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You can see how not Frum some of these people are by their lack of Kiddish navigation understanding. There is too much room at that table. Not one of them is attacking the fish. Not one of them is holding their spot at the table. With that much room, it's impossible to keep the others away from the herring. (Photo: congregationshirami.org)
The post service communal snack time on Shabbat can be very hard for the shul beginner. Known as Kiddush, or Kiddish, this is the time to eat. Services have ended, we’ve already connected as a community with our Creator, it is now time to do whatever you can to get to the potato kugel first.
There’s only so much potato kugel, choolante and gefilte. You have only so much time to make your way to the herring. And you never know if somebody else likes kichel. You only have a moment before the rabbi makes the Kiddish blessing and Bernie snags the meat out of the choolante pot.
Following is what I have learned about Kiddush etiquette over my lifetime of trying to make my way to the choolante, past Bernie:
Stand in One Spot
Once you are in the Kiddush room, do not move. If you move, other people will be able to get to the choolante too. Once you've scooped, you stay right there. You don't want to open others up to scooping access.
The idea is to make it harder for other people to get to the stuff. If you're standing away from the table, in the middle of the room, and somebody is trying to pass, don’t move. Stand in the doorway if you have to. If you move, it will make it easier for them to get to where they want to go, and that might be potato kugel. Or even worse, the kishka. Once the choolante meat is gone, it is a fight for the choolante kishka.
Hold Your Spot
This is not easy. Fran may be eighty years old, but she still has some reserves left in her for egg salad, matzah and kichel. To fend off bullies, like Fran, get down into a strong three-point lineman stance. This gives you the most power when pushing off the ground, allowing you to hold your spot and lunge at the choolante pot when the opportunity arises for an offensive.
Pick Your Spot Before Kiddush is Made & Keep It
It's general policy that you’re not supposed to take food before the Kiddush blessing is said. If you’re willing to get reprimanded by the sisterhood, then take beforehand. If you are meek, like myself, and cower to authority, then pick a good spot. You want to pick a spot within arm’s reach of your goal. Not everybody can squeeze a spot right in front of the babka. As long as you’re willing to reach…
Reach Past People’s Heads & Torsos
The body does not dictate whether you’re next in line. I’ve seen many arms running right by my face. I’ve looked around and not once have I found a person. I recall one time, I was right in front of the pot, and couldn’t get to it. The arms were coming from all sides. It felt like a Kiddush horror film.
The congregants were just hungry. They'll turn on you when kishka and potato kugel show up. Remember, manners are the first thing to go when there isn't enough meat in the choolante.
Do Not Be Ashamed to Scoop All of the Meat Out of The Choolante
Everybody notices when Bernie does this, but Bernie is happy. I’ve seen meat choolante pots filled to the brim, with no meat. Kiddush-goers have a sick sense for sniffing out meat in a pot. Over the years, I’ve learned to locate meat in the middle of potatoes, beans, barley, onions, even squash. Sometimes you think it’s a vegetarian choolante and right in the middle of a legume you pick out a little piece of rib still on the bone, making your Kiddush a success. Bringing joy to Shabbis.
If you Have a Spot, Don’t Offer to Serve Others
I tried this once. Next thing I knew, everybody had choolante. Helping leaves you with less.
Carry the Choolante Ladle with You
If you must move, such as in the case of your child crying and having a crisis, like they cannot find the frosting on their cake, be sure to take the serving utensil with you. This is the only way to ensure that you will be able to get back to your spot. There are some who will scoop with their hands while you’re gone. You have to respect that.
Do Not Worry About How Your Plate Looks
Pile it high. Double up. Fill three plates if you have to. You never know if you will be able to make it back to the table.
Do Not Wait In Line
There is no line. Those are just people who are not moving away from the babka.
If there is no motion that is not a line, unless if you're at JFK International Airport security check.
If You Do Not Have A Decent Spot Use Your Elbows
Don’t worry about knocking over Fran. If Fran is in the way of you and your potato kugel, she’s standing in a dangerous spot. She should know that. She shouldn't assume that just because it's not choolante, that she won't get hurt.
Using your elbows at all times is suggested. To quote Avi, 'Keep them out.' Elbows should be out at all times. Entering the Kiddish doorway, shaking hands, eating. Whatever you are doing the elbows should be out. When you're eating, keep em up. There's a good chance you can catch a chin of one of the shorter congregants. Your elbows create more body, keeping more people away from the food you want. Along with the barrier they create, they can be used to hurt people who think they are also deserving of herring.
COVID may be done, still use your elbows to greet people at Kiddish. Walk in with no mask and let them know that you can care less about the germs on your Kishka, as long as it is yours.
Kiddush is a communal experience, so it will not be easy to get to the food. I bless you with strength, to not worry about other people getting food. Gd provides for all, but there’s only so much herring. Claim your spot at the table and use whatever strength you can muster to push Fran and Bernie out of the way.
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