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Why Is Kiddush Said Over Wine?

Why Is Kiddush Said Over Wine?

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First let’s talk a bit about kiddush. In the Ten Commandments, the Torah commands us to “remember (zachor) the Sabbath day to sanctify it.”1 This teaches us that we are to verbally declare the Shabbat holy, which we do when we make kiddush. The term zachor is associated with wine in numerous places in Scripture.2 Thus, the sages instituted that this mitzvah be done over wine. (This is also the reason for the havdalah wine.)3

The wine—which is a celebratory beverage—also serves to show that the meal we are about to eat isn’t just another regular meal, but a special, joyous and festive one. (This is the main reason for using wine at the daytime kiddush.)4

Additionally, the rabbis throughout the ages have offered further reasons why kiddush is recited specifically on wine.

Wine Brings Joy

Wine has a special power to gladden the hearts of men. And when it is used for a holy purpose, such as to celebrate Shabbat, it also “gladdens G‑d.”5

Wedding Celebration

The Zohar describes Shabbat as the “bride” of the Jewish people. Just as the betrothal of a bride (called kiddushin, “sanctification”) is recited over wine, so is kiddush recited over wine.

All blessings flow from the Torah, which is compared to wine. When we sanctify and bless this holy day, it is through the power of this “wine.” This is alluded to in the verse, “We will recall Your love more fragrant than wine [מיין]; they have loved You sincerely.”6 The Hebrew word for “more than wine” can also be translated as “from wine,” i.e., G‑d’s love flows from the power of wine—Torah.7

Rectifying the Forbidden Fruit

The sages tell us that Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit late on Friday afternoon.8 Due to the honor of the Sabbath, they were granted a reprieve of judgement until after Shabbat.9

According to many opinions, the forbidden fruit was a grape.10 We rectify the sin when we make a blessing and use grape wine for a mitzvah around the same time that the sin took place. (Technically, one can accept Shabbat late Friday afternoon.)11

The Numerical Value

The Hebrew word for wine (יין) has the numerical value of 70 (10+10+50=70). There are 35 words12 in the verses that we chant before the kiddush,13 and another 35 words in the actual kiddush blessing. Put them together, and you get 70 (35+35=70).14

Now, if you take out your siddur and count, you may discover that there are 42 words in the kiddush blessing. Some people do not say the seven words that translate as “for You have chosen us and sanctified us from among all the nations.” Others, including Chabad, do say those words. So how do we get 35? By not counting the opening words Baruch atah . . . asher, since they are a general introduction to many blessings, and not unique to kiddush. Rather, the word count begins from the word kideshanu, where we begin to discuss the theme of kiddush: sanctification.15

The Wine of Moshiach

We celebrate the Sabbath as a testimony to G‑d having created the world in six days and “rested” on the seventh. At that time, He set aside special wine to be used at the celebratory meal when the Moshiach comes.16 Just as the six-day workweek culminates in Shabbat, so will the six millennia of our work to make the world a home for G‑d culminate in the messianic era—“the day that is wholly Shabbat and tranquility, for life everlasting.”17 May it be speedily in our days!

Footnotes
3.
Talmud, Pesachim 106a.
4.
See Shulchan Aruch ha-Rav, Orach Chaim 289:2.
7.
See Zohar III:95a.
8.
Talmud, Sanhedrin 38b.
9.
Bereishit Rabbah 11:2.
12.
The standard formula for kiddush also tacks on an additional two words, יום הששי, from the end of chapter 1. A number of reasons are given: a) they correspond to the words zachor and shamor, which enjoin us to remember the Shabbat and keep it holy; b) with these two words, the initials of the first four words of kiddush form the Tetragrammaton (יום הששי ויכלו השמים); c) they boost the total word count up to 72, corresponding to what is called in Kabbalah Shem Ab, a way of spelling out the four letters of G‑d’s name with the numerical value of 72.
14.
See Zohar II:207b; Tikkunei Zohar, tikun 24 and 47.
15.
See Shaar ha-Kollel 18:4. See also Reshimot, no. 96.
16.
Talmud, Berachot 34b.
17.
Talmud, Berachot 57b; Nachmanides, commentary to Genesis 1.
Rabbi Yehuda Shurpin responds to questions for Chabad.org's Ask the Rabbi service.
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Discussion (8)
June 15, 2016
re wine: it seems to me that some people have missed out the words I wrote which is: comparatively less.
Esther chennells
Enfield UK
June 7, 2016
Why is Kiddush Over Wine - Yehudah Shurpin's artilce
Gen. 14:18 tells us that Malkitzedek the "Priest to G-d Most High" brought "bread and wine" to have a religious meal ( a "Kiddush meal", so to speak) with Abram. Scripture often uses "bread" (lechem) in the context of physical satiety and "wine" (yayin) in the context of spiritual joy. Bread and wine at a meal (as I see it) symbolizes "health & happiness". Psalm 104 is often cited in support of this symbolism and as a reason for the traditional bread & wine Kiddush/combo:

"Wine gladdens the heart of man ...and bread satisfies/sustains the heart of man" (Psalm 104:15)
Hersh Goldman
Swampscott, MA
June 6, 2016
Aryeh- yes, same as over wine for grape juice
If you read the translation, it is blessing for the fruit of the vine. Since wine is made from grapes as is grape juice, they are both fruit of the vine.

Even at Chabad kiddish, they say the same blessing and some drink wine and others like my husband and I drink grape juice.
Dina
Albuquerque NM USA
June 5, 2016
Esther in UK
Obviously you haven't known any alcoholics. Yes, it's possible to binge on wine.

Of course, moderation in everything is what is best, but for those who once they start drinking and can't stop until the bottle(s) even of wine are empty, it's a different story.
Rabbi Avraham Twerski, MD has made it his life work helping alcoholics & letting the Jewish community that there are many alcoholics who are Jewish. It's one of those things that aren't not talked about just like domestic violence in the Jewish community which does exist but people pretend it doesn't.

It's great that you and others can have a glass of wine and not feel you need to finish the bottle. But, I personally know many Jews who are alcoholics. My husband & I have attended AA meetings in Tel Aviv!

People like to believe that Jews don't have these problems. Read some of Rabbi Twerski's books & articles. He has spoken to Jewish groups about alcoholism in the Jewish communities. Stats don't say it. Many don't admit it.
Anonymous
USA
June 5, 2016
Wine
What if you cannot tolerate alcohol due to allergies, we have used Kosher grape juice for years. My question is the blessing do we continue to do the one over the wine.
Aryeh
Texas
June 5, 2016
We Jews are very lucky: we drink wine to celebrate but the pourcentage of alcoholics all over the world is comparatively small. I think that we understand that drinking wine is to celebrate not to get "smashed". Also wine is not forbidden. What do other people think?
Esther chennells
Enfield UK
June 4, 2016
My father taught us that everything we do should be done in moderation. He used to tell us that "anything you do not overdo it."
What he said applies to everything: work, food consumption, especially drinking alcoholic beverages. Anything too much is very harmful. Obedience to G-d's commandments will keep us extremely healthy, spiritually,
physically & emotionally. G-d knows our hearts.
Anonymous
Beaverton
June 2, 2016
For an alcoholic, we stick with Kedem grape juice!
It's all great as to why having wine, but I take offense at the idea to drink wine for it's ability to "gladden the hearts of men". Many don't realize that alcoholism does affect the Jewish population as Rabbi Dr. Avraham Twerski has been discussing for decades. He has written many books about it. He and the AA 12 step program all agree that even just a little bit of wine can lead to excess and binge drinking.

My husband has been sober for over 36 years and I have been sober for over 15 years. so, Kedem grape juice has been our kiddish mainstay for years. It is still from grapes.

People need to be aware that Jews are as likely to become alcoholics as anyone else, An article like this needs a disclaimer in that there are some people for whom one glass is not enough, neither is the whole bottle. How many people began their alcoholism with kiddish or at Pesach? I did.
Anonymous
USA