letters to the editor

Dear Editor,

I wrote the following 13 years ago.

Any Glen will do. Nothing less than twelve — twelve, fifteen, eighteen, and twenty-one. It is not Glen’s birthday, nor are we discussing random numbers. Rather, Glen is the prefix to many brands of single-malt scotch; twelve, fifteen, eighteen, and twenty-one are their respective ages. Alas, with age comes expense and smoothness but not sophistication and respect.

In synagogue for Shabbos morning prayers, many contend that the services drag on and on, and hence during the haftarah reading or during the rabbi’s sermon, a break for liquid refreshment is needed. Not any refreshment will do — only single-malts aged at least twelve years, nothing less — there are no substitutes. So, as is wont to happen in synagogues across the country and in towns near you, a percentage of men disembark the synagogue ship at the call of the haftarah where they chant Kiddush over a shot of scotch and then gorge on herring, cholent, and kugel. When the haftarah or the rabbi’s sermon is completed, the men re-embark the flagship synagogue, swaying merrily to the chanting of the Mussaf prayers. O’, warning to the wise, damn any self-appointed, self-righteous individuals who take umbrage with the good-ship “Kiddush Club.”

This is not a fantasy or a fictionalized account of synagogue practice. The Kiddush Club is real and it is here to stay. Indeed, some believe that it is their G-d-given right under the heavens to slosh some shots in synagogue.

The custom of attending a Kiddush Club during davening is flatly wrong! The custom is insidious and invidious to the sanctity of the synagogue and there is no excuse under the banner of heaven that even remotely justifies such gross behavior from people who attend services in order to ostensibly pray and be uplifted either through prayer or through learning Torah.

An intrinsic problem, however, with the existence and extent of Kiddush Clubs in many synagogues is the apparent tacit or silent approval of the rabbi. While rabbis generally do not condone such offensive behavior, they are themselves stymied from proactive opposition to this modus operandi for fear of retribution and reprisal by members of the Kiddush Club. Rabbis clearly need to concern themselves with their jobs, but is the sanctity of the synagogue secondary and is the honor of Torah tertiary? Apparently, scotch is so important and the infringement of this inherent Scottish right so great … woe to the nay-sayers.

What do shuls desire to be known for? Sometimes socially exclusive Kiddush Clubs where bonhomie and scotch create a draw for potential like-spirited new members, or as a place of prayer, a house of Torah where the goal of holiness is venerated and exalted?

Rabbi Hutner, zt’l, once related the following parable: In every town, at its center, stood a clock tower with the clock located at the tower’s apex. Why was the clock placed up high and not down low where passersby would not have to strain their necks to look at the time? If the clock was situated at ground level where everyone could access it, each person would change the clock’s time to accommodate his or her personal time. Whereas on the other hand, with the clock affixed high up where people have to look and are not able to touch, everyone’s individual timepieces will accordingly be in concert.

So, too, with Torah. If we bring the Torah down to the lowest common denominator, then each person will attempt to personalize the Torah to fit his or her individual subjective wants and opinions. However, if the Torah is placed on high, then all people will have to strive to emulate the lofty position of the unified Torah.

Let us rid ourselves of this clearly inappropriate and divisive culture of drinking during the midst of prayer. Let us act, at the very least, in an appropriate manner when we are in shul. It may be an act during prayer when we sway and fervently pray, but let us not fall prey to blatant disruptive customs that are abhorrent and inimical to the very concept and purpose of synagogue attendance on Shabbos morning.

Rabbi Judah Z. Cohen, Esq.

Deadly Habit

Dear Editor,

I read Zvi Gluck’s enlightening article regarding the excess drinking situation among our youth in Eretz Yisrael. This is something that must be combated with our full and absolute support, and kudos to Amudim and those organizations that do just that.

While we are discussing the challenges to our youth, I am very disheartened that the issue of smoking is seldom mentioned or addressed. On my many trips to Israel I have often walked by some very well-known yeshivos and have seen hordes of yeshiva bachurim, some as young as sixteen, puffing away.

When I stop to comment on the dangers of smoking (in Hebrew, Yiddish, or English, depending on the type of yeshiva) I was scoffed at, laughed at, or even cursed at. Where are the roshei yeshiva on this issue? Would any of them allow these boys to eat pork rinds in front of the yeshiva?

Halachically speaking, smoking is probably a more serious transgression. There is no one today, including even the tobacco industry itself, who disputes the proven fact that smoking is an absolute killer.

Sadly, our Jewish leadership ignores this scourge and allows our youth to embark on this deadly path (which also harms those around them who do not smoke). Why this deafening silence?

Shlomo Orbach

 

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