"We are closer to G-d when we are asking the questions, than when we think we have the answers" Heschel

Saturday, February 27, 2010

To drink or not to drink?

FNQ – 5 q's of the week

With Purim only a few hours away we will all once again be faced with the ever burning and provocative question: To drink or not to drink? I think that many approach this issue in the wrong way. First of all, it isn't really a Halachic issue. That is, since there is support for everything from total abstention to total inebriation, with no clear consensus, a person has the rare opportunity to do whatever he chooses. Secondly, this is a personal choice since alcohol affects each person differently. Whether or not your Rebbe, best friend or anyone else drinks on Purim should have no impact on your own decision. These are four questions you should ask yourself before drinking alcohol on Purim. The 5th question is of a more personal nature and I will try to answer it on Tuesday.

  1. How does drinking alcohol effect you? (do you become subdued, out of control, abusive, or very holy)

  1. Is the environment you will be drinking in conducive to a spiritually positive Purim experience?

  1. Will you be around others for whom your drinking, and how you may act, could be uncomfortable and or embarrassing?

  1. Will there people around that you can depend on to help you in case your inebriated state requires it? (getting home, cleaning up vomit, etc...)

  1. Will I succeed this year in experiencing a Purim induced alcoholic high and thus merit entering the inner sanctum and Holy of Holiest which is buried deep inside of me (and inside each and every Jew)?
What do you think?

Binyamin – always looking for a good question


  1. Getting drunk on Purim so as not to distinguish between Haman Ha Rasha and Mordichai Ha Tzadik seems paradoxical to me. Purim is the quintessential battle of good over evil. It is everything that Torah teaches us. Why then would we consider it a mitzvah to place ourselves in a state of inibriation so as not to know the difference between good and evil? It is unconvincing to me that alcohol, which not only dulls the senses, but actually kills brain cells and clouds our judgment, can place one in what you have referred to as the "inner sanctum of Holy of Holiest". In fact, what excessive alcohol does is quite the opposite; it lowers us to the level of a beheima as we loose control of our speech, slurr our words, slow our reflexes and effect our ability to distinguish right from wrong. If we think about it, it was Achashverosh and Hamen who drank to inibriation at the multi-day parties, while the Jews were m'sameach on festive meals following the death of Haman and his 10 sons. We are told in Parshat Zachor to remember what Amalek did to us and later to erase his name, but not his actions against us from our memories. How can we do that if our minds are dulled to the point of an inability to differ between the goodness of Mordichai and the evil of Haman, the direct descendent of Amalek. Purim is a day where we should actually celebrate being triumphant over evil by being fully cognizant of the power of good. We should need nop coercion to be joyous through the use of alcohol. Purim Sameach. May our joy be great and natural.

  2. "...the quintessential battle of good over evil. It is everything that Torah teaches us."

    This is very true. The essence of Torah and the lives we are commanded to lead as men and women (since Adam in the garden) is to choose good over evil. And you (Mr. Anonymous), are correct that inebriation make choosing anything very difficult.

    Throughout the year we should be choosing good over evil and recognizing the victories when the good triumphs.

    On Purim we celebrate a aspect of these victories that is often glossed over - we don't *really* choose anything. As Paul Simon observed “God only knows; God makes His plans; the information's unavailable to the mortal man.” We choose our actions but we do not choose the outcome - so what are we really choosing. (See R' Jagger 23:4 "You can't always get what you want")

    Part of the miracle on Purim is that the characters did not know what would happen. There was no direct n'vuah to Mordechai of what he should do. Esther did not know that the King would spare her life. This lack of knowledge, and acting as best we can in spite, is part of what we celebrate on Purim.

    As such, the drinking and inability to distinguish is a valued aspect of the holiday. Sounds right?

  3. This is a very late response to your answer regarding drinking on Purim since Pesach is just around the corner. Unfortunately I have had precious little time to respond. WIthout being too lengthy, your response, while quaint, ignores one significant concept; namely, bechirah. According to your argument, G-D removes bechirah on Purim just so that one can get drunk. While I certainly respect the attempt, it sounds more contrived than Right. Yes, we do choose our actions and in the case of purposeful drinking with the goal of getting drunk, we also choose the outcome.