(By Rabbi Yair Hoffman for 5tjt.com)
There was someone who had walked out of the sanctuary of the shul to where the other men were making kiddush. This time, however, someone began to berate him:
“You don’t come here to daven! You come here to drink and to talk!”
This vignette would normally be unremarkable, except for the fact that the person doing the berating was the shul’s Hispanic custodian. The story is not apocryphal – it genuinely happened.
What we are concerned about, however, is not the berating per se, but rather the halacha behind walking out in the first place.
The man was walking into the shul’s unofficial “Kiddush Club.”
A Kiddush Club is when people walk out of shul before the Rabbi’s speech or before the haftorah – in order to make kiddush on wine or schnapps and socialize.
The proliferation of Kiddush clubs is so great that there was article about it in Newsweek during the summer of 2004. There is even a Wikipedia entry on the subject. After a definition the article notes:
“The practice was criticized by the Orthodox Union (OU) in December 2004, when the OU called for the elimination of such practices. OU Executive Vice President Rabbi Dr. Tzvi Hersh Weinreb criticized “Kiddush Clubs” for detracting from the honor of the synagogue, promoting gossip (lashon hara), and leading participants to return to services in a state of intoxication (which are violations of Jewish Law), reducing decorum, and enabling the problem of substance abuse.”
Aside from the five points Rabbi Weinreb mentions – there is the sixth issue of Kavod HaTorah – the honor of Torah itself – namely – the Rabbi who is giving his drasha.
Although we know that there is nothing greater than the study of Torah, we find something fascinating in Meseches Megillah (3b). There it states that kavod haTorah – honoring Torah is greater than limud haTorah – the study of Torah. If a Talmid Chochom dies on Purim we eulogize him even if it will mean that we will be unable to hear the Megillah!
The Derech Chaim on Pirkei Avos 6:3 demonstrates clearly that Kavod HaTorah is greater than the honor that must be given kings.
Rav Ovadiah Yoseph zt”l notes that in our generation (Yechaveh Daas VI #49), Kavod haTorah has already fallen ten flights down.
The Rosh explains in Nedarim 22b that even after the Beis HaMikdash was destroyed women continued to go up to Yerushalayim on the three regalim in order to hear Torah. Even though they are exempt from Torah study they went up because of Kavod haTorah.
The Gemorah is filled with illustrations of people who did not exit during a Torah discourse to use the facilities and suffered medical repercussions based on this. The reason that they did not leave was because of Kavod HaTorah.
In recent years, many shuls have reacted in different ways to kiddush clubs. Some have tried banning them altogether. This has had mixed results. Since many of the participants are from the more powerful members of the congregation, the Rabbis have had a hard time eliminating them.
WHAT THE WIVES SAY
One woman interviewed for this article asked: What message does the kiddush club send to their own children, the Rav and the community? The drasha of the Rav could a great source of inspiration for the husbands. If they miss that one opportunity – where else will they get chizuk?”
Another woman said: “I worked so hard to get my son to shul. When he arrived – the seat was empty. Where was his father? At the Kiddush club!”
HISTORY OF THE KIDDUSH CLUB
As far as the history of Kiddush Clubs – it is not so new. A responsa Sefer called Yefeh Nof (rbought to this author’s attention on the Seforim Blog) that was written by Rav Moshe Yitzhak M’zia (1530-1600) states as follows:
About the custom of the bachurim on Shabbos to leave the synagogue after the Torah is removed from the ark to drink whisky before mussaf, is this permitted?
Rav M’zia answers:
If they do not sit down for a meal this is permitted because the law does not follow Rav Huna who prohibits tasting prior to mussaf.
At the time, however, Rabbonim did not give drashos – so only Rabbi Weinreb’s first five points apply.
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