I recently had the opportunity to visit various shuls in a heimishe neighborhood on a Shabbos morning. It was a rainy day, and as I made my way home from a kiddush, I stopped off at a few random shuls along the way to avoid the heavy downpours. It happened to be that in each of the shuls there was a lavish kiddush taking place. I was so happy to see that, baruch Hashem, so many Yidden are making simchos, but at the same time, I walked away very disturbed. The amount of alcohol that was being consumed at each of those simchos was something I had never seen before. What used to be half-filled schnapps cups to wish l’chaim to the baalei simchah, has now turned into cupsful being drunk; for some, at the same rate as soda. The adults may think that as for themselves, they are behaving responsibly (after all, no one is planning to drive home after a Kiddush) — but where is their responsibility for their children? Their young teenagers are sitting at the end of the table watching their fathers gulp down all this alcohol — and then they go on to develop a taste for it themselves. After all, why should they not have the same enjoyment?
Some readers may think I am being an exaggerating alarmist. But as a high-school Rebbi of teenagers, who has seen the tragic outcome of such behavior, I can tell you that it is, unfortunately, the hard reality. I have seen the behavior of bachurim on Purim, at weddings and in sleepaway camps, and when I saw what took place at those kiddushim, it broke my heart.
Every now and then we read reports from Hatzolah and other organizations and we wonder, how does it come to that? The answer for many is that it started at your local Shabbos morning kiddush. A child who develops a habit when he is young will have a much harder time controlling it when he gets older.
Parents, wake up! We must act more responsibly and understand the consequences of our behavior. We are the am kadosh — a people who do not indulge uncontrollably. We call it kiddush because it brings out the kedushah of Shabbos and the kedushah of being a Yid. A kiddush is an opportunity to express hakaras hatov to Hakadosh Baruch Hu for his abundance of kindness for whatever the occasion may be. A kiddush should not be a time where we “let go” and get carried away in the wave of gashmiyusdig indulgence and forget our responsibilities as parents. A parent understands that he may have to give up a good night’s sleep for his child. A parent should understand that he may have to refrain from something he really enjoys for the sake of his child. Parenting requires sacrifice and sacrifice comes in many shapes and forms. Do it for your child and do it for the child of your friend and neighbor.
May Hakadosh Baruch Hu bentch us with many simchos, and may we have the wisdom and courage to celebrate them in the proper way. Hashem will look down at our simchos and, k’vayachol, say, “This simchah brings Me so much nachas ruach — I will continue to give them more simchos to celebrate.”
Please understand that my words do not come out of criticism but out of love and concern for your children and my talmidim.
P.S. A common concern of parents these days is the lack of respect their children have for them. When parents act with greater self-respect and dignity, it fosters a greater level of respect from their children. Regardless of how well a person can handle his alcohol, drinking does not bring out the highest level of respectful and dignified behavior. We have to make a choice between the instant gratification of a cup of alcohol and the long-term respect our children will have for us.