Kiddush-Positive Testimony

In honor of its Centennial year, the Orthodox Union has published an innovative siddur, designed to make Hebrew prayer and the basic concepts of Judaism accessible to all Jews, regardless of background or affiliation.  Jewish Action is proud to present an excerpt from an introductory chapter of the new Seif Edition Transliterated ArtScroll Siddur, written by Rabbi Benjamin Yudin.

Abarbanel points out that the two tablets of the Ten Commandments — which contain five commandments on each tablet — actually complement one another.  Thus the first commandment, which is “I am your God”, and the sixth commandment, which is “You shall not kill” are related to one another.  We are forbidden to murder because the first commandment teaches that each person is created in the image of God; thus respect for God dictates that one dare not kill the host of the Godly soul.  It would be an exciting enhancement of the Shabbos table to have family and friends work through the parallel relationships of the other pairs of commandments.

For the context of Kiddush, we consider the relationship of the fourth and ninth commandments.  The fourth is to sanctify the Shabbos and the ninth is the prohibition of false testimony.  Our observance of Shabbos, our abstention from creative labor, is not simply an inaction; rather it is akin to such positive deeds as donning tefillin, shaking a lulav, or eating in a succah.  That is to say, by abstaining from weekday activities, we are doing something, namely testifying to God’s creation of the universe, His control over the world and our acceptance of His commandments.

The converse is also true, unfortunately, of a Jew who is not yet a Sabbath observer.  By his disregard of the Shabbos, by failing to sanctify it and by laboring on it, by desecrating the sacredness of the Shabbos, he violates the ninth and gives false testimony.  His actions declare that man, not God, is at the center of his universe, and that it is man whom he regards as the ultimate source of values.

When we observe the Shabbos, we bear weekly testimony to His creation of the universe.  It is thus understandable why many have the custom to stand for at least the first paragraph of Vayechulu, as this recitation is viewed as a form of formal testimony, and the Torah says of witnesses “And the two men shall stand before Hashem” (Deuteronomy 19:17), which means that testimony should be given in a standing, formal position (Shavuos 30a).  Although this paragraph has already been recited as part of the evening Amidah, it is included in Kiddush for the benefit of women and children who did not daven Maariv.

Two Reasons

A second major difference between the Shabbos commandments of the first and second Decalogues is the reason given for observing the Shabbos.  In the first, the Torah states, “For in six days Hashem made the heaven and the earth” (Exodus 20:11).  In the second Decalogue, the Torah states, “And you shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt and Hashem, your God, has taken you out from there…therefore Hashem, your God, has commanded you to make the Shabbos day” (Deuteronomy 5:15).

Ramban, Nachmanides, suggests brilliantly that there is no contradiction between the two reasons for the observance of Shabbos.  Both identify God as the Creator, for the Exodus and Hashem’s total suspension of nature demonstrate that He is the Creator.  The difference is that the teaching “for in six days Hashem created” would have to be accepted on blind faith, for we were not present at the Creation.  In Egypt, the Jewish nation came to see for themselves that God is the Creator.  The Ten Plagues, which affected only the Egyptians and miraculously spared any inconvenience to the Jews, the splitting of the Sea of Reeds before their eyes, demonstrated clearly that God controls nature, thereby making the belief in Creation most realistic and natural.

Man’s Contribution to Holiness

Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, posits a fascinating additional understanding of the recitation of Kiddush.  Most often it is man who sanctifies things.  A Torah scroll is our holiest physical possession.  It is holy because the parchment was prepared by Torah-observant people for the express purpose of having the holy Torah inscribed on it.  The scroll imbibes further sanctity because the scribe stated as he wrote that he was writing “for the fulfillment of the holiness of the Sefer Torah”.  It is for this reason that if a Torah scroll were written by a non-Jew, or a not-yet observant Jew, who had a beautiful calligraphy, that scroll would have no sanctity whatsoever.  The man’s greatness is that he can invest an object, a place and even time with sanctity.  The Talmud tells us how Jerusalem and the Temple were invested with sanctity by the Sanhedrin (highest court of the Jewish people, consisting of seventy-one judges) and the leadership of the Jewish people (Shevuos 15a).

Similarly regarding the holidays, the Torah teaches “These are the appointed festivals of Hashem, the holy convocations, which you shall designate in their appropriate time” (Leviticus 23:4).  The “you” refers to the members of the Sanhedrin; based upon their knowledge of astronomy and their interrogation of the witnesses who testify that they observed the new moon, the Sanhedrin declares and sanctifies the new moon, thereby proclaiming Rosh Chodesh, the new month.  Since the new moon, and hence the calendar, is the province of the nation, acting through its Sanhedrin, there is a major difference between the closing blessing of the Kiddush of Yom Tov and that of Shabbos.  The text for the closing blessing for Kiddush on Yom Tov is “Blessed are You, Hashem, who sanctifies Israel and the festivals”.  This is most appropriate, as it is Israel that sanctifies and determines when each holiday is to be observed.  However the text for the Kiddush of Shabbos is “Blessed are You, Hashem, who sanctifies the Shabbos“.  It is Hashem who sanctified the Shabbos at the end of the first week of creation.  Every seventh day, every Shabbos, is already blessed and sanctified from that time onward by God, as the Torah states, “God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it” (Genesis 2:3).

Based on three other sources, however, Rabbi Soloveitchik suggests that man does indeed play a role in the sanctification of Shabbos.  (1) Ramban comments on “Remember [Zachor] the Shabbos to sanctify it” (Exodus 20:8) that the sanctification process is similar to that which is executed by the Sanhedrin in declaring the Yovel, Jubilee year, where the Torah commands “You [i.e., the Sanhedrin] shall sanctify the fiftieth year” (Leviticus 25:10), and without the formal pronouncement of the High Court, there is no Yovel.  At first glance, this equation between Shabbos and Yovel suggests that the Jewish people have some participation in the sanctification of the Shabbos as well.  Moreover, (b) In Leviticus 23:2-3, the Torah seems to include Shabbos with the festivals: “…these are My appointed festivals.  For six days labor may be done, and the seventh day is a day of complete rest”.  It appears that in addition to the sanctity of Shabbos that was ordained at the end of Creation, Shabbos is listed first among the festivals that the Jewish people are to sanctify.  (c) Finally, in Deuteronomy’s version of the Ten Commandments, the reason for Shabbos is because “Hashem took us out of Egypt,” which is the common denominator for the observance of the three festivals.  In the Kiddush for Pesach, Shavuos, and Succos, we cite “a memorial of the Exodus from Egypt” as a primary factor in observing these holidays.

Based on the above sources, Rabbi Soloveitchik suggested that the Kiddush on Shabbos is more than just a recitation of the praise and acknowledgment of the sanctity of Shabbos.  Rather, the Kiddush is actually man’s participation with God in the sanctification process.  How does man sanctify that which is already holy?  The answer is that the holiness of Shabbos has two aspects: the prohibition against work and a sanctity akin to that of the festivals.  That labor is forbidden on the seventh day is ordained by God alone, regardless of anything said or done by man; this aspect of Shabbos holiness is endowed exclusively by God.  However, man is called upon to invest the day with an additional festive character of “moed.”  In this respect Shabbos resembles the other festivals, which are totally dependent on Israel’s sanctification.

This manifests itself in the fact that Shabbos Temple service, like that of the festivals, has a mussaf, additional offering.  It is thus understandable that in the Shemoneh Esrei of Mussaf, we introduce the concept of the Shabbos offering by saying “Then from Sinai they [the Jewish people] were instructed about it”.

The Sages (Sanhedrin 56b) teach that the commandment of Shabbos was given to the Jewish people at Marah (Exodus 15:25) several weeks before the revelation at Sinai.  There, three days after the miraculous deliverance at the Sea of Reeds, the Jewish people sensed a void of spirituality, and God responded by giving them several laws, including the Shabbos.  Why, then, does the Mussaf prayer state that Shabbos was given at Sinai?

Rabbi Soloveitchik taught that at Marah we were given the essence and identity of Shabbos, its metaphysical phenomena and the prohibition of labor.  At Sinai we were given an additional component, namely that which Shabbos shares with the other festivals, that it, too, has a moed character — and this “festival” component of the day is the basis for the additional mussaf offering.  True, our blessing for the conclusion of the Kiddush is “Blessed are You, Hashem, who sanctifies the Shabbos,” but the text of the Jerusalem Talmud, “Who sanctifies Israel and the Shabbos” gives further credence to the thesis that the recitation of Kiddush is man’s own participation in the sanctification of the day.

The Shabbos Atmosphere

Sfas Emes, the great Polish Chassidic master, derived an important principle from the rule that women are obligated to hear or recite Kiddush, even though it is a positive mitzvah governed by time, and women are normally exempt from such commandments (Kiddushin 29a).  The Talmud expounds that since Shamor, the negative commandment to refrain from from forbidden work, and Zachor, the positive to remember and sanctify the Shabbos, were said by God in the same utterance, whoever is obligated in the Shamor of Shabbos, the observance of its restrictions, is likewise obligated in the Zachor, the positive mitzvah of Kiddush.  Since men and women are equally obligated regarding the restrictions of Shabbos, they are equally included as well in the mitzvah of Kiddush (Berachos 20b).

Based on this Talmudic teaching, Sfas Emes expounded that commensurate with one’s observance of the restrictions of Shabbos will be the effectiveness of ones Kiddush and zemiros and positive mitzvos of the day.  Sanctity and holiness is more often attained, teaches the Torah, by complying with the restrictions of the Torah, as opposed to only performing its positive mitzvos.  Thus, in Parshas Kedoshim (Leviticus 19-20), where the Torah commands the Jewish people to live a life of holiness, there is a total of 51 commandments, 38 of which are negative commandments, which forbid or curtail behavior, and only 13 of which are positive.  It is only when an environment of sanctity is created by the elimination of improper conduct can the Kiddush be effective in establishing the positive tone and environment of Shabbos.  If the TV and other Shabbos desecrations are included as part of the atmosphere of Shabbos, then the ability of the Kiddush to sanctify is severely limited.

Kiddush is the highlight of the Shabbos meal. The family and guests are gathered around the table, the wine is poured, the cup is raised, the timeless words are intoned, and the Jewish people bear their eternal witness that God created heaven and earth in six days, and rested on the seventh.

This article was featured in the Spring 1998 issue of Jewish Action.
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