Sunday, August 9, 2020 -
Print Edition

Drunk on Purim?

“Did you get drunk on Purim?”

“I can fake not being drunk better than anybody.”

“No, really, did you?”

“I cannot confirm or deny.”

A little fun has been ruined by a lot of fun. It used to be that one could get drunk on Purim. Jewish law advises that one reach a state in which it is impossible to distinguish between “Cursed is Mordechai” [the hero] and “Blessed is Haman” [the villain].

OK. The dullards will advise, go to sleep. Then you won’t be able to tell the difference between Mordechai and Haman.

The lively will say: Yeah, take a drink or two!

Loosen up.

It’s only once a year.

Let the inhibitions give way to the real self.

That’s what Purim is all about: acknowledging and revealing the real self.

Which is the point of the masks. They don’t hide the real face. They are the real face.

We’re all shaped and layered by practically an infinite layering of practiced acceptables: how to speak, how to act, how to think, how to dress. With all this mannered overlay, is the real self ever really allowed to come out? Yes, once a year, on Purim.

Aided and abetted by a little liquor.

The problem is, as I say, a little fun has been ruined by a lot of fun. Things have gotten out of hand.

Witness: the explosive use of controlled substances. Drugs.

Witness: the growth of alcoholism; begun, often enough, with some “innocent” drinking on Purim.

Not to mention, the tragic deaths of young people because they were fulfilling the mitzvah of Purim, drank too much and then went driving . . .

In the old days, drinking on Purim was a fun time. No one went out driving and no one got killed. No one went on to become an alcoholic.

Gradually times changed.

Restrictions became necessary.

Fears of overdoing it were only too well evidenced by tragedies.

These days, if a drop of alcohol passes the lips of a student in certain yeshivas, that’s a ticket for expulsion.

Extremes: Go to sleep on Purim, do the mitzvah that way; or, have fun another way, but don’t drink a bit.

It’s too bad things have come to this. However, with a society in which marijuana use is, in Colorado and a few other states, legal, and in all other states socially legitimate; a society in which the list of “scripts” and “meds” grows all the time; a society in which 12-step groups for every manner of addiction blossom — in such a society, it is no wonder that those who supervise teenagers on Purim clamp down.

I do too, on my own kids.

And I’m sorry I have to.

In any event, this year we did find another way to have fun. In Passaic, New Jersey, it was snowing hard all of Purim. This was not going to stop the delivery of Purim baskets, mishlo’ach manot.

The cars were out, at about 15 mph, and the drivers were courteous.

They let people pass. They slowed down. People got stuck. Kids jumped out of cars and climbed the two- to three-foot high snow embankments to get to the front doors of houses. Snow and mud got tracked into living rooms — no choice.

People shouted greetings between cars’ opened front windows.

People fell in the snow and laughed.

People remembered previous Purims with snow on the ground, but not with snow coming down.

I enjoyed a couple of beautiful reunions with old friends I hardly ever see.

It all ended with a roaring Purim seudah meal at the home of daughter Temima and son-in-law Rabbi Avraham Shulman — whose students and congregants came to celebrate along with siblings Riki and Dr. Alex Kushnir, and many children, nieces and nephews.

I who can fake not being drunk better than anyone, even when I’m not drunk, had to drive one of the congregants, not a teenager, home.

He had a little fun.

The way it should be.

Now . . . on to Passover.

Copyright © 2015 by the Intermountain Jewish News

Hillel Goldberg

IJN Executive Editor |

Leave a Reply