top of page

Kiddush Cup

by Amy Dwalin

Kiddush Cup, 1759 – 1761, by Hieronymus Mittnacht.
Kiddush Cup, 1759 – 1761, by Hieronymus Mittnacht. Ackland Art Museum, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

This Kiddush cup is made out of silver and engraved with Hebrew words and images of flowers. The Hebrew inscription reads, “Guard the Sabbath day and keep it holy as the Lord your God has commanded you” (“Kiddush Cup”). While the cup is beautiful and luxurious, such an object was owned not just by the very wealthy. A family of somewhat modest means might save money in order to buy ornate ritual objects, since the beauty of such objects is thought to enhance the mitzvot (Greene, 36). However, Kiddush cups are not intrinsically holy (Greene, 36). Certain objects, like Torah scrolls and fringed prayer shawls (tallitot), are treated with special ritual care. These objects receive burials, for example, when they are no longer fit for use (Greene, 37). The holiness that the Kiddush cup contributes derives from its use rather than its essence. It aids in the sanctification of the Kiddush blessing and the Shabbat dinner, but it is not itself a holy object. This parallels feasting in that the components of a feast do not by themselves create a feast. Rather, they must be used in a certain way. Just as the Kiddush cup must be used in a very particular way to create – or enhance – holiness, the food, company, stories, jubilation and socializing must be combined in the right sort of way in order to have a feast.


Works Cited:

Greene, Virginia. “‘Accessories of Holiness’: Defining Jewish Sacred Objects.” Journal of the American Institute for Conservation 31.1 (1992): 31-39. Print.

“Kiddush Cup.” Ackland Art Museum. Ackland Art Museum, UNC Chapel Hill, 2002. Web. 3 Apr. 2015.


bottom of page