web analytics
May 7, 2015 / 18 Iyar, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post


Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

Saloons with Prayer Services

f110911ns51

Photo Credit: Nati Shohat/FLASH90

The Wall Street Journal last month featured a front-page article titled “After These Jewish Prayer Services, Things Come ‘To Life’ at Open Bar,” with the sub-heading, “To Woo Worshippers, Synagogues Compete with Food and Booze.”

The article was quite expansive about a number of shuls that serve very elaborate feasts every week, with lavish food and abundant drink, like the banquets of Achashveirosh in his time. Why? “In the face of dwindling attendance…the sumptuous food, fine wines and liquors are a way to help draw congregants.”

Whatever it takes, I guess. Thousands upon thousands of dollars are spent per week on food and alcohol, with faithful Jews their enthusiastic consumers. No tuition “crisis” there.

In one shul, the rabbi has an “adviser on food and drink.” In another, a dedicated volunteer brings a gigantic bottle of $500 Scotch every Friday afternoon. In still another, the rabbi boasted about the “quality whiskey” served in his community: “the perception is, the more expensive the bottle, the more prestigious the Kiddush.”

Not to be outdone, a Conservative rabbinic leader claimed, in essence, that Conservative Jews are just as good (or bad) as the Orthodox. “Finding a really good kiddush – that’s a blood sport in the Jewish community,” he said.

At least he had the good sense to decry the “cult of alcohol” that exists in our world. One non-Jewish online commentator asked: “Where do I go to convert?”

The article quoted Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, executive vice president emeritus of the OU, who described the phenomenon as “very upsetting” and “not in keeping with Jewish standards of modesty.”

Rabbi Hershel Billet of the Young Israel of Woodmere spoke about people in his shul in years past leaving davening in order to drink and coming back drunk and loud, and so liquor was banned. Period. Even for Kiddush. The article dryly notes: “Some members left in protest.” Big loss, I’m sure.

But the most telling statement was by Professor Jonathan Sarna of Brandeis, who said: “Once upon a time, some people went to synagogue to talk to God. Nowadays, more and more people come to see their friends. The prayers and sermons are a distraction. Conviviality goes better with a drink.” Is he right? It certainly seems so.

We can yell “Kiddush, Kiddush” as much as we want and think it is somehow rooted in holiness, and exult “l’chaim” and think liquor is really life; we can speak until we are blue in the face about the “mitzvot” we can fulfill with wine and liquor; we can preach about the importance of kiruv (Jewish outreach) whatever the methodology used – even if underage college students are plied with free liquor to induce them to participate in “Jewish” activities; and we can really believe that what is most critical in shuls is getting bodies into seats and dues being paid.

But what is missing from all this is one word: God. Where is God in all this? What does any of this have to do with G-d?

This travesty sheds light on verses from the tragic vision of Yeshayahu that have always troubled me: “Why do I need your numerous sacrifices? God says. I am satiated with ram-offerings and the choicest of fattened animals…” (Yeshayahu 1:11)

Traditionally, we understand the problem as insincerity – as bringing offerings in the Temple in a mechanical way, without repentance or genuine commitment. But that is true of the korban chatat or asham or even some olot (sin-, trespass-, or ascent-offerings) but what does that have to do with shelamim – peace-offerings that are brought on festive occasions or as personal expressions of gratitude? There is no repentance or sincerity required for shelamim. So why did the prophet castigate those as well – what he referred to as the “fattened calves”?

The answer is that even shelamim require at least an acknowledgment of God and recognition of the holiness of the Temple. Indeed, the Beit HaMikdash also hosted a perpetual feast. Many of the offerings brought had to be consumed pursuant to a rigid system – a day and a night for some, or two days and a night for others. They had to be eaten in the vicinity of the Temple, so that, in fact, in the Temple and its environs people were always eating and drinking. But they came to “seek out God’s presence” (Devarim 12:5).

About the Author: Rabbi Steven Pruzansky is spiritual leader of Congregation Bnai Yeshurun of Teaneck, New Jersey, and author, most recently, of “Tzadka Mimeni: The Jewish Ethic of Personal Responsibility” (Gefen Publishing House, Jerusalem, 2014). His writings and lectures can be found at www.Rabbipruzansky.com.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

One Response to “Saloons with Prayer Services”

  1. Gloria Wolff says:

    Excellent response to N Y Times biased article.

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
Naftali Bennett, chairman of the Jewish Home party, and Knesset Member Moti Yogev looking at "E-1" area of Maaleh Adumim.
Netanyahu and Bennett Sign on the Dotted Line
Latest Indepth Stories
Keeping-Jerusalem

48 years ago this week the IDF with heroism & Divine providence liberated our holy capital Jerusalem

MK Moshe-Feiglin

Perhaps there is an emotional foundation-spiritual milk–that only a mother can give a baby?

Dennis Prager

Pakistan’s creation caused a huge number of refugees & deaths; Why isn’t IT’S legitimacy questioned?

Lehmann-Sara-logo

Despite efforts to revive Jewish cultural life in Poland, which has met with a measure of success and support from Polish officials, Poland still remains a virtual graveyard of its prewar glory days.

“Let’s get something straight so we don’t kid each other…[the Iranians] already have paved a path to a bomb’s worth of material,” said Mr. Biden. “Iran could get there now if they walked away in two to three months without a deal.”

Beyond the particulars of this tragic death, however, we should all be concerned about the possibility that a criminal prosecution in a major American city is being driven by fear of mobs in the street.

The campaign reportedly also killed nearly 2,000 Islamic State fighters.

Each craved more out life and within a few months they’d mastered English, received their high school equivalencies, and begun climbing the rungs of the ladder of the American Dream.

Many think they’re serving G-d but they’re really asleep-Rebbe Nachman taught stories to wake people

Pollsters asked Palestinians “What is the #1 obstacle facing the Middle East?” Israel placed only #4

Palestinian society treats mass murderers as heroes & is led by a president who embraces terrorists

Although it’s emotionally difficult to see the suffering, helping out makes me happy.

I decided to really understand what Jewish people go through by becoming a Jew.

Why does Obama and other democratic world leaders resist branding the Armenian killings as genocide?

More Articles from Rabbi Steven Pruzansky
Pruzansky-Steven-NEW

Pesach is a Torah-based holiday whose fundamental observances are rooted in Torah law; Purim is a rabbinic holiday whose laws and customs are grounded in the rabbinic tradition.

Torah-Hakehillah-121914

The travail of Yosef was undoubtedly the greatest trauma of Yaakov’s life, which certainly knew its share of hardships.

The brilliance of Yaakov’s approach – and by extension, any type of individual or group effort – is that it appealed to three different modes of salvation.

There is a certain unwordliness to the pope’s call for a two-state solution, an obliviousness to the reality on the ground.

One can’t only take; one must give as well. Giving – not taking – is the essence of the righteous person.

Much of what we know about 19th century Orthodoxy is false, including the provenance of the term Orthodox.

A president who today used the language of FDR or JFK would be derided. If he were a candidate, the media elites would bury his chances of winning the election. He would be a laughing stock to the aimless young people whose uninformed opinions on public affairs seem to matter more than they should.

With the constant drumbeat of articles about “Orthodox” female rabbis appearing in the media almost weekly – essentially the same articles making the same points to the same eager audience, all to make the phenomenon of such “rabbis” seem commonplace – it is important to take a step back and examine how we arrived at this destination.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/saloons-with-prayer-services/2013/03/22/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: