By Yosef Brecher
Should one stand or sit during the recitation of kiddush and for what reason?
Reasons to Sit:
The Mishna Berura (O.C. 271 s.k. 46) cites two reasons that one should sit during kiddush. The first is based on the halachos of kiddush be’makom seudah, i.e., the obligation that kiddush be performed in the same place as the Shabbos meal will be taking place. The Gemara (Pesachim 101a) writes clearly that this halacha does not only dictate that kiddush and the seudah take place in the same house, but rather it dictates that they take place in the very same room. The Mishna Berura (ibid.) cites those that are of the opinion that even this is not enough. Rather, one must be careful to recite kiddush in the exact position that he will be in when eating the meal. Since we eat the meal while sitting down, we must also recite kiddush sitting down.
The second reason the Mishna Berura cites is related to the fact that the reciter is fulfilling the mitzvah on behalf of other people at the table. Tosfos (Berachos 43a) write that if someone is reciting kiddush on behalf of a group of listeners, then both the reciter and listeners should sit together during the kiddush as an indication that they are all discharging their kiddush obligation as one unit. While the first reason for sitting (to ensure that a person recites kiddush and eats the seudah while in the same position) applies even to someone reciting kiddush alone, the second reason would only apply to someone who is reciting kiddush on behalf of others sitting at the table.
Reasons to Stand:
The Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 271:10) writes that one should recite the first paragraph of kiddush – “va’yechulu” – standing up. The Mishna Berura (O.C. 271 s.k. 45) explains that the paragraph of “va’yechulu” represents a testimony on Hashem’s creation of the universe, and the halacha dictates that testimony be relayed while standing. The Aruch Hashulchan (O.C. 271:4), however, writes that many great kabbalists (inclcuding the Arizal) felt there was reason to stand not only for the paragraph of “va’yechulu“, but rather for the entire kiddush. Rav Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe O.C. V 16:7) explains that this opinion is based on the Gemara (Bava Kama 32a) that tells us of Amoraim that would call Shabbos a kallah, i.e., bride, and stand up in in her honor.
There are several prevailing customs (cited by the Rama O.C. 271:10) regarding standing versus sitting during kiddush:
Some have the minhag is to stand for the paragraph of va’yehculu and then sit for the remainder of kiddush. One who follows this minhag is trying to satisfy both the reasons to sit and stand during kiddush. He is standing during va’yechulu because it is testimony but sitting during the remainder of kiddush because that is the position he will be in during the seudah, and in order to signify unity between all the people fulfilling their mitzvah of kiddush together with him.
Others have the minhag to stand for the entire kiddush. There are two possible explanations for this minhag. Rav Moshe Feinstein (ibid.) writes that the Rama, who sanctions this minhag, does so for the following reason. Since the reciter is already standing for the paragraph of va’ychulu (because it is testimony), it is disrespectful to sit for the remainder of kiddush. Additionally, as we mentioned above, there are some people who stand for the entire kiddush for more kabalistic reasons (as a means of showing honor to the Shabbos “kallah”).
Lastly, the Rama (ibid.) writes that the accepted minhag in his time was to stand for the first few words of Kiddush and then sit for the remainder. The Rama explains that we stand in for these first words because they symbolically contain the name of Hashem (“Yom Ha’shishi, Va’yechulu Ha’shamayim”).
The purpose of this column is not to render halachic decisions, but rather to provide readers with a helpful overview of basic hilchos Shabbos. All specific halachic inquiries should be directed to a local halachic authority. General questions about the content being discussed, however, are welcome and can be sent to: email@example.com.
©2013 Yosef Brecher