לא שישתכר, שהשכרות איסור גמור ואין לך עבירה גדולה מזו, שהוא גורם לגילוי עריות
ושפיכות דמים וכמה עבירות זולתן
One of the Mitsvot of Purim is the celebration of the Mishte, the Purim banquet. During the day of Purim, Thursday March 24th, usually in the afternoon, we have Se’udat Purim, a festive meal in which we eat, sing songs and rejoice expressing our gratitude to Bore ‘Olam for our salvation from the evil decree of Haman.
It is customary to serve alcohol at this banquet (MT Megilla 2:15) to celebrate our salvation, but we should drink in moderation.
In his book “Orhot Hayim” the Rosh (1250-1320) writes.
“[Although alcohol is served during the meal of Purim] one should not get drunk, because getting drunk is a serious prohibition, and actually there is no greater transgression, because drunkenness leads a person to act with promiscuity, and it might even cause a person to kill another person [involuntarily] or other similar [serious] transgressions. “
Maimonides (1135-1204) clarifies that we drink in Purimveyeardem beshijrut, “until you feel sleepy by the effects of alcohol.” Alcohol in moderation can make you feel sleepy because it is a muscle relaxant and has sedative effects.
For Maimonides excessive drinking to induce drunkenness is a serious misconduct, and the effects of alcohol can cause the gravest sin in Judaism: “Hillul HaShem” (desecration of the name of God). In Mishne Tora De’ot 5:2 he writes: “… kol hamishtaker whoever gets drunk, is committing a deplorable sin, [intoxication] causes a person to lose his wisdom. And if [a Tora scholar] gets drunk in front of people (‘am ha-arets) he has desecrated the name of God (חלל את השם).
We, the Jewish people, should be the happiest people in the world because we were chosen by HaShem, and because we have the opportunity to be closer to Him, studying His Tora and doing His will. In addition, we are happy in Purim because HaShem, fulfilling His promise that He will never let the Jewish people disappear, rescued us from a great danger. Our happiness should come from this awareness, not from alcohol.
Now, what if we are not yet in that spiritual and intellectual level, and we still need some external stimulus to be happier? What can we do to enhance our joy during Purim?
Maimonides explains very clearly that our personal happiness increases when we “give” to others. When we share what we have with those who have less. In MT Megilla 2:17 he clarifies how we should become happier in Purim: “There is no greater and more sincere happiness that bring happiness to the poor, orphans, widows and strangers [Because] the person helping poor people to feel happy, is imitating the actions of HaShem [middame bashekhina] since HaShem revives the spirit of the poor and the hearts of the oppressed” (Yesha’ayahu 57:15).
Purim should not be used as an excuse for excessive drinking. “In these days”, declares Rabbi Weinreb, a leading Orthodox Rabbi in America “when so many of our young people are prone to experimentation with dangerous substances, it behooves us to warn against the dangers of alcohol, especially on Purim… We are not commanded to become drunk, to look foolish and to lose self-control…rather we are commanded to become joyous in a manner that results in love of God and thankfulness for God’s miracles.”
May we all have a happy and sober Purim!!!
Tomorrow we will observe Ta’anit Esther, the fast day before the celebration of Purim. As we will explain BH tomorrow, fasting begins in the morning and ends at night. In New York the fast will begin at 5.42 am