Thursday, February 18, 2010

In the Spirit of Purim

This year Purim will fall out on Sunday, February 28. For many people this is a wonderful thing. Because most people will not have to worry about going to work and then having a seudah, the day will be more relaxed. That's the good part. The not so good part is the part that takes some of the pleasure out of the day for me: alcohol.

Now, I could let loose with a really strong rant here--and I've done so before-- and I could tell you what the Rambam says about drinking on Purim-- and I've done so before. But I won't rant at you (at least not much) this year. Instead I'm going to appeal to the adult in all of you to give some thought to what you really gain by getting drunk on Purim, and what you lose.

Here's what you gain, if you can call it a gain: a few hours of being anesthetized such that you have no idea what is being said and done around you nor any idea of what you are saying and doing. Oh joy.

Here is what you lose: everything not covered in what you gain. If you're a parent, you lose the right to be considered an upright and outstanding role model for your children. Your self respect gets flushed down the toilet along with the inevitable vomiting. You miss out on all the joy of the holiday, of participating fully. If you take your guests along with you on your inebriated journey, you surely don't get host of the year award. You really think you have celebrated Purim the way it should be celebrated when the next day you are hung over and can't remember quite what you said and what you did the day before? You think you make a cute drunk? Think again! There is no such thing as a cute drunk.

There will be no drunks at my Purim table because that is not what Purim is about. There will be no shots of anything poured in my house for those boys who come collecting. Yes, there will be a glass of a fine wine--that's ONE glass--at the start of the seudah--and that's for the grownups, those legally allowed to drink. When people think back to my seudah they will actually be capable of remembering what went on.

The choice to act in an adult manner is yours to make. The choice to be a responsible adult is yours to make. All I can hope is that you make that adult choice not to get sloshed on Purim. You haven't got a halachic leg to stand on, and frankly, society doesn't much love a drunk.

Perhaps this year that vaunted fine behavior that Klal is supposed to be noted for will actually be visible among the males.


Anonymously said...

Was wondering when this was going to show up. As always I agree 100%. Last year a male guest who was drunk even before he got to seudah vomited all over my sister's carpeting. Ruined the seudah for everyone. My sister was mad enough to send the couple a bill for the carpet cleaning. There's no excuse for the drunkenness and that we tolerate it at all means we are as guilty as the ones getting drunk.

rejewvenator said...

There is some space between "one glass of fine wine" and "vomiting on the carpet". I mean, if being drunk is no fun for you, that's fine, but to have one day a year where it's ok to be drunk (if not to be falling-down drunk) isn't the greatest tragedy in yiddishkeit.

For more, see my post from a couple years back

lion of zion said...


i agree with the post, but i think your logic will mostly fall on deaf on ears as far as the drunkards are concerned. for example, you write, "you lose the right to be considered an upright and outstanding role model for your children." but they wouldn't agree with you this decreases their value as a role model. etc.

"Yes, there will be a glass of a fine wine--that's ONE glass--at the start of the seudah"

your seudah doesn't need booze to make it enjoyable. hungarian cooking does that job just fine on its own. (you see,some things from der heim are worth preserving!)

Ruth said...

rejewvenator, going to take exception to this "but to have one day a year where it's ok to be drunk (if not to be falling-down drunk) isn't the greatest tragedy in yiddishkeit." Once started on the drinking how many of those drunk men can stop or will stop before they get falling-down drunk? Once on the road they complete the journey. Shall we talk about really young men and yes some who are nothing but boys who also travel on this road, without the sense or maturity to know when enough is enough? Who get into cars and drive because they only have a little "buzz." And for a lot of these people it's more then one day a year. They find enough other times to excuse the drinking--it's a kiddush, it's a simcha, it's only a "few" drinks, it's simchas Torah, it's a yom tov etc.. Hell for some of them it's just being Tuesday is enough of an excuse.

Because wine is a part of Shabbos and yom tov and mostly all simchas the frum community has never really developed an effective way to deal with alcohol abuse and its abusers. Yes, we really do have some people with alcohol problems in the frum community and some who could go either way. Purim just focuses the problem and makes it super visible.

Anonymous said...

Not saying I don't agree with you but the relationship between men and alcohol, men and getting drunk has been there for just about forever. It's in the frum community and the secular world too. The men view this as something that is particularly their own. They aren't going to listen to any women who butt into what they consider male business. Even the men who don't get drunk tend to excuse the ones who do.

Plenty of fathers who introduce their sons to drinking and honestly use the excuse that it's better they should drink where I can see them then to drink where I can't.

You don't see the rabbis in unison saying no drinking because so many of them are doing it themselves or don't see anything wrong with what they seem to call drinking in moderation--which it isn't.

Come on, can you imagine a woman's having come up with drinking and ad lo yodah?

Sara said...

An interesting point anonymous. In the outside population you do see enough women with alcohol problems to get a useable figure. It's nowhere near as high as the males with such problems but it is clearly there. In the frum population you can't get any handle on if there are alcohol abusers among the women. If there are they remain well hidden. I have never seen a drunk frum woman in public and I imagine that your readers haven't either.

So yes alcohol and the attitude towards it really applies to the men only. I have to agree with Ruth above that the problem is not limited to Purim only. If it were that would be fairly simply to handle. Watch bochrim at any simcha where alcohol may be served and you see the problem in action. What is a kiddush club if not an excuse for drinking? Sure doesn't add anything to shabbos.

rejewvenator said...

Ruth, the alcoholism and drunkenness have a lower incidence among Orthodox Jews than nearly every other ethnic community. I believe that this is because we drink on shabbat and yom tov! Since we drink as part of holy occasions, we know that it's not ok to "complete the journey", as you put it, to get really drunk. Instead, we learn to drink in moderation. On Purim we are supposed to break out of that urge for moderation (all due respect to ProfK's read of the poskim, but most do require mamash drinking) and get drunk for gosh sake. It's a normal human experience that doesn't lead to some slippery slope of booze-houndedness.

Your points regarding drunk driving and such are well-taken, and as I wrote in my blog, we must make proper preparations to be drunk, which includes making a safe environment for drinking, having designated drivers, and properly supervising younger men.

Anonymous said...

Please don't make it all males that are in favor of the drinking. I'm male and I just don't get it. Can't stand the taste of hard liquor at all and never touch the stuff. It's hard enough to get down the required amount of wine for shabbos. Don't find anything so special in the taste.

I only once was kind of forced by friends to drink more then I wanted on a Purim. I wasn't drunk. I guess the moderate someone else mentioned. I didn't get sleepy on the drinking but I got a miserable headache, my stomache was woozy and it took way too long to get over it.

And no matter how many times I've learned it I still don't understand why we would be told to get drunk enough to not know Haman from Mordechai. It just doesn't fit into the kind of behavior that we're supposed to have.