Thursday, February 21, 2008

Take Cover! A Pre-Purim Rant

Yesterday was Purim koton, close enough to Purim to say what I'm going to say.

Some of you believe that you have seen me rant before. You believe you have seen me rail at some stupidity. I've let you live with that illusion because I don't think you could have faced what is coming soon. I give fair warning. My ire is getting fired up to mega-temperatures. I'm going to blow and yell and scream and that is only the opening act. Take cover and batten down the hatches because a storm such as you have never imagined is about to let loose its fearsome power.

"Wait!" you yell. "You promised there would be no ranting in Adar." Listen up folks, I have a heter for this rant. And yes, it involves Purim. "But you love Purim!" you wail. Yup, I do indeed love Purim, my Purim. What some people have done to Purim is where my fuse gets lit.

Some people talk about the spirit of Purim. And some addlepated nitwits are far more interested in the "spirits" of Purim. What is supposed to be a holiday has devolved into a yearly excuse for males to get sloshed, hammered, wasted and a good three sheets to the wind. The ugly truth is that they give themselves permission to become drunks.

And they're holier-than-thou drunks at that. "Ad lo Yodoh" is what they sneer at you when you protest. And where are their fathers, their rebbes, their roshei yeshiva? For the most part right there as a part of that merry little band of men set on self-destruction. I heard from a rebbe that one yeshiva a few years back issued instructions to the rebbeim of the yeshiva that when their talmidim came to see them on Purim, they should not have hard liquor on the table. Wine and beer were permitted "in moderation." Yup, that sure is going to solve the problem. Like you can't get drunk on wine and beer.

And just where the hell are the wives and mothers during all this debauchery? Mostly standing in the corners where they have been shoved by "Ad lo Yodoh" chanting males. That doesn't get them off the hook. My mother always told me regarding marriage "Pick your battles." This is one battle that every wife and mother should be picking.

The drinking starts out Purim night right after Megillah leining and doesn't stop until the next night at the parties all the boy's yeshivas have. Perfect recipe for disaster. Take a male who has fasted all day and then let him hit the liquor. Yup, that's a start. Now let's put some of those males into groups that are going to go around collecting for yeshivot and tzedaka organizations. And let's have the hosts in all the houses they go to to collect offer them a drink because "it's Purim after all." Let them go visit their rebbeim, where the refreshment is liquid. Let them go deliver shalach monos for their families and be "rewarded" with a shot of something fiery. It's only "one" shot after all. Let them sit down to a seudah at a groaning table filled with food, and filled with bottles. And then let them go over to their yeshivot to top off the day.

And hey, let's not worry about how old those males are or aren't--"dinai d'malchuso dinai" doesn't apply to drinking on Purim. So why not have teenagers who three days later will have no recollection of Purim or what they did on Purim. Imagine living long enough to see the wonders of an intoxicated 12 year old.

And for sure let's not worry about letting those inebriated louts behind the wheel of a car. What's an accident or two or three when it's Purim you are talking about. And please, don't talk to me about designated drivers or hiring a car and driver. Re the designated drivers, if you believe that, I have a bridge to sell you. (When wives are the designated drivers that is a different story.) Even where the driver actually never takes a drink, you think he can really concentrate when he has a car full of males who are feeling no pain? Not exactly easy to concentrate on traffic when you have a car full of boys singing shoshanas Yaakov at the top of their lungs while they clap,jump and wriggle in joy. Or when they are throwing up on themselves, the car and all the other occupants. Seatbelts? What's that?

Yup, our younger children are sure getting educated when they walk the streets in their Purim costumes and have to detour around older bochrim throwing up in some poor unsuspecting homeowner's front bushes or have to step around piles of vomit that litter the sidewalk. Yup, they sure are getting educated when excess alcohol loosens the tongues and the loshon gets to X-rated. Yup, they sure are getting educated as they watch the supposed male adults around them turning green and then with their heads buried in toilet bowls.

Just who the hell do these males think they are kidding with their religious posturing as cover for the nasty excesses of their drinking? This is the face of frum Klal that the world is supposed to see?

Wonder how they would feel about their stupidity if they had to wake up out of their drunken stupor to find out that they had killed someone? It's happened before and it will happen again unless someone, a lot of someones, pull the plug on drunk as synonymous with Purim. I had a student whose family found this out the very hard way. A teenage son, a group collecting tzedaka, a van full of inebriated males and a very bad accident. And a 14 year old and a 16 year old dead because no one had the guts to say Jews shouldn't do it this way. And oh so unfortunately this is not the only case on record. I paid a shiva call to this family and I pray to God that I should never ever have to see another mother and father looking like these parents did.

Fortunately Purim is on a Friday this year so some of the drunken revelry is going to have to be curtailed. Awww, my heart just bleeds for those poor guys who might not get to tie one on, who just might not have a three-day hangover.

It's not Purim yet but I promise you this now: I won't let up between now and then. Klal Yisroel has lots of problems that are going to require years and years before they can be fixed. Getting drunk on Purim is not one of those problems. It can be solved right here, and right now. Because women, you are going to stop being enablers and put your very considerable powers behind stopping the insanity. Yes, this is your problem too. Those of you men who don't drink at all? When you laugh at your friends' antics, when you let them do the stupid things they do then this is also your problem. And drinking men? You are going to look at what you do and finally stop hiding behind "Ad lo Yodoh." This isn't about Haman and Mordechai. This is about you. And frankly, when you put on the costume of drunkard I don't like you very much, no I don't like you at all.


Anonymous said...

I ask for a little ranting, I get a tsunami. Was going to argue with you on this one but thinking back to last year Purim I saw some of those people you are talking about. It wasn't pretty.I just don't think that one rant is going to get people to suddenly change behavior that has been around for years.

ProfK said...

If I never said this one to you then you are overdue for it: A journey of a thousand days begins with a single step. You can't spend your whole life talking about going somewhere and expect to get there. At some point you have to put your feet on the road and go. And no, you are not going to be popular with your friends if you tell them they have had enough to drink, more than enough. This isn't about winning a popularity contest.

Anonymous said...

"Fortunately Purim is on a Friday" You got to be kidding. In Israel it means Purim meshulash, i.e. three days of drinking: friday, shabbos, and sunday. If you think it's bad there, just imagine it here.
Sadly, it will take more than a few teenage rs dead to stop it. Maybe if CV'SH a big rosh yeshiva is involved in either side of an accident it will start a movement. Otherwise it's just an excuse to drink

Anonymous said...

How big a problem is all the drinking on Purim? Google gave me 104,000 hits when I typed in Purim and alcohol. Really nice to know that we can provide so much for others to read and come across on the internet.

Anonymous said...

I work with Hatzoloh. Just once I'd like to finish a Purim seudah or maybe even begin one. The calls pour in on Purim and they are mostly alcohol-related. It's the same for all the Hatzoloh groups. Anyone who thinks that because it's Purim that protects you from the affects of alcohol is just plain nuts.

Anonymous said...

Why is it that only the OU has come out in print that they are against all the excess drinking on Purim and also assuring wine at any NCSY function? Where are the letters in the yated signed by all the rosh yeshivahs? We have MADD--mothers against drunk driving. Why is there no RADD--rebbeim against drunk driving. Or maybe we need JADE--jews against drunk everything.

Anonymous said...

Do people know that if they give alcohol to someone and that person then goes and has an accident or injures someone that the person who gave the alcohol can be legally also held responsible? If you give alcohol to a minor even in a private home you have broken the law? The legal drinking age in NY is 21. Anyone ever card any of the people who come to your house collecting?

Anonymous said...

A representative of Hatzolah has gotten up to speak in shul a few shabbosim before Purim, in the last few years. He didn't make it 'pretty', or 'light'. It is a raw and pointed warning about Purim and alchohol. Several of my local Yeshivas post guards in the front of the building and don't let drunk kids in. The Roshei Yeshivas need to talk and talk and talk and give mussar shmues after mussar shmues to the boys way before Taanis Esther.
I think it would be a great idea if a Hatzolah representitive could speak at the Yeshivas too.

Knitter of shiny things said...

Not quite a Purim comment, but there are similar issues on Simchat Torah. I went to UPenn for undergraduate, and we would get a lot of YU guys coming down to campus for chag so they could drink, and they made it a lot less fun for the rest of us. Apparently UMD also has this problem.

We also had tisches with alcohol and lots of underage drinking, and I never found those pleasant, either.

I guess the main differences are 1. This was a college campus so there weren't any adults supervising us and 2. On Simchat Torah there's no issue of drunk driving, and for that matter there's not much issue of drunk driving on Purim since everyone just stays over on campus.

Also, why do people need intoxication to make things festive?

Anonymous said...

Knitter, I once asked just that question to a rav. Basically he answered me that this is a man's issue, that women can't expect to understand it any more then women can expect men to understand some women's issues. And then he tried to tell me that I should be assured that the yeshiva discusses all the inyanim of how much is too much to drink on Purim with the bochrim but it isn't done publicly because this is a private yeshiva matter.

Anonymous said...

I refuse to drive in Bkln on Purim because of all the alcohol. Even the boys who are not obviously drunk have had too much alcohol to be thinking clearly. They suddenly pop out from between cars in the middle of the block or they jaywalk or they cross against red lights. Hitting one of these boys is not what I had in mind for Purim.

Anonymous said...

You are on the money, very good here.

It is a mistake to frame this as a male-female issue though. Rather it is a responsible vs. irresponsible people matter. There are men who are on the right side of things here as well, including prominent Rabbonim.

The good news is that outrage has been mounting for years over the abuses described and the accompanying chillul Hashem, and, boruch Hashem, in recent years, there is a growing chorus of voices speaking out against it (see e.g.,,, Hatzoloh has issued strongly worded proclamations with signatures of prominent Rabbonim and Roshei Yeshiva about the problem. So you are not a lone voice in the wilderness.

The people that are irresponsible here are the same types that are irresponsible in other ways/areas, such as financially, as you and others have written about, I suspect.

It's high time we reclaimed 'frumkeit' from some of the aggressive loudmouths that have hijacked it in recent years.

Purim is not a Jewish Halloween or Carnival / Mardi Gras.

This is also a problem at certain other times of the year, e.g. on simchas Torah, but Purim makes it worse since driving is permitted then. There are also the related problems of kiddush clubs and drinking at Lubavitcher farbrengens.

ProfK said...

Do you know if that Hatzoloh declaration is available anywhere online? I would love to post it here as a public service. I don't claim to reach the world on this blog but anyone who does come should be exposed to it. Maybe other blogs would post it as well. Takes all of a few seconds and could save some lives.

The Young Israel in SI banned the kiddush clubs a few years ago and the community pretty much fell into line. And the world didn't end. A few of the clubs are still around but they have evolved into lunch on shabbos clubs and the only drinking is making kiddush before the meal--on one glass of something.

Re the links you sent me, I had actually seen those before. The YW postings both had a YNET article from Purim 2006. Here it is 2008 and it doesn't look from where I'm sitting that we have made a lot of progress.

Looking Forward said...

... I'm a boy and I don't drink on purim at all.

Its assur to get really drunk, the shulchan aruch calls it "madness and folly" and says that it does not equal serving g-d at all, in any way.

its just assur. (and its the same with the tur and all the other halachic sefarim.)

Anonymous said...

d, When you say "The good news is that outrage has been mounting for years over the abuses described and the accompanying chillul Hashem, and, boruch Hashem, in recent years, there is a growing chorus of voices speaking out against it" I wish I could be happier about that. At what point is it going to be enough years and at what point will that chorus stop growing and be full grown? Just whose tender feelings are we so worried about hurting that we can't get this thing done? It's not enough that this blog joined in condemning the alcohol problem. Where are all the other voices? The other blogs? I'll give full credit to profk for this posting but it's not enough.

Orthonomics said...

Amen. I've written about these issues in the past and it is great to see you with another home run post.

One of the teenage boys likes to tell us about the Rebbes at the Yeshiva and their states of inebriation on Purim. None of my children are old enough to get to a local Yeshiva by themselves yet and I feel fortunate. Parents should not have to expose their children to this type of behavior just because their kids looked out the window that day.

I like your post so much I will have to link to it soon. We need more voices like yours out there.

Anonymous said...

Rochelle - I agree with you, but hey, I am not the pope of the Jews. Even Mordechai of Megillah fame was not 'ratzui' to all of his brethren. I wonder - if he would come around today and tell these troublemakers to stop debasing his holiday by turning it (G-d forbid and help us) into a Jewish version of (lihavdil) Carnival/Mardi Gras/Halloween (Rachmana litzlan) - I bet some of them would tell him to get lost too.

The problem is not new, but it seems to have gotten worse in recent years. I don't think it's a coincidence that it seemingly has gotten worse at the same time that certain types of other irresponsible and wrong behavior masquerading as piety has grown, some of which has been addressed here as well. There is a connection. Not being responsible with the purse is related to not being responsible with the bottle. Not caring about what impression outsiders get is a common thread. These people at times display an 'in your face' attitude toward the outside world and those preaching seichel and menschlichkeit.

This type of behavior is not frumkeit, it's wildness masquerading as frumkeit.

Perhaps Prof. K. is not even going far enough. Maybe people should take note of Purim behavior of people connected with certain institutions and control their purses accordingly. Also, to lessen any contributions given to drunken collectors.

I don't know about the Hatzoloh declaration being online now, but it should appear again right befoe Purim in newspapers and posters.

P.S. I just saw that someone posted it at a Hatzoloh site (, but it seems to have been removed/disabled subsequently. However, perhaps if you contact the poster, you could get it that way. Also, search at that site for 'Purim' and you will see some interesting stuff.

The 'Don't get acrried away' poster is quite good, I recall seeing it. It shows someone being carried/put into an ambulance and the message is 'don't get carried away this Purim'.

Also, by the way, ad delo yada applies during the day, not Purim night.

Anonymous said...

*'Don't get carried away'

Anonymous said...

I saw that Don't Get Carried Away poster and it was good but didn't go far enough. I went to a public high school and they had a mandatory assembly and literally locked us in the room. They showed a film to us made by the state police of what drinking and driving really looks like. There was footage from real accidents and the blood and screaming wasn't just staged actors.When they show you a picture of someone your age running on the basketball court and then what he looks like in a wheelchair missing a leg you're forced to listen. Or the prom queen laughing and enjoying herself and then what she looks like laid out in a coffin.

If someone is going to vomit in the street let it be from seeing what drinking can really do to you instead of from the drinking itself.

Anonymous said...

Conspiculously absent from all the mentions of people who are against the drinking is the Agudah. They have the time to put out wedding takanos. Why not takanos for alcohol on Purim? When and where it is assur to drink. Who can drink and how much. Who is not allowed to drink. When the drinking can begin. Issurim on being in a car drunk or driving a car drunk.

Anonymous said...

Was kind of surprised to see such an open discussion about alcohol on a religious jewish blog. I admit I'm more left then right and maybe don't know all the details but it's the perception I have and lots of people who are like me have that the more religious you get the less you admit publicly to having any problems like this in the community.

Anonymous said...

Profk, I wish we could print out several thousand copies of this post and do a leaflet drop over every major Jewish area where there is excessive drinking on Purim.

ProfK said...

Be my guest and use the post any way you want. I'd even help you do the drop except that I am like one of the commenters--I won't drive in Brooklyn on Purim--I consider it "sakonos nefoshos."

Anonymous said...

A few years ago a small group of boys came collecting on Purim. It was clear that they were under the influence of alcohol. In talking to the boys my husband found out that one was a local boy and after a fwe tries my husband reached his father. He told the father to come get the boys. The father was yelling at my husband that this was Purim and what kind of a person was my husband when my husband told him to either come get the boys or he was calling the police.

When the father and mother arrived he found the boys had parked half on our driveway and half on the lawn. And there was a big dent in the front bumper that hadn't been there when the boys started out. The father apologized to my husband and the mother drove away the boys' car. Before Yom Kippur the boys father asked my husband for mechiloh for yelling at him. He also gave my husband a check for the damage to our property.

It could have been a lot worse. Somebody could have died. I only hope the father kept a better eye on his son after that.

Would we have called the police? I would hope so.

Anonymous said...

No one has mentioned it and I'm really wondering. If you are drunk can you make a brocha or daven? Can you be counted for a minyan if you are not with your full seichel? If you are just mouthing words you aren't really aware of, or maybe skip some of those words and don't realize it?

We were for seudah by a friend's house and went to chap a minyin. The aroma in the shul was enough that if someone had lit a match the shul would have blown up. Were those people really davening? Did what they said count?

I remember hearing that you can't count a blind person for a minyin. Isn't a drunk person also disabled?

If anyone knows please answer. If yes, then maybe a rosh yeshive needs to make this public.

Anonymous said...

Wondering--You cannot daven or say b'rachot while drunk.

Prof K.,

I am entirely on your side.

I note that the Rabbis are quite puzzled by the statement in the gemara about "ad lo yada," and have difficulty understanding how that can be permissible, much less obligitory. Thus, the Aruch HaShulchan devotes three long paragraphs to the various options of what that means: Drink a little more than usual and fall asleep, there may have been some song that one couldn't keep straight if a little tipsy, it means not be able to recite "Asher Heini" completely without stumbling, the halacha doesn't follow the gemara about ad lo yada (The Rambam never uses the phrase) but concedes than noe of the explanations is fully nsatisfactory.
His last paragraph is(stuff in parethesis is my clarification) : "However, Our teacher, the Beit Yosef, in his major work (i.e. the Peirush on the Tur) writes in the name of Orchot Chayim 'A man must drink on Purim, not so that he gets drunk, since drunkenness is a serious sin and, worse than that, leads to ilicit sexual relations and bloodshed and many other sins besides. Rather, he should drink a little more than his custom.' However, it is difficult, because it doesn't explain 'ad lo yada' and if he means one of the above explanations (most of which I cited above) why does he write in the Shulcan Aruch clearly implying drunkenness, and it requires investigation. An perhaps he meand ad, v'lo ad b'clal i.e. up to but not including drunkenness. In practice, one should stay far away from drunkenness and expecially from distilled spirits, which cause one to vomit when drunk, just drink a little more than usual and sleep a little."

Anonymous said...

Mike S has a good point. Maybe the first step we could all take is that there should be no hard liquour anywhere on Purim. I remember years ago my father saying that mixing different types of alcohol by drinking one and then another type is when people get really drunk and then nauseated.

Anonymous said...

You have one woman here who is listening and plans on doing something. With the seudah coming so close to shabbos I already told my boys there will be no drinking at the seudah. None. I want them wide awake and davening for shabbos with the proper kavonoh. And I'm already thinking of how to enforce the no drinking next year when I won't have shabbos as a weapon.

Anonymous said...

I've been reading your last postings with a lot of interest mostly because of how different what you are writing about is from where I live. Purim here is pretty much an at-home holiday. You go to shul for the megillah, you deliver some shalach monos but the big thing is the seudah at home. Sure there are people who drink at the seudah but that stays private and pretty much you don't hear about people getting drunk either. You sure don't see people who are obviously drunk on the streets. The kids may deliver shalach monos to their teachers and rebbes but no rebbes would dare serve alcohol to their students, not if they wanted to keep their jobs. This seems to be one area where out of town handles things better then in NY.

ProfK said...

Kalman, welcome. As a displaced out-of-towner myself I always welcome any views from "chutz la'aretz." I think you've made a very important point regarding the Purim seudah. In the larger urban areas, particularly those with one or more yeshiva gedola, the seudah has morphed into being just one of many Purim "celebrations." So much else is going on or is available that the seudah is no longer center stage.

My sister and I alternate having seudah. As the kids got older it became harder and harder to settle on what time seudah would be because of all the other activities that were also becoming "necessary." Or having to end seudah by a certain time so that the boys could make it to their yeshiva "celebrations."

For me, it's way past time to "take back" Purim and put the emphasis back where it belongs.

Orthonomics said...

This seems to be one area where out of town handles things better then in NY.

Absolutely. But even out of town has its shades. Little out of town=rarely an issues. Bigger out of town community=watch your children carefully. Big out of town community=take some decisive action.

Anonymous said...

I see a lot of comments about yeshivas and parents but where is there a call for the rabbis of shuls to get up and tell their congregants that drinking is a problem on Purim? Does the OU send out a letter to its member shuls that rabbis should discuss this? How about the Young Israel? We already know that the Aguda hasn't done this--why not? And where are the colleges? Does YU put it in writing to its students that drinking to become drunk is not what Purim is about? How about Touro? The involvement of these groups would also make a difference.

Anonymous said...

If someone is depending on alcohol to give them simcha then we have a lot bigger problem then just Purim.

Scraps said...

I'm also from "chutz la'aretz", and honestly, I never even heard of getting drunk on Purim until I left home for high school. And since I went home for Purim every year of high school, I never witnessed it until I went away for seminary. It absolutely disgusts me the way people use Purim as an excuse to get totally plastered--can you say "naval bi'rshus haTorah"?! Ugh.

Anonymous said...

Of course they can't say it Scraps. They're too plastered to do so.

Zach Kessin said...

I plan to put up a sign informing anyone who comes to my door that if they are drunk they will be shown back to the door. NO EXCEPTIONS.

Here is info on how to give a field sobriety test:

queeniesmom said...

When our Rav sent out his "Halach -gram" for Purim in bold capitol letters were "it is assur to get drunk on Purim". He has publicly stated this and has spent much time trying to convince the "bachorim" that is assur also. His problem is the more right wing the yeshiva, the more the tendency towards drinking. many families in our shul send to single sex boys schools,including himself. Intrestingly enough, my kids elem. school,MO, has been teaching that it is assur and an avera to get drunk on Purim. I was estatic to hear this from my 2nd grader and heard it parrotted from his older siblings. There is hope.
Have a wonderful Purim. B'samach!