Kiddush for the Shabbat
By Nissim Talkenov
Before we sit down to eat our Friday night meal, we make kiddush. Kiddush is our way of sanctifying the Shabbat meal. The kiddus can only be made in the place where we are to have our meal. We can not make it in the synagogue (or another house) and then have our meal in our home. We must make it in the same place that we are planning to eat and it is made immediately before the meal.
In some congregations there is a custom to make the kiddush in the synagogue at the conclusion of the Friday night prayers. The reason for this custom dates back to ancient times. In those days the synagogue was the place where travelers, wayfarers and the poor would find free shelter and meals. Generally the meal was in an adjoining room in the synagogue which served as a gathering place for these people. Wine was expensive and the community could not always procure enough wine for all, so the custom developed that at the conclusion of the Friday night services the Chazzan of the synagogue would recite the kiddushfor all that were eating at the synagogue and they in turn would then go straight to the meal that was provided for them.
Later, even though meals were no longer served at the synagogue, the custom continued to recite the kiddush in the synagogue. Today there are still many congregations which continue this custom even though the travelers and poor do not eat in the synagogue. One of the reasons given is that once a custom has started (and especially one that has become sacred through out the ages) is continued even though the necessity for it is no longer applicable. Today the custom is that the congregants invite the poor and travelers to their homes for the meals.
The kiddush is recited on wine which emphasizes the festive aura of the meal and its importance. It changes an otherwise ordinary week-day meal into the special and holy Shabbat meal. The meal now becomes a celebration of the coming of the Shabbat Queen, the great gift that G-d gave to His people as a remembrance that we are His chosen people. Although there are many religions that forbid wine since they consider alcoholic drinks sinful, Judaism uses it to praise G-d who created such a special drink that comes from a small fruit.
If for some reason wine is not available on Friday night, the kiddush may be recited on the two loaves of bread that are set on the table before the kiddush .
The kiddush consists of two parts and in between is the blessing on the wine (or bread if need be):
The first part is the recital of "Vayechulu HaShamiyim", (and the work of creating the heavens
) the few sentences from Genesis 2:1 to 2:3 which speak about G-d's completion of the creation of the heavens and the earth and His resting from the creation. We add the last two words from Genesis 1:31, "Yom HaSheshi" (the sixth day
). The reason we add these two words from one sentence to the next three sentences is that when we say: "Yom HaSheshi Vayechulu HaShamiyim" the first letter in these four words make up the un-utterable name of G-d. By doing this we accept that the crowing glory of the creation was the Shabbat which is a sign that G-d created the world and all that exists.
The second portion of the kiddush is the actual prayer of sanctification of the Shabbat in which we thank G-d for sanctifying us with his mitzvot, particularly the mitzvah of the Shabbat, remembering that He created the world and that He took us out from slavery in Egypt. We conclude with the blessing acknowledging that G-d is He who sanctifies the Shabbat.
When we raise up our cup of wine to bless and thank G-d for his goodness, we are bringing His holiness into the mundane world. The profane is elevated to the realm of the holy. Through His holy Torah and His divine mitzvot we are able to transcend from a purely physical world to a lofty and spiritual one, from an existence locked in a tangible world to one that has no limits or borders. As we partake of the Shabbat meal, we sing songs of praise to G-d for His goodness - that He was so kind as to draw us near to Him and to give us the celestial merit of performing His special mitzvot.
The Shabbat is a memorial dedicated to the remembrance of the creation of the world. By desisting from any manner of work on this day and by our observance of the holy mitzvot, we proclaim and acknowledge that indeed G-d is the creator and master of the world. The Shabbat is the first of the holy days that we observe. Whereas the festivals are dependent on the calendar to determine their dates, and they change from year to year, the Shabbat is every seven days. Its holiness is imbued by G-d and not by us, but it is through us that the holiness from the Shabbat is drawn into the world, by our beginning every Friday night to make the kiddush.
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from the February 2008 Edition of the Jewish Magazine