Kiddush cups revolve around kiddush, which has just about three different meanings. The interesting thing about these meanings is that each one builds upon the last. Let’s look at each of these three meanings, then discuss kiddush cups.
Kiddush is a Hebrew word that translates to “separation” or “sanctification” in English. It is a mitzvah where Shabbat (the seventh day of the week) is verbally declared to be holy and separate. This is done twice on Friday nights. The first time is during prayers, and the second is while holding a cup of wine. This cup is held prior to our evening meal.
The declaration has three phases, which are:
- Reciting verses from the Torah that govern the holiness of Shabbat
- A blessing that precedes the wine
- A blessing in which God is thanked for choosing our nation and giving us Shabbat.
Shabbat Morning Reception
The next meaning of Shabbat is an extension. A cup of wine is held while Shabbat rest-related verses are recited. This is accompanied by a blessing over wine prior to the beginning of our Shabbat daytime meal. Many synagogues follow the morning service with a reception. As the wine blessing takes place first, the reception is also referred to as Kiddush. Kiddush fare is known to be a range of meal types. It can be basic meals such as herring and crackers, or elaborate ones with sushi and carving stations. These kiddush receptions are often sponsored to remember loved ones or in honor of milestones. However, they are commonly held without a specific event of focus.
It’s a Girl!
Shabbat morning is commonly sponsored to honor a new baby girl’s birth. Such receptions can take place in the synagogue but can happen anywhere.
In fact, it is not uncommon for them to happen in homes. The custom exists for several reasons. These are:
- Thanking God for the gift of the new baby girl
- Kiddush is often held when the new baby is named at the Torah. It is at the time of baby-naming that the Jewish soul enters the body. The celebration honors this new soul.
- During the kiddush, it is natural to wish that the parents raise the growing child according to “Torah, chuppah, and good deeds (maasim tovim).” Blessings are known for their potency, and kiddush celebrations are a great way to get numerous ones.
When a kiddush is done, everyone present partakes of wine. The cups are usually made of gold and silver with decorations of and images. These decorations are usually images of fruits such as grapes, which represent the wine. Sometimes, however, the decorations have animals such as birds on them. Inscriptions are sometimes also found on the cups. These inscriptions are of names and biblical passages in most cases. Some cups are passed down through generations as a family heirloom. The passing typically takes place at a Bar Mitzvah or a Bat Mitzvah.
Kiddush Cup Rules
These wine cups are known to come in various forms and sizes. There are many materials that can be used in the cups’ making that are all considered kosher. The most important detail is the minimum size. They can be no less than 4.5 ounces. While there are many kosher materials, there exist materials that are also not kosher for the cups. Disposable materials are unacceptable. Therefore, materials such as paper cups are not allowed to be Jewish wine cups. It is also important that Kiddush cups be complete. This refers to their condition. Chipped, malformed, or broken kiddush cups are unacceptable. Even if they were being used before, they must be replaced once there is any change to their wholeness. This is the reason it is very important and very common for these cups to be cautiously handled. Inspection for hidden cracks usually takes place prior to Kabalat Sabbath.
Kiddush cups can be filled with just about any kind of wine. However, there are two important rules that must be considered:
- No libation wine may be used – In ancient times, pagan deities were given wine offerings. Therefore, it is not permitted to use wine that has been handled by gentiles. The only exception to this is Mevushal, which is a cooked wine. So long as the bottle is sealed, any other kind of uncooked wine is acceptable.
- The wine used must be fresh – Wine that someone already sipped from is unacceptable. If this has taken place, the wine is deemed as tainted. Note, however, that it is acceptable to mix it with an untainted wine. If you do not have wine or the wine you have is not kosher, you can use grape juice as a suitable replacement.
There are a few meanings for the word kiddush. All these are related as each one builds on the last. Whatever the meaning may be, chances are wine drinking is involved. The wine is sipped from special vessels known as kiddush cups. There aren’t many requirements surrounding the cups or the wine. However, the ones that do exist must be given special attention.