One of the most familiar parts of a traditional Friday night meal is Kiddush, through which we introduce the meal.
The word kiddush literally means to sanctify or to separate the day. It tells us that we are entering something different to everything else that we do.
We use wine (or grape juice) as the fruit of a tree that can impact us and alter our minds. Used well it can help us break down boundaries, achieve deeper connections and experience greater joy. Abused, it can diminish the human to an animal or worse.
As such it stands as a symbol for the world as a whole. Life and its offerings are intrinsically neither good nor bad. They are tools, challenges and opportunities. It is our free will that can determine whether they are used to build or to destroy.
As Shabbat re-acquaints us with our better selves, the wine of Kiddush becomes a source of celebration.
Making Kiddush turns the ordinary into the extraordinary. It lifts the meal, transforms the atmosphere and converts Friday night into Shabbat.
Yosef Mendelevich, on one of his experiences as a Jewish Prisoner of Zion in the former Soviet Union comments on the importance to him of continuing the practice of making Kiddush, despite his extremely restrictive environment. (Extracted from his book From the Edge of the Heavens)
My father, Moshe Ben Aaron of Blessed Memory, had sent me 10 years previously a kilo of raisins. This was during the interrogation period and it was permitted to receive raisins. After the trial it was no longer permitted to receive anything like this. I had saved the raisins during these years, I only used them for Kiddush. Although one needed the fruit of the vine wine, but out of ignorance I decided that raisins were also fruit of the vine. Every Shabbat we would gather in another hut and I would make Kiddush over two raisins. By the tenth year there only remained to me a few handfuls of the raisins, but this was enough to make wine. And there was more. Every day a prisoner would receive a spoonful of sugar. People at once ate the sugar. But I decided to collect it. Every day I added another spoonful and another. After a month I had enough sugar. I poured the sugar, raisins and hot water into the water-bottle and hid it underneath the bed. Although I was afraid that there might be a sudden search and they would discover my wine, but I had no choice.
Some Tips for Kiddush making: