rabbis ascribe the tradition of reciting the Kiddush, a prayer proclaiming
the sanctity of the Sabbath or festival, to the Men of the Great Assembly
who lived between the sixth and fourth centuries BCE. 
The exact wording of the prayer, however, comes from talmudic times.
the early centuries of the Common Era, when every festive meal began
with a cup of wine, the Kiddush was incorporated into the Friday
evening meal. When the practice was no longer in vogue, the cup
of wine before the Sabbath meal was retained as a religious rite.
The Kiddush is essentially a blessing in which the Jews thank God
for having "in love and favor given us the sacred Sabbath as
an inheritance," and relates to the day of rest as a memorial
of the creation of the world and of the exodus from Egypt.
German Jewish scholar Ismar Elbogen (1874-1943) discusses how the
Kiddush was introduced into the synagogue service in Babylonia,
a custom which eventually spread to Ashkenazi Jewish communities
in the Diaspora.
In the most
ancient period, no public service was held at the beginning of the Sabbath
any more than on other evenings, but religious "fraternities"
(havurot) would celebrate the day by holding a common festival
meal. These meals would begin while it was still daylight; they were interrupted
at nightfall, when the leader of the fraternity would recite the "Sanctification
of the Day" over a cup of wine. Otherwise, each individual would
recite his own night prayer separately as on every day, with some adding
special words in honor of the Sabbath.
text, translation and transliteration of Kiddush]
While the Kiddush
originally belonged to a meal, it was later transferred to the synagogue,
where we find it since the time of the first Babylonian amoraim.
Babylonia did not know the custom of common fraternal meals for
religious purposes, nor were vineyards generally cultivated. Therefore,
where no wine was available, Kiddush was transferred to the synagogue,
where it remained as the conclusion of the service.
Knowing that the Kiddush
belonged only in a private house at the family table, the amoraim 
excused the practice of reciting it at the conclusion of the Friday evening
on the grounds that the synagogue served also as a hostel for travelers, who
took their meals there. In the course of time, when the synagogue ceased serving
this purpose, doubts were expressed about the propriety of saying Kiddush
there, but no one dared to act on those doubts. Here is a classic example of
how religious rites, once they have taken root, cannot be removed by force of
an integral part of the Friday night service in Ashkenazic communities
outside of the Land of Israel, and is, in fact, one of the high points
of that service, a moment of extraordinary reverence and religious feeling.
No community today, whether traditional or reform, would be prepared to
give it up.
Resting on ancient tradition, the text of the Kiddush is identical in
on Kiddush customs and a traditional Indian recipe for Currant Wine]
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