Kiddush is one of the primary components of the commandment to “Remember the Sabbath Day” (Za'chor et Yom Ha'Shabbat- Exodus 20:8), which is the “umbrella” commandment for all of the positive mitzvot of Shabbat. Kiddush is recited over a glass or cup of wine,* as the Talmud (Pesachim 106a) states: “Remember the Sabbath day and sanctify it. ‘Remember' the day over wine.”
The “fruit of the vine,” as wine is poetically called, is a rare synthesis of nature and Judaism's philosophy of free will. Everything in a person's life can be used for good or for bad. For instance, wealth can be hoarded or used to help others. This is exactly the reason that wine is used for Kiddush. Through drunkenness, wine can easily lead one away from Godliness, so instead we bless it and use it to sanctify God's name. In moderate amounts, wine leads to pleasant happiness. In excess, however, wine can lead to anger, the total loss of inhibition, depression, etc.
From a less philosophical perspective, the mitzvot that fall into the category of Za'chor et yom Ha'Shabbat (Remember the Sabbath Day) are all meant to enable a person to fully enjoy Shabbat. Psalms 104:15 notes that “Wine gladdens a person's heart” and Talmud Pesachim 109a states that “There is no joy unless there is meat...there is no joy unless there is wine.”
*Wine is the ideal. However, if one does not like wine or may not drink wine, grape juice may be used. For the daytime Kiddush, one may also use other beverages such as whiskey.
Try some kiddush wine or grape juice at your local Shabbat Across America/Canada location, TONIGHT!
If you can't attend tomorrow night, here are ways to do Shabbat At Home!