Shiur 11: Kiddush: a Woman’s Obligation

  • Rav Chaim Navon

I. The Mitzva of Kiddush


            The Gemara in Pesachim (106a) derives the mitzvaof reciting Kiddush on Friday night and Shabbat morning from the verse: “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy” (Shemot 20:8). The Gemara explains that the primary mitzva of Kiddush is on Friday night, as one must sanctify Shabbat when it begins. But the Torah's formulation, “Remember the Sabbath day,” indicates that there is also a mitzvaof Kiddush during the day. Some understand that both the Kiddush recited at night and the Kiddush recited during the day are mandated by Torah law.[1] However, most of the Rishonim agree that only the Kiddush recited at night is mandated by Torah law, while the Kiddush recited during the day is mandated by Rabbinic decree.


            Why, then, does the Gemara derive the law governing the Kiddush recited during the day from the verse? The Ra'avad (Hilkhot Shabbat 29:10) offers two explanations. First, perhaps the derivation from the verse regarding the Kiddush recited during the day is merely an asmakhta (allusion to the law) rather than its source, and the law is, in fact, a Rabbinic decree. Second, perhaps the verse merely establishes that if one failed to recite Kiddush at night, then the Kiddush recited during the day is mandated by Torah law (for then it would be the first Kiddush recited on Shabbat). In any event, the Kiddush recited during the day is usually only Rabbinic in origin.


            The Ra'avad presents himself as disagreeing with the Rambam. But the Maggid Mishneh notes that even the Rambam agrees with the Ra'avad on this point. This also follows from what the Rambam himself writes at the beginning of Chap. 29 of Hilkhot Shabbat:


It is a positive commandment from the Torah to sanctify the Shabbat day with a verbal statement, as [implied by Shemot 20:8]:“Remember the Sabbath day to sanctify it” – i.e., remember it with [words of] praise [that reflect its] holiness. This remembrance must be made at the entrance of Shabbat and at its departure: At the [day's] entrance with the Kiddush that sanctifies the day, and at its departure with Havdala. (29:1)


The Rambam clearly implies that the Biblical commandment relates exclusively to the Kiddush recited at the entrance of Shabbat, and not to the Kiddush recited in the morning. The Rambam uses the expression “at the day's entrance with the Kiddush that sanctifies the day,” but it is clear that the word “day” is used here in the sense of a twenty-four hour period (as it is usually used by Chazal), and that he is referring to the special Kiddush of Shabbat that is fulfilled at the time of Shabbat's entry, i.e., at night. Indeed, the Rambam writes explicitly: “The essence [of the mitzva] of sanctifying Shabbat [is to do so] at night” (Hilkhot Shabbat 29:4).


II. Women and Kiddush


            On the face of it, women should be exempt from Kiddush, as it is a time-bound positive commandment. But the fact is that they are obligated. Why is this so?


Rav Adda bar Ahava said: “Women are obligated to sanctify the [Shabbat] day by Torah law.” But why should this be? It is a time-bound positive commandment, and women are exempt from all time-bound positive precepts!… Rava said: “The text says “zakhor” (remember) and “shamor” (safeguard). Whoever must “safeguard” must “remember”; and since these women are obligated to “safeguard” [Shabbat], they are obligated to “remember” as well. (Berakhot 20b)


The Gemara establishes that all the laws of Shabbat constitute a single entity. They include positive precepts – “zakhor,” and negative precepts – “shamor.” Whoever must “safeguard” must “remember” as well. The general exemption granted to women applies to time-bound positive commandments, but not to negative commandments. Since women are bound by the prohibitions of Shabbat, i.e., the prohibitions to do work, they are also obligated in the positive commandment of Shabbat – Kiddush.


            The Shulchan Arukh (Orach Chayyim 271:2) rules that there is nothing to prevent a woman from reciting Kiddush on a man’s behalf. The Bach asks why the law here should be any different from the law governing reading the megilla. Women are obligated to read the megilla, but they cannot read the megilla on behalf of men; the same should apply to Kiddush. The Taz answers that regarding megilla, the obligation of women is different from that of men. This difference finds expression even in the blessing that is recited: Men recite “al mikra megilla”(on the reading of the megilla) whereas women, according to many opinions, recite “lishmo’a megilla” (to hear the megilla). This is not the case regarding Kiddush. The obligation of men to sanctify Shabbat is identical to that of women, and the text of the blessing is accordingly identical. The Acharonim rule that women can indeed recite Kiddush on behalf of men. Nevertheless, the Mishna Berura writes (no. 4) that it is preferable that women not recite Kiddush for men who are not family members, as this is not a respectable practice.


            Here we must mention another principle governing the laws of Kiddush. The central blessing in the Amida prayer of Shabbat concludes with the words “who sanctifies Shabbat.” This being the case, it may be that one fulfills his Biblical obligation to recite Kiddush with this prayer, for by Torah law, Kiddush need not be recited over wine; rather, it suffices that one utter a blessing that relates to the sanctity of Shabbat. In light of this, the Magen Avraham (271, no. 1) rules that one who recited the evening prayer has already fulfilled his Biblical obligation to sanctify Shabbat, and it is only by Rabbinic enactment that he must now recite Kiddush over wine as well. The Mishna Berura (271, no. 2) rejects this position: Surely the fulfillment of a mitzva requires intention, and it may be presumed that the person had no intention of fulfilling his obligation of Kiddush with his evening prayer. In his Bei’ur Halakha, he raises additional arguments against the Magen Avraham: First, some say that the requirement of wine for Kiddush is Biblically mandated, in which case the evening prayer cannot serve as Kiddush, even by Torah law. Second, Kiddush requires mention of the Exodus, but this element is not found in the Amida prayer.[2]


            Rabbi Akiva Eiger brings a brilliant proof to support the position of the Magen Avraham. He asks why we don't recite Kiddush (without wine, of course) on Yom Kippur when it falls out on Shabbat, in order to fulfill the Biblical obligation to recite Kiddush on Shabbat. He answers that apparently we rely on the recitation of Kiddush in the Amida prayer, as the Magen Avraham ruled is acceptable. On the face of it, this seems like a powerful argument. However, in light of the words of the Mishna Berura, we may respond that the halakhais different on Yom Kippur because a person’s intentions are different regarding the Amida prayer. While on an ordinary Shabbat one intends to fulfill his obligation to sanctify Shabbat solely with the Kiddush recited at home over wine, and not with the Kiddush of the Amida, when Yom Kippur falls out on Shabbat his intentions change – here he does, in fact, intend to sanctify Shabbat by reciting the Amida.[3]   


Some suggest that, according to the Magen Avraham, if the husband recited the Amida on Friday night, and his wife did not, it is actually preferable that the woman recite Kiddush.This is because the woman is obligated in Kiddush by Torah law, whereas the man has already fulfilled his Biblical obligation, and is now obligated only by Rabbinic enactment. Since a person who is obligated only by Rabbinic enactment cannot fulfill an obligation on behalf of someone who is obligated by Torah law, the man in this scenario would be unable to recite Kiddush on behalf of his wife (Dagul Me-revava, Orach Chayyim 271). In practice, however, this point is irrelevant, as the halakha does not follow the Magen Avraham. And even according to the Magen Avraham, it stands to reason that the husband can recite Kiddush on behalf of his wife, based on the principle of mutual responsibility (areivut) for the fulfillment of mitzvot. This law allows a person to recite blessings over mitzvot on behalf of another person.


Let us expand a little on the law of areivut. According to halakha, “all of Israel is mutually responsible for one another,” and therefore the Gemara concludes: “Even though a person has already fulfilled his obligation, he can fulfill the obligation of another person” (Rosh Ha-shana 29a; Rashi, ad loc.). What does this mean? With respect to birkot ha-nehenin (blessings recited over food and the like), if two people are eating fruit, the first can recite the blessing for himself, and then both people can fulfill their obligation with that blessing and immediately partake of their fruit. But if the first person has no intention of eating anything, he cannot recite a blessing on behalf of the second person, who is actually preparing to eat. This is not the case with respect to blessings recited over the fulfillment of mitzvot. Even if, for example, a person already fulfilled his obligation to blow the shofar on Rosh Ha-shana, he can recite a blessing and blow the shofar for another person who has not yet fulfilled his obligation. This is because all of Israel is mutually responsible for one another, and so each person is responsible for the fulfillment of mitzvot of every other Jew. Therefore, even if the husband already fulfilled his Torah obligation regarding Kiddush with his Amida prayer, as argued by the Magen Avraham, he can still recite Kiddush for his wife, who has not yet fulfilled her obligation.


Some, however, have argued that women are not included in this law of areivut. This argument was raised in our context by the Dagul Me-revava, based on the Rosh in Berakhot (Chap. 3, no. 13). It follows from the Gemara in Berakhot that if a woman is obligated in Birkat Ha-mazon only by Rabbinic enactment, she cannot recite Birkat Ha-mazon for men who are obligated by Torah law. But it follows from a different passage that if a person ate an olive-sized portion of food (so as to obligate himself to recite Birkat Ha-mazon by Rabbinic law), he can recite Birkat Ha-mazon for another person who has eaten to satiety (so as to obligate himself to recite Birkat Ha-mazon by Torah law). The Rosh answers that fundamentally, the law of areivut applies even to Birkat Ha-mazon, and therefore one who is not obligated can recite it for one who is obligated. But Chazal established that one should not recite Birkat Ha-mazon if he hasn't eaten anything. Therefore, if he ate some minimal amount – an olive-sized portion – he is able to recite the blessings for another person. Why, then, do we say that a woman who is obligated only by Rabbinic law cannot recite Birkat Ha-mazon for a man? The Rosh answers: “But a woman is not included in the law of areivut; therefore she can only recite Birkat Ha-mazon for someone who is obligated only by Rabbinic enactment.”


We have suggested that, even according to the Magen Avraham, there is nothing to prevent a man who has recited the Amida prayer from reciting Kiddush for his wife, based on the law of areivut. But the Dagul Me-revava (Orach Chayyim 271) writes that according to the Rosh, this might not be possible, as women are not included in the law of areivut. We might suggest that the Rosh merely means that women are not responsible for others, but men are responsible for women. But it is also possible that he means that women are totally excluded from the law of areivut regarding mitzvot, in which case men and women are equally unable to recite Kiddush for each other.


Rabbi Akiva Eiger in his responsa (no. 7) disagrees with the Dagul Me-revava, and suggests an entirely different explanation of the Rosh. He argues that the Rosh does not mean to exclude women categorically from the law of areivut. He merely means to say that regarding specific mitzvot in which women themselves are not obligated, they are also not governed by the law of areivut, nor are they responsible to see to it that men fulfill this mitzva.


This seems to be the simple understanding of the Rosh. He is not arguing that women are generally excluded from the law of areivut, but merely that if women themselves are not obligated in Birkat Ha-mazon by Torah law,[4] they are obviously not responsible to make sure that men fulfill their obligation regarding this mitzva. This is the difference between a woman and a man who ate only a small amount of bread. According to those who say that a woman is exempt from Birkat Ha-mazon by Torah law, both a woman and a man who ate only a small amount are obligated in Birkat Ha-mazon only by Rabbinic enactment. But the man can recite the blessing for another man based on the law of areivut, for in other circumstances he himself would be obligated in Birkat Ha-mazon by Torah law. However, the woman cannot act as an areiv for a man, for according to this opinion she can never be obligated in Birkat Ha-mazon by Torah law.


It is, in fact, the prevalent custom that the husband recites Kiddush on his wife’s behalf (even if he recited the evening Amida and she did not). Furthermore, just as it is customary practice that the woman lights Shabbat candles on behalf of her husband, even though this is not halakhically necessary, it is also customary that the man recites Kiddush on behalf of his wife, even though this is not absolutely necessary from a halakhic perspective

(Translated by David Strauss)

[1] This is how the Magen Avraham (Orach Chayyim 597, no. 3) explains the view of the Maharam of Rotenburg.

[2] The Bei’ur Halakha proposes two answers to this second argument: 1) Perhaps the requirement of mentioning the Exodus is only mandated by Rabbinic decree; 2) perhaps he fulfills this requirement when he mentions the Exodus in the blessings of Shema. The Bei’ur Halakha states in conclusion that he brought these two answers to defend the Magen Avraham, but as for the law, as we have seen, it is seriously doubtful whether we can accept the Magen Avraham'sposition.

[3] It should further be noted that the Me’iri (Pesachim 101a) understands according to Rashi that a person who does not eat a Shabbat meal is exempt from Kiddush. According to this, it is possible to understand that on Yom Kippur a person is exempt from Kiddush. There are, however, those who disagree with Rashi on this point. See Magen Avraham, Orach Chayyim 597, no. 3, and Peri Megadim, ad loc.

[4] In practice, the Shulchan Arukh rules that it is unclear whether women are obligated in Birkat Ha-mazon by Torah law or only by Rabbinic decree (Orach Chayyim 186:1).