Monday, March 9, 2009

Purim Post II: OU to Abolish the Rabbi's Sermon, Replace it with Kiddush Clubs

[Note: For the record - I oppose Kiddush Clubs, for many, many reasons. The post below is intended as humor, whether successful or not.]

New York - As part of its campaign to make Shabbat morning davening more meaningful, and to improve mitzvah observance in general, the Orthodox Union is calling upon member synagogues to eliminate the spiritually deleterious practice of including a rabbinic sermon, dvar torah, homily or derashah as part of Shabbat morning services.

Aside from the fact that such divrei torah often deviate from the scripts provided via, the sense of the OU board is that the Shabbat morning speech does not belong in an Orthodox synagogue, and would be better replaced with a more wholesome alternative, such as a Kiddush Club.

Contacted for an explanation, an OU spokesman laid out five advantages to a Kiddush Club over a rabbinic speech, related to five major issues of concern for the OU:

1. Kvod Beit haKnesset (respect for the synagogue environment)
Rabbinic speeches are known for inducing sleep in the synagogue sanctuary, a practice clearly against halachah, as outlined in gemara, Rambam and Shulchan Aruch.
Kiddush Clubs generally take place in darker corners of the building, such as coatrooms and downstairs hallways, far from the places dedicated to mitzvot and tefillah (prayer).

2. Bitul Zman (wasting of time)
Not only do rabbinic speeches often offer fulminations on political matters rather than explication of Torah, but they also trigger further conversations along those lines. Further, these speeches are often a communal waste of time, on a grand scale.
Kiddush Clubs, on the other hand, involve filling one's mouth with food, such that speech is impossible.

3. Adherence to Halachic Zmanim (the legal times for performance of certain mitzvot)
During the months of November and December, sunrise is so late and sunset is so early that, due to extended speeches, congregations often conclude Shabbat morning davening after Chatzot (midway between sunrise and sunset, for our purposes). One is not supposed to fast on Shabbat, and waiting to eat until after Chatzot is considered the equivalent of fasting.
Abolition of the speech during those months would significantly increase the likelihood of finishing davening before Chatzot. Introduction of a Kiddush Club would virtually guarantee that every member of the congregation would have the opportunity to hear kiddush and eat by the proper time.

4. Lashon HaRa (harmful speech)
The Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation are not the only ones concerned with Lashon HaRa. The OU would like to make certain that its member congregations do not engage in Lashon HaRa against the rabbi, and eliminating the speech would remove a major cause of Lashon HaRa.
A Kiddush Club, on the other hand, would have no such problem of generating Lashon HaRa, assuming (a) they purchased good quality beverages, and (b) they invited everyone in the shul to partake.

5. The Oneg-meter
Finally: Oneg Shabbat [physical enjoyment of Shabbat] is of central importance. Kiddush Club? An increase in Oneg. A speech? Not so much.

We certainly hope that this move to eliminate rabbinic speeches will improve our davening, our communities, and the lives of individual Jews. But even if not, it will certainly improve the lives of our rabbis, who will be able to free up a good chunk of their Thursdays and Fridays for other purposes.

חג פורים שמח!

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