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Posted by Yevgeni Kuritski on June 28, 2014
According to the Torah, the Kiddush is a prayer usually recited on the eve of Sabbath or any other holy day, including the New Year (Rosh Hashanah), which highlights the sanctity of that specific celebration and ends with the following formulae “Praised be Thou, O Lord, who sanctifies the Sabbath” and “Praised be Thou, O Lord, who sanctifies Israel and the festivals”. It is common to have the Kiddush recited by the head of the household over a cup of wine and loaves of challah. The Kiddush ceremony comprises the blessing of the wine and the reciting of several Torah verses. The same ceremony is usually repeated before the first meal on the morning of the Sabbath. Moreover, the Kiddush is also customarily recited in the synagogue at the end of the morning and evening services. Such a custom has been established to the benefit of those people travelling around, who have chosen to stay at the synagogue during Sabbath or any other Jewish holiday.
After having recited the Kiddush, all those present share the blessed wine.
A special goblet is used for this ceremony, which is known as a Kiddush Cup. Although special cups exist nowadays and can be purchased in specialized shops, Kiddush Cups tend to be running in the family from one generation to another. The more traditional Kiddush Cups are made of different alloys, have a specific form,that of a goblet and are engraved with different Jewish symbols/patterns. When using a Kiddush Cup for Sabbath it is customary to have it filled with wine (if possible, with wine of Israeli production) on Friday evening and then drink from it after having recited the prayer. The same Kiddush Cup could be used for the Havdalah ceremony at the end of the Sabbath.
As far as the traditional Kiddush Cup is concerned, it is often made out of gold or silver, and richly adorned with artistic motifs such as fruit (usually grapes as an expression of the wine that shall be blessed and drank), animals, birds, or even have Torah passages engraved on them. Often, the Kiddush Cups are a family heirloom, passed from one generation to another, which would explain for some of the most beautiful decorated cups that exist. Additionally, a Kiddush Cup can be offered as a present for a Bar Mitzvah or a Bar Mitzvat.
There are several rules that need to be respected with regard to these Kiddush Cups. Firstly, they all share an approximate size – they cannot be smaller than 4 ½ ounces. Secondly, they cannot be made out of disposable material, such as paper or carton. Thirdly, they need to be thoroughly checked for cracks or any malfunction. A chipped cup can no longer be used for the prayer, even though it can hold the wine. Consequently, before the Sabbath or any other holiday, they need to be stored with care and properly checked before using them for the prayer.
As far as the wine used in the Kiddush Cups is concerned, it can be any type of wine, with only two exceptions. Libation wine cannot be used in the Kiddush Cups, as it is often associated with the wine used in the offerings to pagan deities. Also, the wine used for the Kiddush Cups needs to be a fresh, untasted, straight from the bottle wine. In the absence of wine, the Kiddush Cups could be filled with grape juice.