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Sunday, 24 January 2016

Kiddush Clubs

Daf Yomi Gittin 38


Some years ago, the OU, the largest Orthodox synagogue network, decided to ban Kiddush clubs.  A Kiddush club is typically made up of a group of men that gathers sometime in the middle of the Shabbos morning service, and makes Kiddush over a shot of scotch. It’s a forum for schmoozing and catching up on the past week.   

Why did the OU issue the ban?  Because strictly speaking, everyone should be in shul, completely enveloped in the davening and layning.   Wandering out of shul for a Kiddush club has no place in our tradition.

But that would be the ideal in a perfect world.  The fact is, shul communities are made up of real people.  Real people don’t necessarily sit quietly for three hours.  Real people don’t necessarily wait until noon to have a glass of water or cup of coffee.   What’s better: to sit in shul and chat or go outside to the Kiddush club and chat?  What’s better: to go and have a cup of coffee without making Kiddush or to make Kiddush first? 

So what’s the big deal with Kiddush clubs?

Rabbah taught: There are three activities that cause a person’s assets to diminish: Freeing servants (thereby transgressing the verse, “They shall work for you always”); Inspecting property on Shabbat; Arranging Shabbat meals during the time of study.
Rashi explains: When the rabbi is giving the sermon, they are feasting. 

Apparently, Kiddush clubs are not a new phenomenon.  Some people have always walked out on the drosha to enjoy a bissele shnaps!  Now, I must say, different people in different shuls walk out at different points in the service.  Some walk out during their rabbi’s sermon.  Others don’t want to be disrespectful and so they hold their Kiddush club during the Haftara.  Still others feel bad about ditching the ‘Prophet’s sermon’ and so they wait until after kedusha of Musaf to meander out of the sanctuary.

I feel a little uncomfortable writing today’s message from the Daf.  On most days, when I write, I am just as much writing to encourage myself as anyone else.  We could all do with improving our positive attitudes, being kinder to people, helping those in need, the list goes on.  But when it comes to the Kiddush club, let’s be honest: here I am sitting next to the Aron Kodesh – what do you think, I’m going to leave the shul with everyone watching to go have a l’chaim?! 

So, in that regard, despite my full view of who’s in and who’s out of the sanctuary, far be it from me to judge anyone.  As I mentioned earlier, it’s certainly better to chat outside the shul than to disturb the people around you who are trying to concentrate on their davening.  And certainly, if you are going to have a cup of coffee or glass of water, you most certainly should be making Kiddush first!

I guess the point of today’s message is that you need to weigh up and assess where you personally are at in terms of your own service of Heaven.  On the one hand, the Gemara’s consequences for stepping out during the rabbi’s sermon are pretty heavy.  But on the other hand, I’d rather someone stepped out during my sermon than the words of the Prophet or the davening.  And it goes without saying that it’s always preferable to take your conversation outside rather than disturb anyone else.

I think that probably the greatest challenge of the Kiddush club is that you don’t want to look like the frummie guy who’s ‘holier than thou’ – better than all your buddies.   So, it’s much easier to go with the flow and follow the crowd out the door.  After all, they’re your mates and you don’t want to snub them and you don’t want them snubbing you for not being one of the guys.  So it’s complicated.  

At the end of the day, knowledge is power.  Sometimes, we’re davening for parnassah (livelihood) and we’re simply unaware of the keys and strategies our Sages have already taught.  You might not be ready to completely quit your Kiddush club, but Hashem loves every little effort we make.   Just beginning with placing the smallest limits on your participation and not going all out will bring incredible blessing into your life!  As time goes on, you can reassess what makes the most sense for your personal relationship with Heaven. 


Your buddies don’t know what’s going on in your heart.  It doesn’t matter what they think.  It doesn’t even matter what your rabbi thinks.  All that matters is what Hashem knows.  He doesn’t judge.  He just wants you to do your best.  May you always make your own decisions and never feel obligated to follow the crowd, and may you be forever blessed with abundant parnassah!