Monday, February 26, 2007

Drinking on Purim; Happiness not Holelus

Purim is in the air, and most people are excited.

What a beautiful Yomtov. Reading the Megillah, gifts to the poor, food packages to neighbors, friends & relatives, and eating a festive meal. Children (and some adults) dressing up, music, noise, etc. Who doesn’t look forward to Purim?

I would like to address one aspect of Purim, which in my opinion is shifting considerably from the original intent of Chazal.

And that is drinking.

The Gemorah says that one should drink on Purim. Many interpret this to mean that one should get drunk, while many disagree. The Rema writes that one should merely drink more than he is usually accustomed to and then go to sleep. The Mishnah Brurah remarks on this, that this is the proper custom.

For whatever the reason, many people follow the opinions that one should get completely intoxicated, which of course is completely acceptable.

However, it appears that we are losing sight of the original intent of this Halacha. The Halacha was instituted so that people could experience pure and unadulterated joy over the miracles of Hashem, without feeling any of the usual constraints due to one’s inhibitions and embarrassment. When a person is drunk he tends to shed his natural shyness and can express his love for Hashem and happiness for his deeds, without looking over his shoulder.

Drunkenness that leads to rowdy and inappropriate behavior is totally beyond what Chazal intended.

Unfortunately, it is not so uncommon to see or hear of drunken people losing control over their actions. Such behavior is simply wrong, and if a person feels that getting drunk will lead him to commit acts that he will regret, or say things that he shouldn’t, then he should not be getting drunk in the first place.

This problem is especially prevalent amongst our youth who occasionally use Purim as an excuse to let loose and do whatever their hearts desire. Parents should exercise their authority in ensuring, to the best of their ability, that their children do not get carried away. All too often the actions of one drunken teenager shame the entire family.

Our focus on Purim should be on expressing happiness and gratitude to Hashem. This was Chazal’s intention, and it behooves us to endeavor to follow it.

May we all merit a happy and spiritually-uplifting Purim.


lvnsm27 said...

When people get too drunk, it takes away other people's joy which is say because we should all be able to enjoy purim and it's happy atmosphere.

socialworker/frustrated mom said...

Amen! Thanks

SephardiLady said...

Couldn't agree with you more, but one addition is that not only should the parents exercise control but the Yeshivot should give the parents the opportunity to exercise control. A parent can limit alchol consumption all they want at home, but when their children head out to the Yeshiva there is often uninhibited drinking and no supervision because the Rabbonim are drunk and can't exercise supervision.

Watch for a post by me soon on the very subject.

Simchas Purim said...

Me Keamcho Yisrael, a day we get drunk en-mass, and we have not seen in the news an arrest or disturbance.

Maybe we do need an outlet one time a year, were some rowdiness should be acceptable. Or at least a small price to pay for the vast majority who enjoy themselves and don't get rowdy.

But maybe I'm not aware of the real rowdy stuff.

The Dreamer said...

My brother had a friend who was admitted to the hospita on Purim from excess drinking and woke up a week later.

The doctors had given him a few hours to live. His mother spent most of Purim crying in the hospital.

I believe he's written a couple of articles on the subject.

Anonymous said...

I do not have the exact siman in the Orach Hashulchan, but if you take a look on the inyan of chayav inash ....the Orach Hashulchan clearly states: "chyav...vloi k'shekuroi shel loit." It is my humble understanding that this ruling of the Orach Hashulchan was written to address the concerns you raise in your excellent post.

shmaya gestetner said...

i don't find this to be such a worthy topic. there are many deep reasons for the mitzva of getting drunk on purim. its interesting to see how people who are so makpid on other mitzvos, take the easy way out on purim.
i honestly believe that anything you do while being drunk represents something inside of you. and b"h there is a big difference between a group of goyim getting drunk and a group of yidden. so if you find yourself being a rude drunk, try to work on this characteristic even when you are sober.
my minhag is to get drunk on purim, and i have consistantly had a great and uplifiting experience.
-"if you are not lenient about fasting on tisha b'av or eating marror on pesach, why be lenient with the mitzva on purim."
just because you know someone who acts like an idiot when he is drunk, or you have a cousin whos friend went to the hospital, it does not relieve you from your mitzva.
i am only saying this because i don't want you to give up on what could be a very positive and spiritual experience.
hugs and love,

Anonymous said...

who the heck put out signs against the recall in bmg and satmer

someone said...

Getting drunk is one thing which is fine, but getting sick or acting too wild is another thing.

May we have a good and enjoyable purim :)

mj said...

if by being machmir we create an environment that allows youngsters to drink and put their lives at risk- then yes we should be maykil here and not get drunk - if it saves lives. the spiritual gain that one gets from purim is not worth it, if it causes kids to gt hurt of CH"V die.
That being said I think there is much to gain from drinking on purim. Before we decide to outlaw drinking because of crazy kids we should investigate all other alternatives. Additionally, who said that if the drinkers, who can drink w/o killing themselves, stop drinking on purim that the kids will stop. and if the yeshivos dont allow the kids to come there drunk then the kids may just stay in the streets which may be even more dangerous.
So before anything is done all the angles must be investigated and thought out.

Anonymous said...

To MJ and Shmaya:
As per Anon @ 11:33am, I think some people have a difficulty in creating a line that differentiates between stam shikrus and shiker vee loit.

I think we can all agree that on Purim, one must never cross the line that divides erliche trinken and shikrus k’loit.

Shpitzle Shtrimpkind said...

which of course is completely acceptable.

I really like the way you place your point of view without ever going overboard either way.

But if you think about it from the drinker's perspective, it's not as simple. Often in a family of 'normal' drunks, it is hard to sit through Purim sober, even though one knows that he will be an 'abnormal' drunk. It can be extremely uncomfortable.

Mostly, it's the responsibility of everyone not to push, or encourage others to drinking. Many men stagger home completely wasted because someone did them a favor and got them started. Everyone should evaluate their health and self control on their own.

Independent Frum Thinker said...

Lvnsm27 –
Good point.

You’re welcome.

Sephardilady –
Very true. Not everything is in the parent’s control. Whoever is currently supervising the child must not fail in their duty.

Simchas Purim –
I am not disagreeing with you. I am merely stating that one who knows that he will act inappropriately should not allow himself to reach that point.

The dreamer –
That is truly a terrible story, and shows how unsupervised drinking can lead to catastrophic results.

Anonymous Feb 27, 11:33 –
You are referring to Siman 695. However, he doesn’t say exactly what you quoted, though he does conclude by saying (end of seif 5) that one should not get drunk.

Shmaya –
I beg to differ.
Noone is trying to take the easy way out. Getting drunk on Purim is not at all similar to being Makpid on other Mitzvos. By all other Mitzvos there is no Halachic reason to specifically not be Makpid. Getting drunk on the other hand is actually a prohibition according to many Rishonim. The Beis Yosef writes that it is an “Issur Gamur”. Hence, it is a double-edged sword.
I was not stating my own opinion; it is the consensus of the Poskim on the issue, though you may not have been aware.
Those who can get drunk and experience a spiritual boost, let them do so. Those who will act inappropriately, should not. It is as simple as that.
My post was not insinuating that one should not get drunk. I made very clear that those accustomed to do so are following the opinion of many Rishonim. All I was stressing was that if one would act inappropriately, then he should follow the opinion of those who say one is not allowed to get drunk.
My post was not written based on my personal experiences. The few times that I have gotten drunk on Purim, I have no words to describe my intense feelings. Obviously, you feel that way too, which is beautiful and wonderful. However one can not close one’s eyes to the Poskim’s warning that if one will “misbehave” he is not allowed to get drunk.
I hope I clarified my post.

Anonymous Feb 27, 3:52 –
Please stick to the topic at hand.

Someone –
Good point.

Mj –
Welcome back.
Obviously, before instituting any guidelines much thought must be invested. Rash decisions tend to result in failure to reach the intended objective.

Anonymous Feb 27, 4:44 –
Agreed, as I wrote in my comment to Shmaya.

Shpitzle –
Wow! A voice from the past!
I understand your point, and I say that from personal experience. :) Being the “odd man out” is such a terrible feeling. Yes, those goading others to drink must be more responsible. I hope I clarified the main intent of my post with my comment above to Shmaya.

Rafi G said...

I mostly agree. The drunkenness is not really the issue. When I was in yeshiva guys got drunk (never me until many years later) but it was a celebration of kedusha the way Purim should be celebrated.

Once I was out of the yeshiva, I found that in the "real world" most people celebrate Purim as sort fo a Jewish Haloween. They get dressed up in costumes that at best have nothing to do with Purim, at worst are against all jewish thought (movie characters, etc). The celebration is one of having a good time usually and not of anythign to do with kedusha. Funny jokes and the like do not make a purim celebration. I should say that even in the "real world" there are some who celebrate properly.

I have rejected invitations to join people for the purim seuda because I know the way they celebrate has little to do with purim. It is difficult to find the right crowd to celebrate with, but it makes all the difference.

shmaya gestetner said...

thank you for clarifying the issue for me. i just had an amazing insight on the inyan of getting drunk, but its too long to write. besides, this is your party.
wishing all of you the happiest purim from the depths of my soul,

simchas purim said...


Where do you draw the "rowdy" line? Meaning being rowdy enough where you claim he is not allowed to become drunk.

If you draw the line loose enough then I agree.

Anonymous said...

Your last paragraph says it the best

steve said...

Bottom line, it is illegal to serve alcoholic beverages to anyone under 21. That is the law of the land. There is a good reason for this law. It is to protect our youth from self destruction. It's about time that there is a public outcry against underage drinking and smoking. I'm tired of going out on Purim and seeing teenage Jewish boys from frum families making a spectacle of themselves in the streets. It is a major Chillul Hashem and it must stop! I hold the rebbeim and roshei yeshivos responsible for encouraging this type of illegal behavior. It is against both halachic and civil law.

Independent Frum Thinker said...

Rafi G –
Very interesting comment and you are absolutely right. Simchas Purim is a celebration of Kedusha. Anything different is not within the true spirit of the day.

Shmaya –
Thank you for the good wishes.
It may be “my party” but you can still share your thoughts. If you are uncomfortable sharing them publicly, you can always send an email.

Simchas Purim –
It’s a very hard to draw a clear-cut line. But I think everyone gets the idea. Inappropriate behavior is wrong, being overly joyous is not.

Steve –
Underage drinking is wrong, and could definitely cause a Chillul Hashem. Whoever has the ability to limit such behavior should definitely do so.

simchas purim said...

IFT, How about giving a few examples what you are talking about, can you describe some inappropriate behaviors?

I have not seen inappropriate behavior. Maybe I'm ignorant or sheltered. But I am very interested in understanding what you are referring to.

Independent Frum Thinker said...

Simchas Purim –
Relating impropriate behavior is inappropriate in and of itself. Whatever the exact details, it happens and shouldn’t.

Simchas Purim said...

IFT, wow you are Mr. Proper. So this is your secret how you stay above the quarrel. You are truly amazing. I have a lot to learn from you.

Simchas Purim!

Independent Frum Thinker said...

Simchas Purim -
Thank you, and a Freilichen Purim to you too. :)