Lots of j-bloggers are taking on the issue of drinking on Purim. Looks like most (but not all) of them are heartily opposed to getting drunk.

In the the Gemara (Megillah 7b), Rava says that a person has an obligation to drink until he can’t distinguish between arur Haman and baruch Mordechai. This formulation is cited by the Rosh, Tur, and Shulchan Aruch. The Rambam modifies it slightly, indicating that a person should drink until he becomes drunk and falls asleep from drunkeness (Laws of Megillah 2:15). It’s not clear to me whether the Rambam is being lenient or stringent relative to the quantity one must drink.

Many later commentators and poskim ‘clarify’ the matter to largely limit your drinking responsibilities. This is not the place to comment on the role of external values in determining halacha (not for me anyway, but feel free to use the comments section as you wish – Ha-comments ka-dat, ein ones), nor do I want to get into a denomination-bashing flame-war with anyone.

All I want to say is this. 99% of the troubles with drinking stem from unsupervised drinking among teenagers. Yes, there are exceptions, but there will always be exceptions, and I don’t think it is reasonable or appropriate to take extreme measures in a doomed effort to solve everyone’s problems (it’s that tail-end of a normal distribution, rearing its ugly head, er, tail, again). The ‘problem’ of alcohol on Purim is not a problem of alcohol, but of lack of supervision over young drinkers.

Parents, Yeshivot, friends, and neighbors, take note! Be present. Make sure that people with medical training are present. Keep plenty of bottled water around, and distribute it freely. Make it clear to teens that they will be held responsible for the consequences of their actions. Confiscate car keys and arrange for designated drivers. Put away power saws and other heavy equipment. Carve out a communal space for those who need to decompress and sober up for a while. Make contact with local law enforcement and reach appropriate arrangements with them. The way I see it is you have to love the mitzvah enough not only to do it right (and my apologies to the various poskim, but having a shot and taking a nap ain’t doing it right!) but to prepare for it right also!

The goal is to be drunk safely. It’s an achievable goal. It’s a religious goal. It’s my goal, and I hope you’ll all join me. Have a drink, it’s Purim!

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