I wrote this piece last week for a newspaper- the editor was impressed, but her boss turned me down.
I can remember sitting as an antsy 10 year old in shul next to my father waiting patiently for the announcement. I knew it would come, I just had know idea if it would entail the holy grail of shul attendance. Then it came, the vice president Aron, a boxing promoter with a long pony tail and a cowboy hat, would get up with his cool strut and stand in front of the ark and tell everyone the schedule for the week, I could see that the adults and children alike just wanted to know what would be, would the rest of the service continue in anticipation of the coming Kiddush, or would we be resigned to a long walk home for our first tastes of shabbos food.
Then all of the sudden he would say “this weeks Kiddush is sponsored by the Katz family” and you could almost picture everyone in their suits and talesim on jumping up and slapping each other high five like a bunch of frat guys at a homecoming football game. But everyone just turned their prayer books to the next part of davening with a little more fervor then before. But you could feel the anticipation in the air, little conversations would form between the cool people, asking things like “who the hell are the Katz’s anyway” or “hey is it a hot kiddush or what?” and then rumors would be flying around the pews, “I hear there’s going to be cholent someone would say, and suddenly by way of someone’s big mouth, everyone had little bubbles above their heads of them walking into a full blown hot Kiddush with cholent, kishke and kugel.
These rumors were unconfirmed of course, until the children abandoned their fathers sides in order to do a little reconnaissance mission of their own, and to escape the droning speech of the Rabbi. We would run up the three flights, hearts pounding in preparation, dreaming of the ultimate Kiddush, but then suddenly we were stopped by a locked door, with what only can be described as a Kiddush bouncer standing just inside the Kiddush directing old white haired ladies, which most shuls call the sisterhood as to where they should place the gefilte fish platters.
I was always one of the taller ones, and I would be the scout, I wish we were smart enough to bring binoculars to shul, so we could see whether or not the staff had even placed holders for hot food to be deposited when someone would warn them that Anim Zemiros was done and the hungry locusts were coming to wreak havoc on the land.
Sometimes we could get past the Kiddush bouncers, once in a while we could knock on the door, and the guy may have been nice enough to let a few of us in, but that was rare. He knew better then to let a bunch of kids into a nicely prepared Kiddush, he knew that the orange soda and those little rainbow cakes wouldn’t last 3 minutes with a bunch of 10 or 12 year old boys. Although he have known that we would also ruin the caterers next job by reporting back our findings to the congregation below, and the caterer was not very proud of his gefilte fish platter with the soggy lettuce leaves that had been reused so often their veins had been flattened to obscurity. He didn’t want the mens club knowing that the booze table consisted of slivovitz from last pesach.
Kiddush hasn’t really changed for me, its one of those things that is just a timeless classic. I have matured enough to make it past the Kiddush bouncers and do some actual reconnaissance rather then a covert mission which always seemed to end at the door to the Kiddush room. I still sit in shul and wait impatiently for the announcement of a Kiddush, but I am more sophisticated now. I have a more developed mind. For instance I will now find out prior to shul if there is a Kiddush, I may even base which shul I go to on the Kiddush factor, its very important to me, as I am sure many others, and as a single guy I do not have to deal with shul loyalty or political situations that may arise if I go to “Rabbi so and so’s shul”
Kiddush is still anarchical for me, as a child I was able to make a cute face and get the cholent spoon first, before it was dropped in the cholent pot by some clumsy lady and made disgusting by wet tissues placed on the handle to cover up the cholent residue. I could also climb under tables and peoples legs without getting too much attention, besides from my father who was always telling me to calm down and that food wasn’t going anywhere. He couldn’t have been more wrong, the food was going onto peoples plates, soon there would be no more of that broccoli and cranberry salad I wanted to scream at him, I didn’t want to get a poch or a zetz as he used to call them.
Luckily I developed into a confident individual who could take charge and push over little children and old ladies who were hogging the potato kugel tray. Luckily I was able to gauge whether or not to start with the hot or cold food based on the crowd placement. Many skills were learned as a child and honed as an adult. But my feelings about Kiddush remain the same, feelings of joy and excitement, Kiddush is one of the few things that have not changed since I was a child.