Insights into Halacha

For the week ending 6 July 2013 / 27 Tammuz 5773

Common Kiddush Questions

by Rabbi Yehuda Spitz
The Color of HeavenArtscroll

One of the most common halachic realms where we actively see different minhagim manifested is that of making Kiddush on Shabbos. One family stands when making Kiddush, another sits, while a third does some sort of combination[1]. Additionally, another’s “minhag” preference might just depend on how tired or hungry one is. However, aside from the proper posturical preferences on how to make Kiddush, there are actual variations inherent in the words and actions of the Kiddush itself.

Kiddush Commencement

Although everyone agrees that the Friday night Kiddush starts with the passage of Hashem’s resting on the Seventh day after completing Creation[2], on the other hand, the Shabbos Day Kiddush is not so clear cut. Some start Kiddush with ‘V’Shomru Bnei Yisrael es HaShabbos[3], the Biblical passage detailing how Bnei Yisrael kept Shabbos in the wilderness, while others start with ‘Zachor es Yom HaShabbos lekadsho[4], the exhortation to keep Shabbos excerpted from the Ten Commandments. This passage is also the source cited by the Gemara (Pesachim 106a) as a support for making Kiddush on Shabbos day. Yet others start with the last pasuk of that passage, ‘Ki Sheshes Yamim’, and others from that verse’s midpoint, ‘Al Kein Beirach’. In fact, the Kabbalists cite an entire lineup of passages to be recited as part of the Shabbos morning Kiddush, replete with twelve challos, two bundles of hadassim, and circling the table[5]. Which is the correct Kiddush?

The Great Kiddush?

The answer is an interesting one; one that is alluded to by the way the Gemara refers to the Shabbos Day Kiddush: “Kiddusha Rabba”, ‘the Great Kiddush’[6]. This nickname actually is a seemingly mystifying misnomer for a Kiddush that is merely a rabbinic enactment to honor the Shabbos[7]. Shouldn’t such a weighty and significant title rather be exercised on the biblically mandated Friday night Kiddush[8]? Although there are other rationales to explain this puzzling moniker[9], the accepted reason is that it is simply ‘lashon sagi nahar’, or a euphemism[10]. In other words, the Shabbos Day Kiddush is called ‘Great’ because it actually is not as important as the Friday night Kiddush.

This understanding affects various halachos and nuances of the Shabbos Day Kiddush. The most important distinction, as detailed in the Gemara and later implied by the Shulchan Aruch as well, is that the only part of this Kiddush that is halachically required is the bracha of ‘Borei Pri HaGafen[11] on the wine.

This means that the various passages people customarily say before this Kiddush are not actually part and parcel of the Kiddush itself, rather merely serving as the preamble. In fact, it is known that many Gedolim did not say any pesukim before Shabbos Day Kiddush, and only recited the bracha of ‘HaGafen’[12].

Divided Verses

The Aruch Hashulchan takes this a step further. He explains that although there is a Talmudic dictum that any pasuk that Moshe Rabbeinu did not stop at we may not either[13], meaning that we may not recite half pesukim, even so, since the pesukim here are simply meant to be an introduction to give extra honor to the Shabbos day and are not actually a requirement of the Kiddush, we are allowed to do so. Therefore, he maintains that one may start with ‘Al Kein Beirach’ even though technically it is in the middle of a pasuk. Several other authorities, including the Maharam Shik and the Ben Ish Chai rule similarly[14]; the Ben Ish Chai even referring to starting Kiddush with ‘Al Kein Beirach’ as ‘minhag ha’olam’.

However, this logic is not universally accepted. In fact, the Mishna Berura[15] states that even though he acknowledges that many start Kiddush from ‘Al Kein Beirach’, all the same, in his opinion, it is incorrect to do so, as the rule of not reciting half-pesukim should still apply to Kiddush. This is why many are makpid to start their Kiddush from the beginning of that pasuk: ‘Ki Sheshes Yamim’. Either way, whatever one’s Kiddush custom is, he definitely has something to rely upon. However, if one does not have a specific custom, it seems preferable not to start mid-pasuk, and rather choose a different starting point for Kiddush.

A Brisker Twist

A consequence of the basis of this machlokes is that it has become the starting point of another. The famed Brisker Rav, Rav Yitzchok Zev Soloveitchik zt”l, was bothered by one of the halachos of Kiddush. If, as previously explained, the Shabbos Day Kiddush is intrinsically just a bracha of ‘Borei Pri HaGafen’ on the wine in order to honor the Shabbos, then shouldn’t it be in the category of ‘Birchos HaNehenin’ (referring to blessings recited on items we derive pleasure from, i.e. food) where halachically one must partake of the item he recited a bracha on? If so, one must at least taste the Kiddush wine; otherwise, how can he fulfill his obligation?[16] Although he acknowledged that this is not normative halacha[17], nevertheless, the Brisker Rav maintained that lechatchila one should strive to at least get a taste of the Kiddush wine. That is why at many a Kiddush you will usually find at least several people waiting to get some Kiddush wine before joining the rest of the crowd in digging into their coveted mezonos[18]. This just goes to show that when it comes to properly honoring Shabbos by making Kiddush, even a small drop goes a long way.



[1]See Shulchan Aruch, Rema and their main commentaries to Orach Chaim (271, 10).

[2]See Tur, Shulchan Aruch, Rema and their main commentaries to Orach Chaim (271, 10).

[3]Shemos (Parshas Ki Sisa Ch.31, 16 -17). See Kol Bo (39), Elya Rabba (O.C. 289, 2), and Mishna Berura (ad loc. 2).

[4]Shemos (Parshas Yisro Ch.20, 7 - 11).

[5]See Kaf Hachaim (O.C. 262, 2 & 289, 4) at length.

[6]Gemara Pesachim (106a) in the story about Rav Ashi, Rambam (Hilchos Shabbos Ch. 29, 10), Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 289, 1).

[7]See Rashbam (Pesachim 106a s.v. amar) who cites the Sheiltos D’Rav Achai Gaon (Parshas Yisro, 54) who explains that the reason why we make Kiddush on Shabbos day is in order to show honor to the day, by drinking wine, which showcases the difference between weekday and Shabbos. Similar sevaros are given by other Rishonim, including the Meiri and TosafosRi”d in their commentaries (Pesachim ad loc.). See also Shulchan Aruch HaRav (O.C. 289, 2) and Aruch Hashulchan (ad loc. 3).

[8]See Gemara Brachos (20b & 27b), Rambam (Hilchos Shabbos Ch. 29, 1 & 4), Sefer HaChinuch (Parshas Yisro, Mitzva 31), Tur & Shulchan Aruch and main commentaries (O.C. 271) at length, and Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (77, 1).

[9]For example, Rashi and the Rashbam (Pesachim ad loc. s.v. kiddusha rabba) maintain that the Shabbos Day Kiddush, which technically is made up of only thebracha of ‘Borei Pri HaGafen’, is called ‘Great’ because every Kiddush contains the bracha of ‘Borei Pri HaGafen’. Rav Moshe Sternbuch (Shu”t Teshuvos V’Hanhagos vol. 1, 164 s.v. v’taam) further explains that Chazal wanted people to realize that the whole of Shabbos Day Kiddush is the bracha of ‘Borei Pri HaGafen’, and they can fulfill their mitzvah of Kiddush exclusively through this bracha. Therefore, they called it ‘the Great Kiddush’ so that everyone should realize the bracha’s importance in fulfilling their chiyuv of Kiddush. On the other hand, Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky (Emes L’Yaakov al HaTorah, Parshas Bo Ch. 12, verse 1, pg. 280 s.v. v’al) maintains that the reason Shabbos Day Kiddush is called this is due to that this Kiddush was considered the more important one before Mattan Torah.

[10]Ran (Pesachim 22a in the Rif’s pages s.v. zachruhu), Maggid Mishna (Hilchos Shabbos Ch. 29, 10), Aruch Hashulchan (O.C. 289, 3), Mishna Berura (O.C. 289, 3 & Shaar HaTziyun ad loc. 1), Kaf Hachaim (ad loc. 7). For an explanation how ‘lashon sagi nahar’ is used, see Ibn Ezra’s commentary to Bamidbar (Parshas Beha’alosecha Ch. 12, 1).

[11]Most Sefardim actually say ‘Borei Pri HaGefen’. See the footnotes of a previous article titled ‘Geshem or Gashem?!’ for an explanation.

[12]See Aruch Hashulchan (O.C. 289, end 3), who writes that when he was younger he saw many Gedolim only saying ‘Borei Pri HaGefen’ for the Shabbos day Kiddush, and Shu”t Teshuvos V’Hanhagos (vol. 1, 164) who writes that this was also the custom of Rav Chaim Brisker and the Chazon Ish.

[13]See Gemara Brachos 14a-b, Taanis 27b, and Megillah 22a.

[14]Aruch Hashulchan (ibid.), Shu”t Maharam Shik (124), Shu”t Rav Pe’alim (vol. 1, O.C. 11). However, the Ben Ish Chai (Shu”t Rav Pe’alim ibid.) cites a different reason. He writes that the Arizal is quoted as holding this way as well, and even though the sefer that quotes him - Pri Etz Chaim (beg. Ch. 7, pg. 89) is riddled with mistakes [including that Lag B’Omer is the yahrtzeit of Rabi Shimon Bar Yochai (see previous article titled: “The Unknown Days” of the Jewish Calendar), nonetheless this ruling is correct. He explains that the Chasam Sofer (Shu"t O.C. 10), citing the Magen Giborim and Yachin U’Boaz (vol. 2, 2) holds that one may stop and start reciting a pasuk by an esnachta (a half-stop, generally akin to a pasuk’s midpoint), which would be the case by ‘Al Kein Beirach’. He further cites (quoting several different poskim) several different exceptions to the rule of not reciting half-pesukim - that it does not apply to Kesuvim, pesukim recited ‘derech techina, tefilla, or bakasha’, or if only reciting two words of a pasuk.

[15]Mishna Berura (O.C. 289, 20), Several other earlier authorities, including the Chessed L’Alafim (ad loc.), and Rav Chaim Falaj’i (in his Kaf Hachaim 36, 38) rule this way as well.

[16]Cited in Shu”t Teshuvos V’Hanhagos (vol. 1, 264 s.v. v’daas). A similar ruling is given in Chiddushei Rabbeinu Dovid on Pesachim (105).

[17]As the Shulchan Aruch (O.C.167, 20 & Beis Yosef O.C. 273 s.v. u’ma”sh d’afa”g), Rema (O.C. 273, 4) and later, the Mishna Berura (ad loc. 19) and Kaf Hachaim (ad loc. 34, who ads “v’chain hu da’as ha’acharonim”), quoting several Rishonim, including Tosafos (Pesachim 105a s.v. b’ain), Rif(Pesachim 27b), Ran (ad loc.), Rosh (ad loc. Ch. 10, 36), and Tur (O.C. 284), explicitly rule that one does not have to partake of the Kiddush wine on Shabbos day to fulfill his Kiddush obligation (and not like the shitta of the Mordechai in Pesachim ad loc.). It is said that although the Brisker Rav’s father, Rav Chaim, did not accept his son’s chiddush publicly, nevertheless, lechumrah he privately adhered to it as well. See Shu”t Teshuvos V’Hanhagos (vol. 1, 264 s.v. amnam, in the brackets).

[18]Whether or not one should be making Kiddush on Mezonos, as well as other common Kiddush questions, will IY”H be addressed in a future article.


Disclaimer: This is not a comprehensive guide, rather a brief summary to raise awareness of the issues. In any real case one should ask a competent Halachic authority.


L'iluy Nishmas the Rosh HaYeshiva - Rav Chonoh Menachem Mendel ben R' Yechezkel Shraga, Rav Yaakov Yeshaya ben R' Boruch Yehuda, and l'zchus for Shira Yaffa bas Rochel Miriam and her children for a yeshua teikef u'miyad!

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