Following the precedent set last year, my sermon for the Shabbat before Purim was delivered in rhyming couplets. I’m also pleased to report this one was equally well received.
Rabbi Josh Yuter delivers a class of his classic 2004 post Drinking on Purim
Happy Shushan Purim to All! All is well in YUTOPIA, some quick updates: In a nice case of v’nahafoch hu, I recovered the previously lost comments Moving back to the…
Just got an e-mail from SawYouAtSinai shilling for www.purimbaskets.com: This Purim, send your Basherte [sic] a beautiful Purim basket from PurimBaskets.com Choose from an assorted array of elegant Purim baskets…
Apologies to the Loyal Readers for the lack of Purim shticks this year. I have too much real work to do at the end of the quarter, so it’s just…
הָקִיצוּ שִׁכּוֹרִים וּבְכוּ וְהֵילִלוּ כָּל שֹׁתֵי יָיִן עַל עָסִיס כִּי נִכְרַת מִפִּיכֶם:
because of the sweet wine, for it is cut off from your mouth” (Joel 1:5)
Before I get to the shticks this year, I want to write about the dangerous practice of drinking on Purim. Each year, some people overdo it and wind up sick, hospitalized, or worse. The problems are exacerbated by Rabbis who encourage and sometimes force students to drink regardless if the students have the alcohol tolerance or are of the legal drinking age.
On the other hand, the Talmud seemingly requires excessive drinking; in which case, even 13 year olds would be obligated. Lets begin with the relevant passage from Megillah 7b:
This is loosely translated as “Rava said: a man is obligated to get drunk on Purim until he does not know the difference between “cursed Haman” and “blessed Mordechai.” This of course, requires an immense degree of intoxication. Some major halakhic works simply cite this dictum without qualification (Rif 3b, Shulhan Aruch Orach Hayim 795:2). Consequently many take this statement at face value, and therefore drink and encourage others to get inebriated, under the assumption that they are fulfilling a rabbinic commandment.
I’ve found several sources on the web which deal with this issue in one way or another, but I’ve found most of them to be lacking in real analysis. What I will show here is that while this statement might be obligatory, it does not require the degree of drinking which is commonly practiced.
(For readability, I will be sacrificing some precision in translations).