The Kiddush cup is a special Jewish artifact, which has come to be a symbol of the Jewish Sabbath celebration.
The Jewish Sabbath, known as Shabbat, is celebrated on a Saturday and for religious or traditional Jews, it is marked by a series of ceremonies, which mark it out from every other day. Some Jews choose to go to the synagogue on Shabbat, many eat special bread known as challah. But perhaps the most common Shabbat ceremony of all is Kiddush. The ritual itself is simply a prayer and a blessing, which is normally recited by the head of the household on both a Friday night and during the day on Saturday. The Kiddush prayer calls for the Jewish people to remember the Sabbath. Of course, ensuring that the Sabbath stands out from the rest of the week is a sure way of remembering it. And so, the Kiddush prayer is one facet which makes Shabbat different. Firstly, the blessing is recited over wine, giving it a special status and gravitas over most other traditional Jewish blessings. It is worth noting that although any wine or grape
juice can be used, usually specially manufactured Kiddush wine is used for this purpose. Of course, it follows that such special wine should be contained in a special cup. Therefore, the Kiddush cup has become a key item in the Jewish tradition. Kiddush cups come in all varieties, shapes and sizes. However, what is often considered to be the classic model is a silver goblet held aloft with a stem and a base. There are no special specifications or requirements for a Kiddush cup and you can find them made of wood or pewter too.
It is accepted that the Kiddush cup should however stand out from an everyday cup. Therefore, Kiddush cups are often manufactured to include special intricate and quite often meaningful designs. Among the common motifs used are bunches of grapes, symbolizing both wine and the grape which is considered to be one of seven species found inIsrael. It is also not uncommon to include a well-crafted skyline of the ancient city ofJerusalem, inextricably linked with the Jewish people. In terms of design, a Kiddush cup is often manufactured with a matching plate for it to stand on. This serves a practical purpose, in that it prevents any spilt wine from reaching the table. However, it is by no means mandated to have one of these. Essentially, the purpose of the Kiddush cup is to beautify the Shabbat Kiddush prayer. The prayer itself, which
is recited twice over the Sabbath in slightly variant versions, recalls the creation of the world and the idea that on the seventh day, once the world had been completed in all its beauty, God rested. The Kiddush prayer is also recited on Jewish festivals. The Kiddush cup continues to play an important role in marking the Shabbat as a day to be commemorated unlike any other.