What is the significance of reciting kiddush on Shabbat? Is the friday night kiddush or the Shabbat day kiddush more important? Is the wine a biblical obligation or a rabbinic one? Is there a relationship between kiddush and havdalah?

The Source and Significance of the Mitzvah

The mitzvah to observe the Shabbat is repeated numerous times in the Torah. Most notably this is one of the Ten Commandments, which are repeated twice in the Torah, first in Parshat Yitro and again in Parshat Vaetchanan with several minor variations. One of the differences is that while in Parshat Yitro we are commanded to “remember” the Shabbat (zachor),1the verse in Parshat Vaetchanan commands us to “guard” the Shabbat (shamor).2 The Talmud explains that G‑d actually said both words, zachor and shamor, in one utterance.3

This double statement in a single utterance is understood to constitute two seperate commandments: The verse in Parshat Vaetchanan, which uses the word shamor—guard, requires us to abstain from various kinds of “work” (melachah) on Shabbat. The verse in Parshat Yitro, which uses the word zachor—remember, requires us to actively remember the holiness of Shabbat, and not merely desist from work activities.

The Talmud tells us that this verse, “remember the day of Shabbat to sanctify it,” is the source for the practice of “making kiddush,” in which blessings are recited over a cup of wine on Friday night to mark the onset of Shabbat and “remember it with wine.”4 (The term “kiddush” literally means sanctification, and is derived directly from this verse.) The Talmud further explains that while “the main kiddush is at night, for one must sanctify the onset of the day,” kiddush is also recited over wine during the day since the verse specifies “the day of Shabbat.” Nevertheless, according to virtually all authorities, the daytime kiddush is rabbinic in nature and not a component of the commandment to “remember” Shabbat.5

Kiddush is a “positive” mitzvah, i.e. one that requires us to act rather than to desist from activity. It is also a mitzvah that is bound by time. While the general rule is that women are exempt from such commandments,6 kiddush is an exception. The Talmud explains that this is based on the link between the words zachor and shamor in the two versions of the Ten Commandments: If one is obligated in the shamor element of Shabbat (refraining from work), then one is similarly obligated in the zachor element of Shabbat (sanctifying the Shabbat through kiddush). Since women are obligated by the mitzvah to refrain from work, they are similarly obligated by the mitzvah to positively sanctify the Shabbat through kiddush.7

How Does One “Remember” the Shabbat?

As we have seen, the Torah commands us to “remember” the Shabbat in order “to sanctify it.” What does this remembrance and sanctification entail? Is a mere mental memory sufficient, or is a verbal mention required?

Contrary to the consensus on this question, Rabbi Yosef Teomim (1727-1793, known by the title of his halachic work, Peri Megadim) made the novel argument that the biblical commandment does not require any verbal declaration. This is based on a discussion regarding the mitzvah to “remember” Amalek, where the Talmud states explicitly that the word “remember” alone does not imply that a verbal declaration is required. The mandate for a verbal declaration about Amalek is implied by the additional command “do not forget.”8 The Peri Megadim accordingly argues that the requirement to “remember” Shabbat merely requires a mental remembrance, without any verbal declaration.9

Maimonides10 and subsequent Halachic authorities, including the Alter Rebbe,11 all rule that a verbal declaration is necessary.12 This follows the explicit statement in Torat Kohanim (a compilation of halachic interpretations of the Torah dating from the era of the Talmud) that mentally remembering the mitzvah is not sufficient.13 We find several different interpretations among rabbinic sources about what exactly this verbal remembrance must consist of:

1) One is required to sanctify Shabbat with a blessing - The Mechilta (a compilation of halachic interpretations of the Torah from the schools of the Mishnaic sages Rabbi Yishmael and Rabbi Shimon) derives from the word “to sanctify it” (lekadsho) that one does so “with a blessing”. According to the Mechilta one is biblically required to make a blessing in which one sanctifies the Shabbat.14 This is also the opinion of R. Yom Tov ben Avraham Ashvili (1250-1320, known by the acronym “Ritva”)15 and some later authorities.16

2) One is required to say “words of praise and sanctification” - Maimonides in his Laws of Shabbat17 writes that one is biblically required to remember Shabbat with words of praise and sanctification. He does not state that this remembrance is required to be in the form of a blessing. Though he does provide the wording of the blessing made, he does not seem to be of the opinion that this is required by the biblical mandate. The question remains as to what Maimonides means when he says that “words of praise” are required. One possibility is that praise should be offered to Hashem for the fact that he sanctified Shabbat.18 Alternatively Shabbat itself should be praised by extolling its virtues.19 This second approach is supported by Maimonides’ own formulation of the mitzvah in his Sefer Hamitzvot, a work in which he enumerates and briefly describes each of the mitzvot. 20

3) Any mention of Shabbat is sufficient - R. Shlomo ben Aderet, the “Rashba” (1235 - 1310) writes in a responsum that one merely needs to “verbally make mention of Shabbat” in order to fulfil one’s biblical requirement.21

Additionally, the Talmud states that one is required to make mention of the exodus of Egypt during kiddush, and we will come back to this point later in this article.22 According to all three of the opinions enumerated here, at least some components of the kiddush liturgy [as we have it today] are rabbinic in nature.

Is the Wine a Biblical Mandate or a Rabbinic One?

The question of whether the obligation to make kiddush over wine is of biblical or rabbinic origin depends, in part, on two alternate readings of a cryptic Talmudic passage.

The Talmud rules that one who has made a nazarite vow, [which includes abstaining from wine] is even forbidden to partake of “mitzvah wine.” The Talmud suggests that this refers to the wine of kiddush and havdalah, but immediately challenges this suggestion with a cryptic sentence that can either be read as an exclamation (following the commentary of Rashi) or as a rhetorical question (following the commentary of the Tosfot):23

1) According to Rashi, the Talmud is affirming that wine is indeed part of the biblical obligation of kiddush, and is therefore protesting against the suggestion that the nazir should be prohibited from drinking kiddush wine. This is formulated as an exclamation: “He is sworn to do so from Sinai!”24

2) According to Tosfot, the Talmud is actually expressing the view that there is no biblical obligation to drink kiddush wine, and protesting the suggestion that there is any need to even specify that the nazir can’t drink kiddush wine, as this is should be obvious. This is formulated as a rhetorical question: “Is he sworn to do so from Sinai?25

According to Rashi’s reading this Talmudic discussion serves as a proof-text that one is biblically obligated to make kiddush on wine. According to the reading of Tosfot, however, the same discussion brings us to precisely the opposite conclusion, that wine is a rabbinic addition to the biblical commandment of kiddush. Maimonides rules that wine is a rabbinic addition,26 and this is also the opinion of most of the latter-day authorities including the Alter Rebbe.27

Does Mention of Shabbat in the Evening Prayer Satisfy the Obligation of Kiddush?

Rabbi Avraham Gombiner (1635-1682) in his commentary to the Shulchan Aruch, Magen Avraham, posits that the biblical obligation is satisfied when one makes mention of Shabbat in the evening prayer. This is based, in part, on the aforementioned opinion of Maimonides that the requirement to make kiddush over wine is rabbinic.28

Rabbi Akiva Eiger (1761-1837) goes even further, arguing that one should be able to fulfil the biblical obligation of Kiddush simply by wishing one’s friend a “good Shabbat.”29 Rabbi Yisroel Meir Kagan (1839-1933), in his Halachic work the Mishna Berura, questions this based on Maimonides’ statement (cited above) that one is required to say words of “praise and sanctification” in kiddush.30 However as Rabbi Meir Arik (1855-1926) and others have pointed out, Rabbi Akiva Eiger’s comment accords with the opinion of the Rashba (also cited above) that by “verbally making mention of Shabbat” one’s biblical obligation is satisfied.31

Many subsequent authorities take issue with the Magen Avraham’s ruling and maintain that even if there is no biblical requirement to make kiddush over wine, one would still not be able to fulfil one’s biblical requirement during the evening prayer. A number of arguments have been advanced against the Magen Avraham’s position, each of which is met with one or more counterarguments in his defense. We will cite a few of them:

1) The Exodus Argument - As mentioned earlier, the Talmud states that one is required to mention the exodus from Egypt during Kiddush.32 Rabbi Yosef Babad (1800-1874), in his classical work Minchas Chinuch, argues that since the mention of Shabbat in the evening prayer is not accompanied by any mention of the exodus, it cannot satisfy the biblical obligation of kiddush.33 One counterargument in support of the Magen Avraham’s position is that the requirement to make mention of the exodus of Egypt is only rabbinic in nature. Accordingly the biblical obligation of kiddush is satisfied even without any mention of the exodus.34 A second counterargument is that even if mention of the Exodus during kiddush is a biblical requirement, it is nevertheless not fundamental to the mitzvah of kiddush. Accordingly the Magen Avraham’s position can still be upheld: Although one may be biblically required to mention the exodus of Egypt on Shabbat during kiddush, failure to do so does not invalidate the kiddush.35

2) The Intention Argument -There is a principle that mitzvos tzrichos kavana, which means that mitzvot must be performed with conscious intention. Without intention one’s obligation is not satisfied. Based on this, many authorities argue that the biblical obligation of kiddush is not satisfied by the mention of Shabbat during prayer because in prayer one does not have any intention to satisfy the obligation of kiddush.36 Rabbi Natan Nata HaLevi Kelin (1724-1806, known by the title of his work Machatzis Hashekel) offers the following counterargument: Being that the mitzvah of kiddush is to “remember” Shabbat, rather than to do any particular ritual, the important thing is that one’s mention of Shabbat during prayer be intentional. Thereby you have consciously remembered Shabbat and satisfied the obligation even if you weren’t specifically intending to satisfy the mitzvah of kiddush.37

3) The Rabbinic Argument - Tosfos in Sukkah38 and other early authorities (Rishonim)39 maintain that if one fails to fulfill one’s obligation in the manner that the rabbis prescribe, one’s biblical obligation is not fulfilled either. Based on this the Peri Megadim argues that although reciting kiddush over wine is a rabbinic enactment, in the absence of wine the biblical obligation cannot be fulfilled either.40
In defense of the Magen Avraham it can firstly be suggested that he follows the opinion of those Rishonim who argue with Tosfos and maintain that one fulfills one’s biblical obligation even if one fails to do it in the manner that the rabbis prescribe.41
Secondly, the apparent contradiction between the positions of the Magen Avraham and Tosfos can be resolved in light of a more nuanced explanation of the principle articulated by Tosfos: Rabbi Tzvi Pesach Frank (the Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem from 1935 to 1960) distinguished between cases in which the rabbis simply enacted that the mitzvah be performed in a certain manner and cases where they expressly forbade doing it in any other manner. Only in the latter case did the rabbis decree that omission of the rabbinic addition entails that the biblical requirement is not satisfied either. But in this case the rabbis certainly never forbade any mention of Shabbat without wine, but simply enacted that when one fulfills the commandment to “remember the shabbat day” one should “remember it with wine.” Accordingly, one’s biblical obligation can indeed be satisfied through mentioning Shabbat during prayer, even though this prayer does not involve wine.42

The Alter Rebbe rules in accordance with the Magen Avraham.43 One of the practical ramifications of whether or not one accepts the Magen Avraham’s ruling would be a case in which someone cannot remember whether or not they recited kiddush over wine, but does remember praying the evening prayer. According to the Magen Avraham and Alter Rebbe the biblical obligation has certainly been satisfied, and it is only the satisfaction of the rabbinic obligation that is in doubt. Based on the general rule that safek derabanan lekula - “rabbinic doubts are determined leniently” - it would follow that one should not make kiddush in order to resolve the doubt. According to those authorities who argue with the Magen Avraham and maintain that the evening prayer does not satisfy one’s biblical obligation of kiddush, it follows that one is required to make kiddush, based on the principle that safek deorayta lechumra - “biblical doubts are determined stringently.”44

Can You Delay Kiddush or Recite Kiddush Early?

Another practical ramification of the Magen Avraham’s view is whether or not one can delay reciting kiddush. Ideally one should make kiddush as close to the beginning of Shabbat as possible, as the Talmud says “one must sanctify the onset of the day.”45 But what if you have finished the evening prayer but are not yet hungry, and therefore wish to delay kiddush and the beginning of the Shabbat meal? The Magen Avraham cites a responsum of Rav Menachem Azaryah of Pano (1548-1620) who rules that one may do so. The rationale is that one can rely on the fact that the biblical obligation to remember Shabbat was already satisfied during the evening prayer.46

Maimonides writes that one can make kiddush “a little bit before Shabbat”.47 At face value it would seem that Maimonides does not literally mean that one can make kiddush before it is Shabbat; but rather he is referring to making kiddush during tosefes shabbat. Tosefes shabbat refers to the time on Friday that one can append to Shabbat by accepting upon oneself Shabbat. (There are different opinions about how exactly this works, but they are beyond the scope of this discussion.) However, the language that Maimonides uses does not make reference to this. Moreover, according to many authorities, Maimonides is of the opinion that at least on a biblical level there is no concept of tosefes shabbat at all. This leads some authorities to state that in the opinion of Maimonides one can actually make kiddush while it is still weekday for all other purposes, as long as it is close to the onset of Shabbat.48

Reciting Kiddush on Shabbat Day

As mentioned earlier, the consensus among authorities is that the daytime recital of kiddush is a rabbinic obligation and not a biblical one. Rabbi Nissim of Gerona (1320-1380, known as the Ran) cites proof for this from the fact that the Talmud states that the daytime recital of kiddush essentially consists of the blessing over wine and nothing more. This means that there is no requirement to make any mention of Shabbat, and it follows that it cannot be understood as any kind of fulfillment of the biblical mitzvah of remembering Shabbat.49

Yet, the Talmud states that there is an instance in which one would be required to make the longer nighttime kiddush during the day; that is, if one forgot to make it at night.50 Rav Amram Gaon (810-875) maintains that this law applies only to one who accidentally forgot to make kiddush.51 Maimonides extends this to include one who willfully disregarded the obligation to recite kiddush at night.52

Rabbi Yoel Sirkes (1561-1640, known as “the Bach” after the acronym of his commentary Bayit Chodosh) and other latter-day authorities explain that the dispute between Rav Amram Gaon and Maimonides hinges upon two different ways of understanding the Talmudic statement that “one who did not recite kiddush on the eve of Shabbat recites kiddush throughout the day:”

1) Essentially one has failed to satisfy the obligation to recite kiddush over wine at night, but the Rabbis require you to make up for it during the daytime.

2) The time for fulfilling the mitzvah actually extends over the whole duration of Shabbat. While the obligation should be fulfilled at the onset of Shabbat, it can nevertheless be satisfied during the day as well.

Rav Amram Gaon’s ruling accords with the first approach, while Maimonides’ ruling accords with the second approach. In other words, according to Rav Amram Gaon the obligation to recite the full kiddush only applies at night. The requirement to recite the nighttime kiddush during the day is a secondary allowance made by the rabbis as a stand in for the lost mitzvah. But this secondary allowance is only extended to someone whose failure to satisfy the obligation was unintentional. According to Maimonides, on the other hand, in essence the mitzvah to “remember the Shabbat” extends over the entire day. It follows that even if one failed to satisfy the obligation at the onset of Shabbat, one can satisfy it during the day as a matter of course, irrespective of whether or not the nighttime omission was intentional.53

The Shulchan Aruch and subsequent authorities all rule in accordance with Maimonides that even one who wilfully misses kiddush at night, can recite the full nighttime kiddush during the day.54

The Connection Between Kiddush and Havdalah

Maimonides writes explicitly that the commandment to “remember” Shabbat requires a verbal pronouncement both at the beginning of Shabbat and at its conclusion. At its beginning kiddush must be recited, and havdalah must be recited to mark its end. Havdalah literally means “differentiation,” and it consists of a blessing that thanks G‑d for differentiating between the “holy” and the “mundane,” and especially between “the seventh day,” Shabbat, and “the six days” in which G‑d created the world. While other authorities understand havdalah to be a rabbinic enactment,55 Maimonides apparently understands it to be a biblical obligation and part and parcel of the mitzvah of kiddush.56

The opinion of Maimonides is difficult to understand as the Talmudic discussion of the obligation to “remember” Shabbat makes no mention of havdalah at all. Rabbi Vidal of Tolosa (fourteenth century) in his commentary on Maimonides, Maggid Mishneh, points to a Talmudic comment in tractate Shevu’ot (18b) according to which the biblical verse “and to make a separation between the holy and the mundane” (Leviticus, 10:10) is interpreted as a reference to havdalah in which one separates between the holy (Shabbat) and the mundane (the weekday).57 However, as the Peri Megadim58 and others argue, Maimonides seems to be saying that kiddush and havdalah are part of the same mitzvah, and are both derived from the verse that commands us to “remember” Shabbat.

Rabbi Boruch Epstein (1860-1941) argues that Maimonides actually had a different version of the Talmud in Pesachim (106a) in which havdalah is explicitly mentioned as being part of the obligation to “remember” Shabbat together with kiddush. He points out that this is supported by Maimonides’ own language in Sefer Hamitzvot as well as by the fact that Rashi in his commentary to tractate Nazir (4a) also quotes a variant version of the Talmud’s discussion in Pesachim according to which the conclusion of Shabbat is also included in the obligation of kiddush.59

In addition to the difficulty in locating the biblical and talmudic sources upon which Maimonides based his understanding of havdalah, it is also difficult to understand his logic: In what way does a blessing marking the end of Shabbat and the onset of the mundane work week constitute a fulfillment of the commandment to “remember the day of Shabbat and sanctify it”?

The Lubavitcher Rebbe suggests that this can be understood in light of an analysis of the various ways this commandment can be interpreted. Crucially, the commandment is not merely to “remember” Shabbat but also to “sanctify” Shabbat. Among other possibilities this could mean that 1) the purpose of this remembrance is to endow the day with sanctity, 2) the purpose of this remembrance is to distinguish the sanctity of Shabbat from the mundane days of the week, or 3) it is the sanctity of the day that needs to be remembered.

Among various practical differences that arise from these nuances, the one that concerns us is whether or not havdalah is part and parcel of this commandment or not. Of these three possibilities it would seem that only the second one provides a rationale for understanding havdalah as a part of the commandment to remember Shabbat: Since the purpose of this remembrance is to distinguish the sanctity of Shabbat from the mundane days of the week it makes sense that this distinction should be underscored through marking both the onset of Shabbat and its conclusion, the points in time when this differentiation (havdalah) takes place. This, however, does not satisfactorily explain the position of Maimonides, since his explanation of the commandment to “remember” aligns with the third possibility rather than the second.

In contrast to the normative approach, Nachmanides actually understands this verse to encompass two distinct commandments: 1) A commandment to “remember” Shabbat that applies at all times, not only on Shabbat itself. 2) A commandment to “sanctify” Shabbat that applies only on Shabbat itself. The recital of kiddush, according to Nachmanides, is accordingly not a fulfillment of the command to “remember” but of the command to “sanctify.”60

As has already been noted, Maimonides clearly states that kiddush and havdalah are both components of the one mitzvah, to “remember” Shabbat. He does not agree that there is a second mitzvah to “sanctify” Shabbat. But the Lubavitcher Rebbe nevertheless suggests that Maimonides might understand this single commandment to be comprised of two distinct obligations, along the same lines as Nachmanides: The single commandment to “remember” and “sanctify” Shabbat requires 1) a constant remembrance throughout the week, and 2) a particular remembrance on Shabbat itself.

According to this explanation the reason that the “remembrance” of Shabbat requires both kiddush and havdalah is not in order to differentiate between the sanctity of Shabbat and the mundane weekdays. On the contrary, the reason for Maimonides’ ruling that “one must remember Shabbat at its beginning and at its end” is in order that the memory of Shabbat will continue into the week that follows. As the new week begins, we reaffirm our constant remembrance of Shabbat and ensure that its sanctity is not forgotten even during the working week. This demonstrates that the power of Shabbat is not bound by time, and that its sanctity extends into the mundane realm as well, embracing and uplifting all our activities.61