“Remember the Sabbath day to sanctify it” (Exodus 20:8). This verse is a Torah command to sanctify the Shabbat when it enters (Kiddush) and when it departs (Havdalah). The Sages instituted that this sanctification be accompanied by a cup of wine (or grape juice). They also instituted that Kiddush be recited over wine before beginning the daytime Shabbat meal.

The following is a basic overview of the Kiddush ceremony:

  • It is forbidden to eat or drink anything before Kiddush. This prohibition starts at sundown of Friday night, and after the Shacharit prayer of Shabbat morning.
  • If no wine is available, it is permitted to recite the Kiddush on challah (or any two loaves of bread or matzah).
  • In ancient times wine was used quite frequently as a libation for idols. Since the overwhelming majority of non-Jews were pagan, and because it is forbidden to derive any benefit from an object that was used as an offering for an idol, the rabbis forbade any wine that was handled by a non-Jew, fearing that perhaps the intention of the non-Jew was to proffer this wine as an offering to his deity.
    This rule (which applies to all wine consumption, not just Kiddush) extends to grape juice as well, but does not apply if the wine (or grape juice) was cooked (“mevushal”), since cooking renders wine unfit for libation.
    A wine that was handled by a non-Jew while the bottle was sealed is kosher even if it is not mevushal.
    Most – but not all – kosher wines available in the US are mevushal. Make sure to check the label.
  • A cup of wine from which someone has already sipped is considered “tainted” and the leftover wine may not be used for Kiddush. “Tainted” wine is remedied by pouring into it even a miniscule amount of untainted wine.
  • The Kiddush cup must be rinsed and complete; it is not respectful to use a chipped cup to sanctify the holy day of Shabbat. The cup should be filled with wine or grape juice to its brim.
  • The Kiddush cup is held in the right hand (unless one is left-handed). When starting the Kiddush it is customary to glance at the Shabbat candles, and when saying the Hagafen blessing one should glance at the wine.
  • The first passage of the Kiddush, vayechulu, must be recited while standing. The rest of Kiddush (as well as the daytime Kiddush) is recited while sitting or standing, depending on your family or community custom.
  • After finishing the Kiddush, the one who recited the Kiddush must drink at least 1.46 ounces of the wine (from the full cup containing 3 ounces of wine or even more). It is customary for all those who listened to the Kiddush to also have a sip from the wine.
  • Kiddush needs to be followed by a meal that contains bread. To learn why this is so (and what to do if you are unable to eat bread) read this article.