The Kiddush Blessing for Important Days in the Jewish Faith


By Contributing Author

In Jewish faith and culture, the kiddush is a special prayer said at certain times. The word itself means sanctification or holiness in Hebrew. Jews recite the various versions of the kiddush regularly both at home and in the synagogue.

In this article, you can learn more about the kiddush and when to use it:

  • The meaning of the kiddush
  • Dates and times for reciting the kiddush
  • The text of the kiddush blessing

The Meaning of the Kiddush

In Judaism, the kiddush is a blessing or prayer spoken over wine or grape juice. This practice is usually done before the Shabbat or Jewish holidays to sanctify these days. The Shabbat or Shabbos is the Sabbath. Shabbat is the seventh day of the week, which is Saturday. In both Judaism and the Christian faith, this day represents the day when God took time to rest after creating the world. It is commonly observed as a day of rest as well. 

In the Jewish holy book of the Torah, there is a requirement for people to both remember and keep Shabbat. To keep the Sabbath, people must not do certain work-related activities. There are 39 of these listed in Jewish law. To recognize the Sabbath, special arrangements made on this day include practicing the kiddush ceremony. 

During the kiddush ceremony, a silver goblet or another available cup is used. The cup is filled with between 5.46 US fl oz and 3.07 US fl oz of liquid—a measure known as a revi’it of liquid. Wine is the usual drink, but grape juice is also an appropriate substitute. The person leading the ritual recites the prayer and then takes a sip from the cup. They then proceed to pass the cup around the table for everyone else to drink from it. Alternatively, the wine can be poured into small cups for the other participants before or after the prayer is said. (You can buy a kiddush cup at the Jewish Shop)

After the wine or grape juice, the next item in the ceremony is the challah. Challah is Jewish bread with a braided appearance, which people eat during ceremonial occasions. When there is no drink available, the leader can say the prayer over the challah. In terms of posture during the ceremony, different customs and family traditions determine whether participants must stand or sit during kiddush. 

The kiddush is a blessing said at home, usually in the family context. It is also recited in many synagogues after the Friday night service. In such instances, it does not replace the Shabbat eve blessing said before taking the wine and bread at home. 

Dates and Times for Reciting the Kiddush

The kiddush sanctifies the Sabbath and other important Jewish holidays. For Shabbat, there is a Friday night version and a Shabbat lunch version. For special holidays, the blessing can be said on the eve of the holiday or on the day itself, and there are different variations for each. 

The Friday night kiddush on the eve of Shabbat is recited over a full cup of wine before the family sits down to dinner. It is also said before the prayer over the challah bread or Hamotzi.  The Shabbat day kiddush is recited on Saturday morning after the morning services but before lunch. The texts for both of these types of blessing focus on sanctifying the Sabbath day, remembering God’s commandment to rest, and also remembering creation and God’s plan for redemption. 

For the blessing on Jewish holidays and holiday eves, there is a different version depending on the day. The specific text for each variation of kiddush is available in the Judaic prayer book or siddur. Families can also hold a Shabbat morning kiddush to honor the birth of a new baby girl. Kiddush Levanah is helping once a month to thank God for the moon. 

Some holidays when people recite the kiddush include Passover at the Festival of Matzos, on Shavuot at the Festival of Weeks, on Sukkot at the Festival of Sukkot, and on Shemini Atzeret/Simchat Torah on the eighth day of the Festival of Assembly.

The Text of the Kiddush Blessing

The main text of the blessing starts with verses from the Torah book of Genesis, in the second chapter, and the first three verses (Genesis 2:1-3).  When the kiddush is said in the synagogue, these verses are, however, omitted. This passage speaks about the completion of creation when God took the seventh day to rest.

The text of Genesis 2:1-3 is read in Hebrew, but in the English translation, it states, “And the heavens and the earth and all that filled them were complete. And on the seventh day, God completed the labor He had performed, and He refrained on the seventh day from all the labor which He had performed. And God blessed the seventh day, and He sanctified it, for He then refrained from all his labor – from the act of creation that God had performed.”

In the Friday evening kiddush, the leader continues from the verses to say, “Permit me, distinguished ones, rabbis, guests, and colleagues. Blessed are You, the Lord our God, King of the Universe, Creator of the fruit of the vine. Amen. Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, Who sanctified us with His commandments, and hoped for us, and with love and intent invested us with His sacred Sabbath, as a memorial to the deed of Creation. It is the first among the holy festivals, commemorating the exodus from Egypt. For You chose us, and sanctified us, out of all nations, and with love and intent, You invested us with Your Holy Sabbath. Blessed are You, Adonai, Sanctifier of the Sabbath. Amen.”

The kiddush blessing is an important prayer recited according to Jewish law. It serves to sanctify the Sabbath and other religious holidays, and this is usually before sharing a cup of wine. It is an acknowledgment of the creator and starts off the celebration of meaningful holidays. 

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