No, Purim hasn’t come again, and yes, I’ve already defended drinking on Purim once. But I was moved to comment on a post by Renegade Rebbetzin (and was unable to do so on her blog for technical reasons, so now you all get to see it here).

RenReb’s post is a little long and disjointed, so I’ll just snip out the relevant parts here:

I was recently asked if Orthodox Jews practice female genital mutilation. After they revived my limp form and lifted it off the floor, I had it explained to me that someone’s Jewish, but non-affiliated, relative was invited to a “Britah” to celebrate the birth of a daughter. After I finished vomiting, it was further explained to me that the non-affiliated relative essentially went insane and began telling everyone he encountered that his crazy Orthodox relatives were going to mutilate their baby girl. This was because the relative had heard of a “brit” and assumed that “britah” is the female equivalent. And what would the female equivalent be, again?

Exactly.

RenReb goes on to express her strong feelings regarding drinking on Purim:

Anyone who purposely and deliberately gets more than slightly drunk on Purim and thinks that this is even remotely ok is an idiot.

Anyone who is responsible for the welfare of children/teenagers and allows THEM to get drunk on Purim OR AT ANY OTHER TIME is a despicable, blind, brainless fool.

Anyone who is responsible for the welfare of children/teenagers and allows the children/teenagers to get drunk on Purim or at any other time and then allows the children/teenagers to run around unsupervised is an unfit parent/guardian, a menace to society, and a criminal, and should be arrested and should have the children/teenagers permanently removed from their supervision.

I don’t understand why people treat this as a topic for “discussion,” in the form of elegant prose about the true meaning of Purim, etc. There is no “discussion” to be had here. You don’t allow children to get drunk, period. You don’t allow teenagers to get drunk, period. And you don’t allow anyone, regardless of their age, to get drunk and then run around on their own. This is because people who are drunk are likely to not be capable of sound judgment and responsible behavior. As such, they might get hurt, or die, or cause someone else to get hurt or die. And this is not a good thing, causing people to get hurt or die. Agreed? Good.

It was the juxtaposition of these ideas that got me thinking. RenReb is horrified by female genital mutilation (FGM), but is entirely accepting of male circumcision. Let’s not have any misunderstanding here. FGM is not comparable to male circumcision in that FGM has awful long-term consequences, whereas circumcision appears to have mildly beneficial consequences (including providing some protection against AIDS!).

Back to RenReb. She’s anti-FGM, pro-circumcision, and anti-drinking. She couches her opposition to drinking in terms of the potential consequences – the harm that could befall the drinker. But if the problems are the consequences, why do we circumcise our children? Surely, circumcision causes great harm and pain to an innocent baby, literally leaving him scarred for life! This is precisely the sort of consequence that RenReb fears will befall the drinker, and the reason why she opposes drinking. And let’s not be naive – unfortunately, some babies do not have smooth recoveries, and tragedy has struck, incomprehensibly, those families who adhere to this sacred rite.

Judaism demands faith in God in a very practical sense. That means trusting in God’s protection when we do mitzvot, even as we acknowledge that God sometimes makes other calculations. We do our best to limit our exposure, by delaying a sickly infant’s circumcision, for example, but we do not abandon practices and abrogate mitzvot because the potential for harm exists. I appreciate RenReb’s desire to keep children (and adults) from the harmful consequences of indiscriminate drinking, but I advocate for responsibility over abstinence, and for faith over fear.

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