Reprinted from The Jewish Religion: A Companion, published by Oxford University Press.
Kiddush is the sanctification of the Sabbath. On Friday night, when the Sabbath begins, the Kiddush ceremony is carried out before sitting down to the Sabbath meal. A cup of wine is filled and held in the hand by the person presiding, usually but not necessarily the father of the house, and the benediction over wine recited.
Then the Kiddush proper is recited: ‘Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, King of the universe, who hath hallowed us by Thy commandments and hast taken pleasure in us, and in love and favor hast given us Thy holy Sabbath as an inheritance, a memorial of the creation–that day being also the first day of the holy convocations, in remembrance of the departure from Egypt. For Thou hast chosen us and hallowed us above all nations, and in love and favor hast given us Thy holy Sabbath as an inheritance. Blessed art Thou, O Lord, who hallowest the Sabbath.’
As a prelude to the Kiddush the verses of the creation narrative which speak of the Sabbath (Genesis 2:1-3) are recited. After the drinking of the wine, the benediction over bread is recited and the family partakes of the Sabbath meal.
Kiddush at Synagogue
Strictly speaking, Kiddush is a home ceremony but in the Middle Ages Kiddush was also recited in the synagogue during the Friday night service on behalf of visitors who often had their meals in a room adjacent to the synagogue. Even though, nowadays, guests are usually made welcome in the home, the older practice of reciting Kiddush in the synagogue as well as in the home is still retained.
A shorter form of Kiddush is recited before the meal on the Sabbath day in the morning but this consists of verses in praise of the Sabbath (Exodus 31:16-17, 29:8-11) with no benediction other than that over the wine.
This Kiddush is not recited during the synagogue service but in many synagogues a small celebration consisting of cakes and drinks is held over which the day-Kiddush is recited. This small repast came itself to be known as a Kiddush, to which the congregants are invited. For instance, people celebrating a happy event will often take the opportunity to invite their friends and fellow congregants to ‘a Kiddush’ after the service.
Kiddush is also recited on the festivals with the wording altered so as to refer to the festivals instead of the Sabbath.
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