How Big is that Kiddush Cup?

In order to make kiddush on Shabbat, Jewish Law requires a minimum volume of wine to make the ceremony substantial and “respectable.” Even if you only sip a bit (though generally, one is to drink enough to fill a cheek), the cup itself must hold approximately the volume of an egg. But how many grams is that?

According to law codes of Maimonides (Moses ben Maimon, 1138–1204), the absolute minimum amount is about 75 grams, but ideally more than 86 grams (about three ounces, or a quarter of a soda can).

Interestingly, the Chazon Ish (Avraham Yeshaya Karelitz, 1878 – 1953) took a more stringent approach, explaining that eggs at the time of the codification of Jewish Law were larger than today’s, and therefore the minimum volume is about 150 gr (a little over five ounces, about 40% of that soda can). However, a more moderate view is often used, employing the minimum measurement of a “re’viit”, or 112 gm/3.8 ounces.)

Most people today do accept that view, as it simply “feels” like an actual cup of wine you’d drink at a meal — and as such has become our standard for kiddush cups. As a rule, when we create unique designs for our silver craftsmen around the world, we begin at 155 grams (and sometimes substantially larger, for those who prefer it).

For those of you who have visited our store or our site, we do offer a very special line of kiddush sets in which one person recites the blessing and then pours the wine into a “river system” that channels a small amount into a series of “mini cups” to pass around the table. Only the primary blesser requires the larger amount – those small cups are more informal, without minimum sizes.

Interestingly, Passover presents a different mindset because (a) we drink four cups, which is a lot for some people, and (b) ideally one should drink the entire cup, and at an absolute minimum, the majority of it. As a result, the minimum there is reduced down to the Rambam’s figure of 86 grams, though again, many do prefer a larger size.

Naturally, with all of these valid and highly-debated opinions, various communities prefer different volumes, and that’s absolutely “kosher.” The most important consideration is truly to make the blessing feel substantial, and never a case of “getting away with the very minimum.” And in case you forget, the numerical value of the word “kos,” (cup) in Hebrew is 20+6+60, which is that absolute minimum of 86!