v’zachor), which can even be seen in the two statements of the 10 commandments. While observing Shabbat is done by not performing the 39 melachot—the types of work not permitted on Shabbat—the role of the Shabbat Kiddush first and foremost is to fulfill the mitzvah of remembering Shabbat, by reciting relevant Torah verses and performing an activity not done during the week. The words for Kiddush will be found in any siddur nowadays.
Shabbat Kiddush is not for the mitzvah though, and also serves as a way to welcome in the Sabbath, and sets a tone for the meal ahead. It is part of a trifecta along with Shabbat candlesticks, and challah that have become universal symbols of ushering in this weekly holiday.
Wine, or equally grape juice, is used as the basis for making a blessing for Kiddush, and has great significance in Jewish holidays and Judaism as a whole. The notion of remembering the Sabbath comes as a commandment in the Torah, but there is no mention of wine. This comes from the Oral Torah which clarifies wine is the perfected form of grapes and that it adds joy to one’s heart, so the Kiddush on wine is a manifestation of elevating both the material and spiritual dimensions of life. In broad terms it is chosen as a sign of how one should live and follow the Torah, striving for contentment and perfection.
Grapes too hold special significance in Judaism, not only as one of the Seven Species, but even compared to those other fruits like say, dates, grape vines in particular hint to a time of prosperity and peace in the Days of Moshiach, with many references throughout Tanakh.
While there are many customs surrounding how Kiddush is performed in terms of sitting, standing or forming the crown, the text is consistent as seen in any prayer book out there. There is a huge array of Kiddush cups, from modern styles and traditional models, simple or ornate. This is a matter of personal preference and there is a wide variety seen in every community.
The style of Kiddush is to recite the Genesis verse, two brachas, and then to drink one cheek-full of the wine. Many people will get a set of small Kiddush cups to pour out a portion for each of the guests, especially useful if there are many people. Set aside extra wine if there wouldn’t be enough in one cup for everyone who is joining, and whoever is saying the blessing should have in mind to be reciting for all the rest.
There is also a Kiddush for the day-time meal over Shabbat, known as Kiddusha Rabba, with its own preceding text, but the same blessing. No matter which Kiddush, you’ll find some families use tunes passed down over generations, and some that keep it simple.
Overall, Shabbat Kiddush is a short but sweet entry to Shabbat and any Friday night dinner. It’s as customizable as any family preferences and a fundamental part of every Jewish family’s weekly traditions, whether generations old or newly founded.