Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Drunk on Purim are a "Chilul Hashem"


About three years ago, I came with a friend from the "Megillah" reading at the Breslover Synagogue in Mea Shearim and we witnessed a rather "funny" situation. We were walking through Mea Shearim Street and had almost reached Kikar Shabbat, as we saw some Chassidim throwing water out of a bucket from a balcony on one of the upper floors. Some young Yeshiva guys downstairs were soaked with water and started yelling towards the Chassidim upstairs: "We are Americans !"

As soon as they had screamed this sentence, the Chassidim brought another bucket and again spilled it over the "Americans" downstairs. My friend is Canadian and you can surely imagine that she had a great laugh. 

However, this article is not about the competition between Canadians and Americans but about drunkards on Purim. Of course, young American Yeshiva guys, never mind if Ohr Sameach or MIR, are getting totally drunk. On the other hand, the Toldot Aharon are stumbling around as well and we saw them rolling under and over the Rebbe's Tish on Shushan Purim. At the Toldot Avraham Yitzchak, a Chassid was laying half unconscious under the Rebbe's table; just keeping himself up with one arm. 

Now some Rabbis point out that drunkards on Purim are a "Chilul Hashem - Desecration of G - d". Especially when they are drunk and still driving a car.

"Ad de lo Yada" may be a Mitzvah and the Talmud says that one should drink until he doesn't know the difference between Mordechai and Haman. Mea Shearim Rabbis even tell the local women to stay at home on Erev Purim because drunk men are gathering in the street and may freak and behave immodest. 

I haven't been to Mea Shearim for a few weeks but will be next week on Shushan Purim. However, I can just imagine how many Pashkevilim must be hanging around in the neighbourhood warning against "Pritzut - Prostitution (Immodest) Behaviour". Running around drunk, maybe using drugs or doing other foolish things just because it is Purim and everything seems to be allowed. 
I can't tell you how much I hate it going through Mea Shearim on Purim and seeing all those "so holy" Chassidim behaving like idiots. Mitzvah, Purim ... whatever but never forget that G - d is witnessing all this and what impression does He get ? One of the Rabbis said that a Jew should never loose his "Devekut - Nearness" to G - d and how can one do that when he is drunk ?


  1. In Chabad, there was a minhag that on Purim, there was a lottery to select who would drink on behalf of the community. Once, it happened that the goral fell on the Rebbe. So, the Rebbe drank on behalf of the whole congregants.

    The Rebbe gave instructions that on farbrenghens and other smachos, the quantity of alcohol drank should be limited to four very little glasses. Because it isn't "chassidishe." A chosid should always be in control. Because the soul directs the body, and not the reverse.

    But concerning drinking on Purim, there are good reasons to that halacha (which I will not explain here). Now, as with everything, the problem is how we handle it.

    The source of that halacha is Megilah 7b. There are interesting things to derive from it.

    The Gemora (Megillah 7b) quotes Rovo that "one is obligated liv'sumi [Rashi - to become intoxicated with wine] on Purim ad d'loi yoda [until one cannot distinguish] between 'cursed is Homon' and 'blessed is Mordechai'". The Gemora then relates that Rabboand Reb Zeira once had the Purim meal together and became intoxicated. Rabbo rose and slaughtered Reb Zeira. The following day Rabbo prayed for Divine mercy and Reb Zeira came back to life. The following year Rabbo again invited Reb Zeira for the Purim meal. Reb Zeira refused explaining that one cannot expect miracles at all times. The authorities argue as to whether the halacha is in accordance with Rovo's ruling, that one should become intoxicated on Purim.

    Rabbeinu Efraim contends that the story of Rabbo and Reb Zeira is cited by the Gemora to show that Rovo's opinion was rejected. However, most authorities, including the Mechaber and Remo, rule in accordance with Rovo. (The Maharil, it should be noted, rules that it is desirable, rather than there being a formal obligation, to become intoxicated.)

    So you can reach both conclusions. But it is clear that even intoxicated, we ARE still responsible of our acts.

    (I have never been drunk on Purim, nor do I know a single member of our shul who drinks till being intoxicated, because the minhag of the Rebbe to chose only ONE person to drink on behalf of the community can be interpreted to mean that the Rebbe was almost against it, but made a compromise, so to speak, and to be honest, I look with pity chassidim who are drunk. Yes, for me it's not chassidishe, BUT, there are people who can drink and still remain in control. So, we cannot generalize.

  2. Notwithstanding the fact that intoxication is shown in the Torah in many places (such as with Noach and Lot) to have undesirable consequences, the Avudraham explains that the reason for becoming intoxicated on Purim is that the miracles of Purim came about through feasting and intoxication. The downfall of both Vashti and Homon occurred at feasts of wine (mishtei yayin) and Achashverosh made a feast for Esther when she became queen. It was therefore instituted that one recall these miracles by becoming intoxicated.

    R. Yosef Misaragossa, a student of the Ran, explains that in all mitzvos which recall some event or item, such as Pesach where matzos recall that the dough did not rise, and Succos in connection with which it is written "For I kept the Bnei Yisroel within succos..." we find the Torah stressed that particular item. For through pondering the item we recall the miracle.

    Similarly with Purim (which involved a greater miracle than the exodus from Egypt in that we were saved from death to life and not just from slavery to freedom), the act of drinking excessively serves to recall the great miracle, that came about through feasts of wine.

    For this reason a number of acharonim rule accordingly that the mitzva of becoming intoxicated is specifically with wine. Already Rashi, the Rambam and the Rokeach, had stipulated that wine should be used for this purpose although the Gilyonei Hashas writes that he is unclear as to why wine in particular should be required and not any alcoholic beverage.

    The Mikro'ei Koidesh provides a further reason for drinking wine on Purim - namely, that Purim needs to be a time of rejoicing - the rejoicing is through wine, as it states "wine gladdens the heart of man" (Tehillim 104).

    Indeed the Gilyonei Hashas states that when the Beis Hamikdosh is not standing the only way to rejoice is with wine.

    The Shevilei Dovid, however, rules that since there is no explicit mention of wine in the Megillah, other principal alcoholic beverages are acceptable to achieve this rejoicing.

    Rav Shmuel Kaminetzky Shlit"a and the Mishna Brurah said that drinking to the point that you are mevatel mitzvos is an aveirah. Their words are good enough.

    The main problem is not drinking, but how they behave (more often, they behave miserably) after drinking. Like I said, for ME, Purim or not Purim, it's a disgrace to chasidus to behave like animals, as we are supposed to be the "elite" of the Jewish people.

  3. B"H

    Everyone can drink as much as he wants on Purim but you should see how especially young Yeshiva guys freak out. Screaming out of their cars, throwing up. It seems like there is no limit.