Kadesh - The Royal Cup

April 06th 2017

Rabbi Dani Smolowitz


As someone born outside the UK, I have a list of my favourite uniquely British moments. Right at the top is the Toast to Her Majesty at formal occasions. I always find it fascinating to watch and join in as everyone raises their glasses and chants in unison “The Queen”.

Whilst quintessentially British, it is not totally unfamiliar. One of my highlights of the Pesach Seder is the first step in the evening’s proceedings, when we all raise our glasses of wine and make a toast to Hashem and the Jewish people around the world.

The word Kiddush comes from the same root as Kadosh (קדש) which can be loosely translated as holy. But what does holiness mean and why do we start our Shabbat and Yom Tov meals with this declaration?

The term ‘Kadosh’, refers to something that is set aside and special.1 It is to “separate” from the regular monotony of our individual daily routine and join together as a group on an elevated journey. The journey of the Seder is the march to freedom.

Kiddush sets the tone for the evening and provides us with an insight into some of the attitudes that we can hope to gain from Seder night. Many families chant these familiar words in unison, ‘For we have been chosen and separated amongst the nations‘

(כי בנו בחרת ואותנו קידשת מכל העמים). 

We were enslaved in Egypt and have been persecuted throughout the ages, but have never lost sight of that which makes us unique. In Jewish thought chosenness is not a privilege to be enjoyed at others’ expense, it is a responsibility that impacts all that we do. As Jews, we hold ourselves to a moral standard that ought not be affected by the way that others treat us. We were freed from persecution to teach the world the value of freedom and to make the world a better, more moral and spiritual place. 

As we make the blessing on the wine, we are stepping into a journey of thousands of years of an unbroken heritage with rich customs. Now is the time to start the meal, together sitting in unity not just physically with our nearest and dearest but conceptually with millions of Jews around the world sharing the same beautiful journey.

So as we raise our glasses, let us drink the toast to all of us for the journey we have travelled so far and for the path still to be forged.