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Shul Kiddush Best Practices

August 16, 2018 | by Yonah Levi

Focus on wolfing down as much and as fast as you can without looking alarmingly gluttonous.

One of the most chaotic activities in Judaism is the synagogue kiddush. In theory, a kiddush is simply supposed to be social snack-time to reward those who trudged to shul and to tide them over until lunch. Indeed, without the incentive of a post-service kiddush, overall synagogue attendance likely would decrease but, then again, so would every congregant's weight.

Other than prayer, the kiddush may be the most important and impactful synagogue activity, so the question is: what are best practices when encountering a synagogue kiddush?

First, do your homework. Before Shabbos begins, confirm that a kiddush is actually on the horizon. If there is no kiddush of any kind scheduled, immediately terminate your membership and find a synagogue that values weekly noshing as opposed to noshing weakly.

Second, assuming there is a kiddush, ascertain its nature, scope and sponsorship. In all likelihood, sponsorship by a family of greater means probably means you should not eat breakfast or the night before. Come to shul famished and focused and get ready to feast your eyes on a feast. That said, sponsorship by a family of lesser means does not automatically mean a less plentiful or satisfying kiddush but it does mean you should have a decent lunch waiting at home, just in case.

Third, be smart. A typical kiddush usually is stocked with an insufficient number of paper goods and plastic utensils which become depleted long before the food or your appetite is. So at the outset, always grab an extra plate and fork so that you do not find yourself slurping cholent out of your bare hands. (No, a kippah should not be used as a bowl, kippah clips should not be used like toothpicks to stab at herring and the top of your child's head should not double as a tray.) Even better, come to shul wearing a culinary holster to hold extra utensils or if you find yourself in a duel at high noon over the last piece of lokshen kugel. (Yes, if you lose the duel and thus lose the lokshen kugel, then one might say that you are out of “lok.”)

Fourth, do not allow yourself to become distracted with idle chatter. In other words, nosh first and ask questions later. If a chatty chump wants to engage in small talk, tell him that you are suffering from a highly contagious disease. If a gossipy gal wants to regale you with ridiculous rumors, tell her that you are not a journalist and therefore will gladly betray your sources. If your needy children approach with an urgent issue, coldly ignore them or quickly auction them to the highest (or lowest) bidder. If your high-maintenance spouse is starving for attention, sternly explain that you too are starving. When friends or acquaintances approach while you are wolfing down anything that isn't nailed down, make sure every greeting is short, sweet and insincere. Do not ask follow-up questions, do not encourage prolixity and do not make eye contact. Focus on wolfing down as much and as fast as you can without being gluttonous or obvious. When trying to avoid others at a kiddush, the key is to remember the mantra of “Wave, Walk and Wolf . . .Wave, Walk and Wolf.” Do this and you will eat without skipping a beat.

Fifth, let nothing stop you. If you suffer from possibly fatal food allergies, bring an ample supply of epipens. If you've been in an accident and your jaw is wired shut, make plans before Shabbat to have the cholent fed to you intravenously. If the rabbi of the shul is on line directly in front of you and is waiting for what could be the last bowl of cholent, scream the following: “The rebbetzin is on fire!” Then collect the remaining cholent and sheepishly shout: “Just kidding.”

Finally, if necessary, stoop to playful misdirection and misinformation. If someone asks you whether the delicious potato kugel is good, you answer: "No, it's awful." If someone asks you if the delicious meatballs are tasty, you respond: "Yes, if you enjoy the taste of manure." And if someone asks about the delicious cholent, you reply: "Have you had a typhoid vaccination recently?" By doing so, you will eliminate competition, thus allowing you to divide and conquer or, more appropriately, devour and conquer every kiddush, especially mouthwatering feasts of gastronomic proportions seldom savored by the average schlemiel.

Bottom-line: Notwithstanding the foregoing, when in doubt be a mensch at mealtime, make room for others to consume, do not actually eat to compete and do not take a single bite out of spite. And, most importantly, encourage your children to marry caterers.

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