The fourth of the Ten Commandments proclaims: "Remember the Shabbat Day to keep it holy." At the beginning of the Shabbat there has to be Kiddush: an act of separation, of consecration, emphasizing the difference between the work-days of the week and the holy day, which enables the soul to move into a state of inner tranquility and spiritual receptiveness. In addition to the words of consecration, in Judaism there is a general principle that, to as great an extent as possible, abstract events or processes and all pertaining to them are bound up with specifics and definite actions. Thus, the Kiddush consecration is also connected with the drinking of wine, which, in turn, becomes part of a ceremony and, in turn, is associated with the Shabbat wine sacrifices of the Holy Temple.

After one has poured most of the wine into the cup, a little water, symbolizing grace and love, is added…

The Kiddush cup symbolizes the vessel through which, and into which, blessing comes. The numerical value of the letters in the word for drinking cup [in Hebrew, "kos", spelled kaf, vav, samech = 86 ] is the same as that of the letters in that name of G‑d which expresses divine revelation in the world, in nature, in law - the name Elokim. And into the cup is poured the bounty, the wine that represents the power of the blessing of the word "wine" [in Hebrew "yayin", spelled yud, yud, nun] whose numerical equivalent is seventy, which is also the number particular to Shabbat Eve.

Wine then evokes the bounty, the great plentitude and power; and red wine especially expresses a certain aspect of the sefira of gevura, which also has an aspect of severity and justice. Thus after one has poured most of the wine into the cup, a little water, symbolizing grace and love, is added to create the right mixture, or harmony, between chesed and gevura.

After the filling of the cup, which is now the vessel of consecration containing the divine plenty, one places it on the palm of the right hand in such a way that the cup, supported by the upturned fingers, resembles or recalls a rose of five petals. This is because one of the symbols of malchut is the rose. And the cup of wine, thus expressing also the Shechina, stands in the center of the palm and is held by the petal fingers of the rose. The time has come for the recitation of the Kiddush prayer itself.

Kiddush…likens the Shabbat to the divine act of release from bondage…

The Kiddush is composed of two parts. It begins with that part of the Torah (Gen. 2:1-3) where the Shabbat is first mentioned, and then proceeds to the second half, which is a prayer composed by the sages especially for the Kiddush and in which the various meanings of the Shabbat are poetically and precisely stated. Between the two parts there is the blessing over the fruit of the vine. In each of these two parts there are exactly thirty-five words, together making seventy, which, as mentioned above, is the number particularly associated with the Shabbat.

Before reciting the first words from the Torah, two words are added - the last words of the preceding verse: "the sixth day" - because they fit in with the recitation, "Thus the heavens and the earth were finished…" and because the first letters of these words form the holy name Y-ah.

In this first section of Kiddush, the Shabbat is treated as the day of the summation and cessation of Creation, as G‑d's day of rest. The second section, selected and determined by the sages, expresses the other side of the Shabbat, the imitation of G‑d by Israel. Before the blessing of the wine, there are the two words in Aramaic telling those present to get ready for the blessing.

The flowering of the rose…is the cup of redemption of the individual and of the nation and of the world as a whole…

The following words of the Kiddush express the primary elements of the Shabbat and the special relation between Shabbat and the nation. There is first the declaration "Blessed Are whose commandments we are sanctified," which is to say that the mitzvah is a way of reaching a level of holiness, a way to G‑d. After this the prayer speaks of the chosenness of Israel, as a consequence of which Israel, more than all other nations, has to assume the task of carrying on the act of Creation and its aftermath of rest and holiness.

Mention is then made of the exodus from Egypt, as in the version of the Ten Commandments in Deuteronomy 5:15, where the Shabbat, proclaimed as the day of rest from work. Here the verse recollects the time of slavery in Egypt and likens the Shabbat to the divine act of release from bondage and the bestowal of salvation. So that Shabbat is also the weekly day of freedom, celebrating the release and the exodus from Egypt, as well as the concept of salvation which, as the ultimate in time, is the Shabbat of the world.

And out of this need to understand man's obligation to rise above and beyond creation unto the Shabbat rest, the Kiddush prayer concludes with the relation of the Jewish people to the Shabbat and thus closes the circle of the relation between G‑d and man. After the recital of the Kiddush the one who has performed the ceremony himself drinks from the cup, thereby participating in that communion of the physical with the spiritual which is the essence of all ritual. And from the same cup drink all those gathered at the table. In this way everyone participates in the meaningful act of introducing the Shabbat, represented by the flowering of the rose, which is the cup of redemption of the individual and of the nation and of the world as a whole.

[from "The Thirteen Petalled Rose"; translated by Yehuda Hanegbi (Jason Aronson Inc.)]