Monday, February 27, 2012

Of Rabbis and Drinking

From my email-bag:

Would you say "enjoys a l'chaim" is something that would be helpful on a rabbi's skillset over "teetotaller"? Would you advise a, say, 26-year-old rabbi starting his career, who's neutral on spirits (groan), to develop a taste for it, as it will be helpful for his career?

I really, really, really don't want to answer "Yes" to these questions, but I suspect that is the correct answer.

I don't particularly enjoy drinking; any enjoyment I have in imbibing comes from the joy of doing something new, not from the drink itself. To the best of my knowledge, no one ever held that against me in my rabbinate... but I do think that rabbis who enjoy a drink will have an easier time socializing in certain settings.

Of course, every rabbi must know which situations are inappropriate for a drink:
1. Part of this goes back to my standard rants about inappropriate use of alcohol in the Jewish community; I do think we are much too free with alcohol, and this particularly bothers me in environments which include children. (For more on this, wait for the re-post next week of my standard Purim and Alcohol warning.)

2. And it's also a matter of people's comfort; a rabbi should realize that not everyone wants to see him drink, and to see him 'loosen up', in every setting.

But overall, I think a rabbi who knows 'when to say when' will socialize more easily, and therefore build relationships more easily, if he can enjoy a drink.

What say you?


  1. Would you say "enjoys a l'chaim" is something that would be helpful on a rabbi's skillset over "teetotaller"? Say what?!!

    Please show me any other job in the working world where mention of alcohol preference/usage, would be considered as part of the skill set to be presented, other than perhaps a taster in a spirits factory? It requires drinking to be socially accepted/adept?

    The fact that this question was even asked highlights that there are some real use/abuse issues of alcohol in parts of the public frum community (and the private as well). When I think of a rabbi being an exemplar for the children of a community, it is not his drinking ability that comes first to mind--doesn't even come last to mind.

  2. I don't think people care if a Rabbi drinks, but a Rabbi who is a tee-totaller with an agenda who is always preaching against alchohol can be off-putting an annoying and viewed as a "one trick pony."
    It is one thing to give mussar and tell people not to drink too much and be responsible, etc, but a Rabbi who tells people not to drink at all ever (and I have encounterd this) makes every bit of advice he gives suspect.

  3. ProfK-
    You know I'm with you philosophically on alcohol, but what other job requires that someone socialize with, and build close relationships with, a community? Where else do people care about the answer to, "Will you eat in my home?"

    Anonymous 10:46 AM-
    I hear.

  4. The Rabbi can let it be known what he personally does or doesn't drink in a way that doesn't seem preachy. He should normally be cheerful with or without alcohol.