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Thought for the Day: Kiddush Must Be With the Meal

As you surely know (since I ensure everyone knows), I have a background in physics, specializing in General Relativity.  One of the cool concepts that relativity introduced into our vocabulary is "space-time".  All that really means is that space (extent) and time (duration) are really just two aspects of the same underlying physical quantity.  Measuring time in seconds and distance in miles, while convenient for everyday practical use, actually makes no more sense than measuring North/South in miles and East/West in millimeters.  Being a nerd and enjoying a good "I told you so" as much as anyone; I was, of course, gratified to see this concept expressed in halacha.  To wit: קידוש במקום סעודה -- the work מקום/place means physical location and time.  The kiddush and the meal must, as much as is practically possible, be in the same place and at the same time.

Let's begin with the words of the Shulchan Aruch, O. Ch., 273:3.  First R' Yosef Karo notes that if one makes kiddush and then does not eat, he has not fulfilled his obligation.  The Rema then adds: and one must eat immediately (לאלתר) or have in mind to eat immediately (here he uses the word, מיד; neither my Hebrew nor Aramaic is good enough to know the difference) -- lacking that (the Rema continues), even if he eats at the place where he made kiddush, he has not fulfilled his obligation.  There are actually three levels of כוונה/intention being addressed here.

The most appropriate way to fulfill one's obligation is to have actual intent to eat immediately after the kiddush.  There is a general rule that מצוות צריכות כוונה/in order to fulfill a commandment, one must have that intention.  There is a big debate among the poskim about when that applies and whether it is a Torah or rabbinic requirement (the answer is, of course, it depends).  However, the situation is more strict here, because the entire mitzvah is really saying words.  One would expect to need specific intention to fulfill such a mitzvah and to distinguish it from mere chattering.  The חידוש/novel thought here is that intention to eat immediately -- even though circumstances prevent said eating -- is enough to fulfill one's obligation (assuming, of course, that one does, in fact, eat in the place where he made kiddush as soon as practicable).  [Aside: practicable is a real word, not a misspelling, and precisely the correct word for this situation.]

The Rema goes further, though, and notes that even without specific intention -- aka, סתם דעת -- he has still fulfilled his obligation as long as he does, in fact, eat immediately.  Finally, there is כוונה להפך/contrary intention -- the person has in mind specifically to not eat immediately after making kiddush.  In that case, even if he does in fact end up (begrudgingly, I suppose) eating immediately and in the same spat, then he has not fulfilled his obligation.

The only question is how immediate is immediate. I am sure this will not come as a shock to anyone... in my house it is as immediate as possible.  In fact, I wash last to keep the line moving.  I know, I'm a darn fundamentalist who takes the words literally.  I told you so >:P  (That's the emoticon for sticking one's tongue out, according to Wikipedia; I don't make this stuff up.)

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