Discover Everything About Kiddush

Learn About the Jewish Ritual for Wine

Silver Passover Wine Cups
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A central part of the Jewish Sabbath, holidays and other important life events, Kiddush is a prayer recited before drinking wine to celebrate or mark certain occasions. In Hebrew, kiddush literally means "sanctification," and is understood to highlight the sanctimonious nature of special events.

The Origins of Kiddush

The tradition of kiddush is believed to originate sometime between the sixth and fourth centuries B.C.E.

(Babylonian Talmud, Brachot 33a). However, the text that is in use today originates from the time of the Talmud (200-500 C.E.).

Drinking wine prior to a meal is derived from the early part of the first century C.E. when festive meals in most cultures began with a cup of wine. The rabbis retained and evolved the practice to differentiate drinking wine on regular days versus on holidays, the Sabbath, and for other special occasions. This religious rite gave Jews the opportunity to thank God for the receipt of the Sabbath as recognition of the creation of the world and the Exodus from Egypt.

Kiddush worked its way into Shabbat services at the synagogue during the Middle Ages so that those who were away from their home would be able to hear the blessing. Today, traveling individuals are usually invited into the homes of residents, so they can hear kiddush in the home. That being said, it’s still part of the synagogue service to this day.

How To Perform Kiddush

In communities around the world, kiddush is performed in the same manner with minor nuances in the type of wine used, the design of the kiddush cup and the way the cup is held, for example. In general, these are standard guidelines.

To elevate the sanctity of kiddush, a beautiful and sometimes elaborately decorated and designed cup is used.

The kiddush cup, whether stemless or with a stem, is placed on a tray or dish to catch any spilled wine. You’ll also need a bencher, a small book with prayers, blessings and songs, a bottle of kosher wine and, if your tradition dictates, a bit of water.

If you are in the synagogue, kiddush will be recited over a cup of wine or grape juice and an appointed person or all of the children in attendance will partake of the wine or grape juice. If you are in someone else’s home, the head of the household typically recites kiddush and pours some for everyone in attendance to drink, typically in shot glasses or using a kiddush fountain.

Friday Night Kiddush

Before the meal begins, everyone gathers around the Shabbat dinner table and sings Shalom Aleichem, followed typically by Aishet Chayil. Depending on the family’s tradition, everyone will either wash their hands prior to kiddush and ha’motzi, the blessing over bread, or kiddush will be recited first.

  • Rinse and dry the kiddush cup, then fill it to the brim with kosher wine or grape juice. 

  • If it is your tradition, place three to seven drops of water into the kiddush cup, causing the wine to spill over.

  • Raise the kiddush cup in your dominant hand and recite kiddush aloud.

  • Look at the Shabbat candles as you recite the first part of kiddush, verses from the creation narrative in Genesis 2:1-3. (These are omitted when  kiddush is recited in the synagogue.)

Vayechulu ha’shamayim v’ha'aretz v’chol tzeva'am. Vayechal Elohim b’yom ha’shvi'i melachto asher asah. Vayishbot b’yom ha’shvi'i mikol melachto asher asah. Vayevarech Elohim et yom ha’shvi'i va’yikadesh oto. Ki vo shavat mikol melachto asher bara Elohim la'ahsot.

Now the heavens and the earth were completed and all their host. And God completed on the seventh day His work that He did, and He abstained on the seventh day from all His work that He did. And God blessed the seventh day and He hallowed it, for thereon He abstained from all His work that God created to do.

  • Then recite the blessing over wine while looking at the wine itself.

    Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech ha’olam, borei p’ri ha’gafen

    Blessed are you, Lord our God, Ruler of the universe, who creates the fruit of the vine.

    • Finally, recite the blessing of thanksgiving to God for giving the Jews Shabbat, and then look at the wine as you recite the blessing over wine.

    Baruch atah, Adonai Eloheinu, Melech ha’olam, asher k’dishanu b’mitzvotav v’ratzah vanu, v’Shabbat kodsho b’ahavah u’v’ratzon hinchilanu, zikaron l’ma’aseh v’reishit. Ki hu yom t’chilah, l’mikreh kodesh, zecher l’tziat Mitzrayim. Ki vanu v’char’tah, v’otanu kidashtah, mi’kol ha’amim. V’Shabbat kod’she’cha b’ahavah u’v’ratzon hinchaltanu. Baruch atah Adonai, m’kadesh ha’Shabbat.

    Praise to You, Adonai our God, Sovereign of the universe who finding favor with us, sanctified us with mitzvot. In love and favor, You made the holy Shabat our heritage as a reminder of the work of Creation. As first among our sacred days, it recalls the Exodus from Egypt. You chose us and set us apart from the peoples. In love and favor You have given us Your holy Shabbat as an inheritance.

    • Everyone will answer “amen” at the end of the blessing.

    • The person who recited kiddush should drink at least 1.5 ounces from the cup, while everyone else should partake of a sip or however much is available to drink.

    To hear the blessing recited, click here.

    Kiddush for the Sabbath Day

    The daytime kiddush follows much the same pattern as the evening kiddush, although it is not recited as part of the synagogue service. However, there is a common practice in most synagogues to have a “kiddush” after services, which typically consists of cakes, cookies, fruits, vegetables, and beverages.

    Because it’s necessary to hear kiddush after morning services and before eating or drinking, kiddush is recited by the rabbi or a special guest before any food is consumed. Oftentimes, members of the synagogue will sponsor kiddush in honor of a bar or bat mitzvah, wedding or anniversary. In these instances, kiddush is elaborate with cholent, deli meat, and other special foods. So if you ever hear someone say, "Let's go to kiddush" or "that kiddush was delicious," you now understand why!

    • Recite verses from Exodus 31:16-17 and 29:8-11.

    • Recite the blessing over wine.

    Extra Details and Customs Regarding Kiddush

    • Although wine is preferable, grape juice is also okay. It is preferable to use red wine for kiddush, but it is also common to drink a red wine on Friday night and a lighter wine on Saturday morning.

    • Leftover wine from kiddush recitation shouldn’t be used for someone else who wishes to make kiddush. A new cup should always be poured.

    • Traditionally, an individual does not eat or drink prior to reciting and drinking kiddush.

    • If you are in a position where there is no grape juice or wine, you can “recite kiddush” on challah or other bread. In this case, you would simply replace or skip kiddush with the ha’motzi blessing.

    • The act of placing three to seven drops of water into the wine is known as mezigah (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 272:5). This is common practice among Sephardim and originates in Talmudic times when wines were pure and the fear was that the wine would be too strong and ruin the pure enjoyment of Shabbat. There is also a belief from the Ari, Rabbi Isaac Luria, that wine represents justice while water represents mercy. Mixing mercy with justice is a call for God to judge us with mercy.

    • Kiddush should be recited in the place where the meal takes place, so, although many hear kiddush at a synagogue, they’ll also recite it at home where they’re eating a complete meal.

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    Gordon-Bennett, Chaviva. "Discover Everything About Kiddush." ThoughtCo, Aug. 28, 2017, thoughtco.com/kiddush-101-2076790. Gordon-Bennett, Chaviva. (2017, August 28). Discover Everything About Kiddush. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/kiddush-101-2076790 Gordon-Bennett, Chaviva. "Discover Everything About Kiddush." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/kiddush-101-2076790 (accessed November 20, 2017).