“A change of place requires a blessing.”
As we head toward the end of this Tractate, each day’s reading is becoming shorter, as the days are becoming longer and there is the promise of a new season in the air. Today, the Daf Yomi deals with the blessing over wine, the kiddish. The text carries over from the previous day, and if there is anything that continues to surprise me, it is how the readings are often continuous and the boundaries between chapters fluid. A portion of a reading often crosses over from one chapter to the next, without the expected page breaks and clean headings.
Today’s reading is very simple: you must say kiddish where you eat. If you say kiddish in the synagogue Friday evening, you must say it again when you arrive home and before you commence your meal. If your lights go out and you find another place to eat, you must repeat kiddish (although eating in the dark can be magical if you haven’t tried it lately). If you are a traveling eater — perhaps a poor student who hops from house to house for some nourishment — you must say the kiddish at each table that you visit.
Kiddish is recited in synagogue at the conclusion of the Friday night prayer service. We are told that this is for the sake of the guests who eat and sleep there and repeated at home for the children and members of the household who did not attend the service. There are a multitude of blessings to be shared. One of those blessings are synagogues that offer refuge for the broken-hearted and those without a spiritual home.
The basic principle according to Shmuel is very simple: “There is no valid kiddush except in the place of one’s Shabbat meal.” We are told that hungry students who go from house to house for a meal, must say the kiddish at each domicile that they visit; if they travel from one place in a home to another, one recitation suffices.
A daily Daf Yomi reading would not be complete without a Rabbinic difference of opinion, and Shmuel offers a dissenting view when he says that even if one travels between rooms in the same house, he must say the kiddish a second time. There is an exception to this view, which involves dining with one’s elderly parents or grandparents. If during the course of a meal, the group at a table leaves the room to greet a groom or bride, they are only required to say the kiddish if they leave behind their elderly relatives at the table because the “original meal is considered ongoing.”
The recitation of kiddish in my synagogue is a ritual that establishes the end of the Friday night service and the beginning of Shabbat for the religious and for me, the weekend. It is the moment when the community can take a collective breath and say together, we made it through another week, and we are all still here. These days with services being held on Zoom, we hold up our cups to the screen and as a community say “amen.”
There are worse things in life then to say the kiddish again when one transitions from the computer screen to the dining table. The raising of the wine cup is a reminder that life is full of a multitude of blessings. Among the blessings are our synagogues that have found a way to survive and remain relevant during the pandemic that has separated us physically.
The place where we meet may have changed, but our community remains. And that is worthy of a blessing.