Thursday, January 5, 2006


Kiddush, which means “sanctification,” dates back to at least mishnaic times. It is the tradition of consecrating particularly holy days in Jewish tradition. The custom of using wine for Kiddush is based on the rabbinic reading of Exodus 20:8 “Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy (le-kaddesho).”
Our tradition asks how do we remember the Shabbat to keep it holy? The answer according to the rabbis is “with wine” (BT Pesachim 106a). The reason for this may be because there is connection between Psalm 104:15 “wine gladdens the heart” and Shabbat which begins a time of great celebration, or it may be that by Talmudic times Jews were already celebrating Shabbat with wine. In either case, we have been sanctifying Shabbat and holy days with wine for at least the past two thousand years if not longer.
Wine is also enjoyed at many ceremonies including circumcisions, weddings, and it was even customary for a while to give mourners ten cups of wine while they were sitting shiva. However it should be noted that though our tradition encourages the consumption of wine, it greatly discourages over-imbibing alcohol of any type.
So what makes a wine kosher? I used to think a wine was kosher if it had the name Manischewitz written on it. The answer actually has to do with several elements in wine production. Firstly, there are certain additives from animals like gelatin used for clarifying wines. Thus for a wine to be kosher, it should not contain any of these additives at least in the final product.
Secondly there is the issue of who produces and handles the wine as well as when it is produced. Many wineries now have forms of rabbinic supervision, and will certify wines as kosher. This goes back to Mishnaic times and the concern about certain wines being used for idolatrous practices. Categories include yaiin nesech, wine poured on an idol and stam yainom, wine handled by those who believe in idolatry. There is also yaiin mevushal, cooked or boiled wine, but the process tremendously alters the flavor, aroma, and look of the wine.

Nowadays there are many varieties of wonderful kosher wine from regions and grapes throughout the world. Whether you crave Rieslings or Merlots, there is just about every type of kosher wine to fit your palate.

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