What’s the ideal and most appropriate format for a shul’s kiddush –
standing around, sitting at tables; lots of hot food, a few cold items?
Why do synagogues sponsor kiddush after Shabbat morning services? Why don’t people just come to pray and then go home to their own Shabbat lunch?
The basic answer is that kiddush offers people the opportunity of socializing and gaining a sense of community. The kiddush is an informal setting where congregants can renew old friendships and make new ones, where visitors can be welcomed, where the Shabbat spirit can be spread among old and young alike. It is an opportunity for those who live alone to celebrate Shabbat with a community.
How can the kiddush accomplish these worthy goals? Each synagogue/minyan needs to do what makes most sense for their particular congregation. In some communities, kiddush becomes a sit-down lunch… very nice, and often very expensive. In other shuls, the hope is for people to greet each other, take a bit of refreshment and then return home for their own Shabbat lunch.
Unfortunately, some people view the kiddush as the most important feature of Shabbat morning at shul. They arrive at services as late as possible, and then hurry to fill their plates at the kiddush. I’ve heard of people who actually call the local synagogues on Friday to see which shul provides the best food!
Shuls’ budgets must realistically plan for the weekly cost of kiddush. The search for weekly kiddush sponsors can be burdensome. In larger congregations where hundreds of people attend services each Shabbat morning, the costs involved are not insignificant.
Each synagogue/shul/minyan should strive to provide kiddush that is appropriate for its community. There is no single ideal kiddush format that is ideal for every community.
– Response of Rabbi Marc D. Angel, Director, Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals
* * * * *
First principles first. A kiddush is an occasion for the members to socialize after shul, which renders the kiddush redundant if the members were, r”l, socializing during shul. Ideally, it is opportunity to catch up on the week’s news, chat with friends, and discuss the wisdom and insight of the rabbi’s drashah.
Anything beyond that is secondary and tertiary. Standing or seated will be determined by crowd size and event space. The quantity, quality and variety of the menu will be determined by the affluence or expectations of the participants. Certainly, the kiddush should not render the main meal of the day (at home) superfluous, perhaps even an achilah gassah (gluttonous consumption). One must take care not to overeat or certainly not overdrink at a kiddush so as to make the second se’udah of Shabbat an enjoyable one.
If the kiddush functions as the main meal for some people then it is critical that rolls be served and that the diners sit and not stand around. “Kiddush must be recited at the place of the meal,” says the halacha, and so this kiddush then serves a dual purpose. It is probably wise to serve some hot dishes as there is an obligation to consume hot food on Shabbat and not everyone is careful about that. It is probably unwise to turn the kiddush into a lavish smorgasbord, which then pressures current and future sponsors to shell out significant sums of money to please the palates of their friends and neighbors. And we would do well to minimize the quantity of unhealthy foods that are often staples at a Shabbat kiddush.
That being said, I do miss the elaborate Mens’ Club kiddushim at my former pulpit. Consider this a well-deserved shout out!
– Rav Steven Pruzansky lives in Israel and is Israel Region Vice-President for the Coalition for Jewish Values and Rabbi Emeritus of Congregation Bnai Yeshurun of Teaneck, New Jersey.