Purim and Alcohol Can be a Dangerous Mix

February 12, 2014

The entire month of Adar should be devoted to expressions of joy with Purim as its climax. We celebrate in numerous ways, including reading the Megilla, offering prayers of thanksgiving, sharing gifts with friends, and giving alms to the poor. We also celebrate by feasting.

One component of feasting, is mishteh, drinking, and it is here that special caution must be taken. Our sages do tell us to drink until we cannot discriminate between “Cursed is Haman” and “Blessed is Mordechai”. This statement cannot be taken to mean that we should abuse alcohol and fall into a drunken stupor. Indeed, classic traditional sources, including the Shelah and the Yesod v’Shoresh ha’Avodah write critically of those who consume immoderate amounts of wine in what they consider a mitzvah.

In our time, when alcohol abuse has become a serious problem for our community, it has become especially important to urge all who observe Purim to do so without resorting to immoderate drinking of wine or liquor. Everyone should consult the precautionary words of the Rishonim and Acharonim as quoted by the Chafetz Chaim (Biur Halacha, 695:2): “We are not commanded to reduce ourselves to levels of drunkenness, but rather to rejoice in a manner that will lead us to the love of God.”

I myself have seen suffering and tragedy result from alcohol excess in celebration of Purim. I urge all who read this message to avoid such excesses, and to strive for a Purim of reverence and joyous spirituality. Have a happy Purim, and a “kosher” one as well.