The Shul Dinner is a great event: a celebration of your Shul; a night out with friends; some decent food; and a chance to enjoy some speeches. Sometimes I have trouble enjoying the speeches, but when I focus on the following points, it’s easier.
My Rav pointed out that the speeches are the main part of the dinner. We often take our Shuls for granted and don’t focus on how central they are in our lives. Unlike any institution, only the Shul is the place where we learn, daven, and do chesed, the three pillars on which the world stands. The Shul focused parts of the speeches help us appreciate the centrality of those activities and the Shul’s role regarding them.
Being thankful is a trait we all need to improve and the speeches contain thanks for those who keep the Shul running. We may find it difficult to personally thank those who serve, but we can be thankful in our hearts when we hear their roles mentioned. We don’t usually need help spotting imperfections, but we do need help from the speeches to focus on the goodness of those who serve.
Although looking for kavod is not a good trait, giving others kavod is a positive trait we need to improve. Rabbi Yitzchak Kirzner zt”l points out that giving kavod to others helps us to properly give kavod to Hashem. The thanks to the honorees gives them the kavod they deserve. Our paying attention to their praise allows us to partake of this noble activity from the comfort of our seats.
The last component is the speeches of the honorees. Most of us are not entertaining or gifted public speakers. However, the honorees want to take this opportunity to share. To share some Torah. Share some thoughts. Share a part of themselves. When we get past the length or delivery, we get a glimpse and a connection to the heart that they’re exposing and sharing.
I’ll be the first to admit that it’s not easy to love the speeches more than the shmorg, but I think this closer look makes it obvious that the speeches benefit us spiritually, and that’s why they’re the main part of the dinner.