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Thought for the Day: Kiddush Friday Night -- To Stand Or Not To Stand, If Not Then, When?

Saying/making kiddush on Friday night is a mitzvas asei mi'd'oraisa -- a positive commandment whose obligation was revealed at the mass prophetic convocation of the entire Jewish nation at Mount Sinai.  The mitzvah is obviously time-bound; it must be performed weekly during Shabbos (including tosafos Shabbos, the extra bit we add at each end).  Whereas women are generally exempt from time-bound, positive mitzvos, Shabbos is different.  When the prophecy was experience, both "remember the Sabbath" (ie, do the positive commandments) and "keep/guard the Sabbath" (ie, refrain from the negative injunctions) were heard simultaneously.  The  halachic ramifications of which is that anyone who is obligated to refrain from the negative injunctions is likewise obligated to fulfill the positive commandments.  Men and women are therefore equally obligated in kiddush.

According to most poskim, the d'oraisa obligation for kiddush can be fulfilled with the Friday evening ma'ariv.  According to all poskim, the best way to fulfill kiddush is via the ceremony with wine at the table set for the Shabbos meal, as decreed by our Chazal.  There are three distinct sections of that ceremony:

  1. Recitation of the paragraph from our Torah that describe the creation of the Sabbath, B'reishis2:1-3, aka vayechulu.
  2. Blessing before drinking wine, "borei pri ha'gafen"  ("ha'gefen" for your s'fardim).
  3. The kiddush blessing, which begins with "Baruch Atah HaShem, Elokeinu, Melech ha'Olam asher kiddishanu b'mitzvosav..." and concludes with "m'kadeish ha'Shabbos".
There are three basic customs for how to this ceremony is conducted, as described in Shulchan Aruch OC 271:10 and Mishna Brura there.

The M'chaber recommends standing throughout the entire ceremony.  One should stand for vayachulu because it is a sort of testimony (that HaShem created the world in seven days), and witnesses stand in a Jewish court when giving testimony.  Since the m'kadeish is being motzi the family members and guests who did not go to shul, they should also stand.  Kiddush is a mitzvah, so it makes sense to stand for that also.  However, one sits before drinking.

The Rema says that ok if you really want to, but prefers you to sit for the borei pri ha'gafen and kiddush.  Since the kiddush needs to be said at the meal, sitting establishes one as being at the meal and not just milling around the table.  The G"ra adds that it also makes the the group more cohesive and is makes it clear that there is a motzi/yotzi relationship being fulfilled vis a vis "shome'a k'ona"/the hearing is equivalent to saying.

Those who say to sit for the entire ceremony are also giving precedence to establishing the group as being together and being at the meal.  They are not bothered by sitting during vayechulu because the testimony vayechulu was already said in shul; this one is in fulfillment of a medrash (brought by the Rokeach) that one should say vayechulu three times: once in t'filla, once after t'filla as a group recitation, once at kiddush.

There you have it.  Pretty much whatever you do is good.  Not because it doesn't matter, but because there is solid support and tradition for each.

PS Interesting notes on vayechulu:
  • Based on the medrash to say vayechulu three times, if one forgot to say it before kiddush, he should say vayechulu some time during the meal over a cup of wine.  (If you can't imagine how someone could forget an integral part of kiddush like that, then you have never made kiddush with children.)
  • It is so important to say the second vayechulu together with the congregation, that they Biur Halacha actually recommends speeding up your personal t'filla a bit, if necessary.  As far as I know, that is the only place in the Mishna Brura that recommends speeding up one's personal t'filla.

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