of the Rabbinical Assembly in Israel


Bet Midrash Virtuali



Kiddush is recited over a cup of wine which is full, not impaired, and which fulfills all the requirements for the cup [over which we recite] Grace After Meals. [The celebrant] recites Vayekhulu while standing, then says [the benediction over wine,] Boré peri ha-gefen, and then [recites] Kiddush. Note: While one can stand during Kiddush it is better to sit, and it is customary to sit even when reciting Vayekhulu, except that at the beginning we stand a little in honour of the [Divine] Name. For we begin with Yom ha-shishi vayekhulu ha-shamayim where the Name is alluded to by the initial letters. At the beginning [the celebrant] should look at the candles and during Kiddush at the cup of benediction. So it seems to me.


We now come to the actual recitation of Kiddush. There are certain minimal requirements for the goblet of wine over which Kiddush is recited. The minimum amount of wine that should be drunk from the goblet is an amount which would "fill the cheek", and for practical purposes we can say that this amount is not less than 80 cc's. Therefore for Kiddush we should not use a wine glass which cannot contain at least 80 cc's. This would certainly disqualify many of our modern small wine glasses. (If the celebrant is using a suitable goblet but the rest of the company has unsuitably small glasses, after Kiddush the celebrant should pour a little of his wine into the glasses of the rest of the company.)

Paragraph 10 requires the goblet of wine for Kiddush not to be 'impaired'. This is a technical term, and we can safely ignore most the characteristics of an 'impaired' cup except the main ones: the goblet of wine over which Kiddush is recited may not have a chip in the bowl, must be clean and must be brim full. If it is not filled to the brim it is 'impaired'. (Rabbi Karo explains that the goblet of wine for Kiddush should "fulfill all the requirements for the cup over which we recite Grace After Meals" in order not to be repetitive, since he has already detailed those requirements in Section 183.)

Regarding the physical manner in which Kiddush is to be recited there is a difference between the opinion of Rabbi Karo and that of his annotator Rabbi Moshe Isserles. (You will recall that Yosef Karo reflects predominantly the custom of 'oriental' Jews [Sefaradi] and the notes that Moshe Isserles added to the Shulĥan Arukh reflect the different customs of 'occidental' Jews [Ashkenazi].) In Shabbat 025 I gave a translation of Kiddush for Friday night. For the sake of convenience I repeat that translation here, but add certain headlines to indicate passages referred to later on in my explanation.


And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. Heaven and earth were finished, and all their array. On the seventh day God finished the work that He had been doing, and He ceased on the seventh day from all the work that He had done. And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because on it God ceased from all the work of creation that He had done.

Boré peri ha-gefen

Praised be God, Sovereign of the Universe, Creator of the fruit of the vine.


Praised be God, Sovereign of the Universe, whose commandments hallow us. He took pleasure in us and gave us His holy Sabbath as a legacy of love and favour, a memorial of the Creation, (and this day is) the first of the holy days that commemorate the Exodus from Egypt. (You have chosen us of all peoples and hallowed us) and You have given us Your holy Sabbath as a legacy of love and favour. Praised be God, the Sanctifier of the Sabbath.

(The phrases in the above translation which are rendered in black are subject to custom: some - most - people recite them but others - mainly Ĥassidim - omit them for kabbalistic reasons.)

Rabbi Karo says that the passage marked Vayekhulu is to be recited standing. This is because this quotation [Genesis 2:1-3] is seen as our weekly testimony that we believe that the universe in which we live is not eternal, but was created (by God). In a rabbinic court of law all testimony must be delivered standing. So, by standing when reciting the passage Vayekhulu we are, as it were, offering testimony to the effect that God's Sabbath marks the culmination of His work of creation. Rabbi Karo does not say whether the following two passages - the benediction over wine and the Kiddush itself - are to be recited standing or seated. This is why, in his note, Rabbi Isserles adds that "while one can stand during Kiddush it is better to sit". In Shabbat 024 I mentioned the rule that "Kiddush may only be recited where the meal is taken". This is, of course, because Kiddush is an intrinsic part of the celebratory meal. Rabbi Isserles is of the opinion that since we eat sitting down and since Kiddush is an intrinsic part of the celebratory meal that we should recite the remaining two paragraphs of Kiddush while sitting down, even though we may stand.

However, Rabbi Isserles goes even further: it is his opinion that the whole of Kiddush should be recited while we are seated, including Vayekhulu. Many Ashkenazi Jews follow the ruling of Rabbi Isserles and recite the whole of Kiddush while seated. However, I have noticed that many (most?) Conservative Jews recite the whole of Kiddush while standing. This is strange, since in almost all other cases the Conservative movement has adopted the rulings of Rabbi Isserles. The only explanation for this peculiarity that I can think of is that it was originally adopted by association: in Shabbat 024 we saw that Rabbi Isserles insists that "it is customary to stand when Kiddush is recited in the synagogue." This is in order to distinguish the Kiddush recited in the synagogue by the cantor from the 'real' Kiddush which will be recited at home while seated at the dining table. Later great poskim [halakhic authorities] from the Ashkenazi world, such as the Ga'on of Vilna, have lent their weight to the ruling of Rabbi Isserles that Kiddush in the home should be recited in toto while seated. So the custom of those who stand for Kiddush is strange - unless they are from the Sefaradi community.

The passage from the Torah which we quote before Kiddush is taken from the first three verses of Genesis chapter 2. However, many people have the custom of prefacing that quotation with the last words of chapter 1: "And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day." This custom seems to have the encouragement of Rabbi Isserles, and he explains the origin of this addition: the initial letters of the four Hebrew words Yom Ha-shishi Vayekhulu Ha-shamayim ["the sixth day; heaven and earth were finished"] spell out the Divine Name, Yod-Heh-Vav-Heh. That is why, he says, that at the beginning of Vayekhulu we should rise slightly from our seats in honour of the Divine Name. However, some later poskim opined that it is wrong to quote verses from the Torah in an incomplete fashion. They therefore instituted that the Hebrew words for "and there was evening and there was morning" should be recited in an undertone and the celebrant should only raise his voice at the words "the sixth day; heaven and earth were finished" - thus getting the best of both worlds as it were: they do not recite an incomplete verse but they do emphasize the hinted Divine Name.

So many later poskim have gainsaid this consideration; they point out many occasions when, for ritual purposes, we do recite parts of biblical verses and not the whole verse. They say that the prohibition of quoting incomplete verses only applies to actual Torah study and not to ritual quotations. Therefore, this whole custom seems to be built on very shaky foundations. Someone coming new to reciting Kiddush, if they are from the Ashkenazi world, should adopt the custom of reciting the whole of Kiddush while seated and starting the biblical quotation from "Heaven and earth were finished". So it seems to me. However, there is nothing wrong with those who already have a certain different custom from continuing to follow it.

Isserles recommends that while reciting the biblical quotation Vayekhulu the celebrant should look at the light of the Shabbat candles and only when reciting the benediction of wine should the celebrant look at the goblet of wine. In his commentary (called Mishnah Berurah) Rabbi Israel Me'ir Kagan (Ĥafetz Ĥayyim) indicates that the recommendation is derived from folk superstition and "most people ignore it".


In our last shiur I wrote of the picturesque explanations that have been given concerning why we cover the ĥallah before Kiddush. Cheryl Birkner Mack writes:

On the "embarrassment" of the hallah, could it be that we cover the bread so it is clear that we are saying Kiddush on the wine?

I respond:

I was so engrossed in explaining the more recondite reasons that have been put forward for this custom that I forgot to state the obvious! Since, when we have no choice, Kiddush may be recited over bread instead of wine, we cover the ĥallot for the reason that Cheryl has mentioned. Thank you, Cheryl.

Bayla Singer writes: you had written, in Shabbat 020, "The kindling of a light is not prohibited on YomTov" and I brought this up on Pesach with some friends. They held that kindling is indeed prohibited, and one must transfer from an existing flame established before the Hag begins -- "that must be what he meant," they insisted. Would you be so kind as to clarify this?

I respond:

Yes, that is what he meant! Since my comment was only incidental I thought that it was enough to mention that we may light a light on YomTov - something which we may not do on Shabbat. I did not think that it was necessary at that time to elaborate on the mechanics of how we may kindle lights on YomTov. Which just shows how wrong I was! Thank you, Bayla.