Monday, March 17, 2008

Drinking on Purim

The OU posted an article called It is Not a Mitzva to Get Drunk on Purim. While I do understand the consequence of the crazy drunken teenagers (and adult men) I absolutely despise the idea that the OU is in a sense reversing halacha because they seem to fail in their child disciplinary skills.

The article itself does not make sense at all. Rabbi Weinreb was not denying the halacha of getting drunk on Purim "One is obligated to become intoxicated on Purim until one cannot distinguish between Haman and Mordechai (Talmud, Megillah 7b)." But was rather saying that we should ignore this halacha because it may endanger lives.

Here is a piece of his article:

The fundamental rationale of our opposition to alcohol consumption by teenagers on Purim is the fact that drinking often leads, especially among youngsters, to serious medical consequences. It is instructive that among the strong supporters of our campaign have been members of Hatzoloh, the rescue and ambulance corps, who report that Purim does not go by without incidences of toxic reactions to alcohol requiring emergency treatment, to driving accidents, and sometimes even to deaths.

These considerations of health and pikuach nefesh (the saving of lives) easily transcend whatever mitzvah might be involved in drinking on Purim. Secondly, and very important, is the fact that it is against the law for an adult to knowingly provide alcohol to individuals who are under age. While there may be exceptions when wine is served for ceremonial purposes, clearly that exception assumes that no more than a symbolic quantity is ingested. Teachers or rebbeim who supply minors with wine or liquor on Purim are in violation of the law of the land.

I personally think that this is yet another case of inconsistency amongst frum people. Firstly, they often say everything goyish is bad (generally) and so therefore we should not follow in their ways. However, after bar mitzvah a boy is considered a man by Torah. By Torah the concept of "teenager" doesn't really exist (yes theres the whole "trial" thing until 20, but its not the same). If one goes by Torah, the concept of teenager shouldn't exist either. Therefore, banning alcohol for teenagers (or boys over the age of 13) only makes it harder for them to fulfill their mitzvah to get drunk on Purim.

I am by no means advocating that these boys be allowed to drink as much as they want (partially because of the law he mentioned) but I think a ban is the wrong way to go. In my humble opinion, frummies should learn to properly discipline their children as well as properly educate them (those yeshivos teach them NOTHING about real life nevermind anything about alcohol poisening). Basically, I am suggesting (though this is definitly too late) that prior to Purim boys yeshivos should take a few hours off from "learning" and learn about the risks of alcohol. Also, like any other yom tov, boys should be OFF from school (I know they are, but I mean the often mandatory visits to rebbeim) and not forced to come in for chagigah's or seudos with rebbeim. If they are at home, they are more likely to behave.

I just really don't understand the concept of banning anything. Why not be simple and tell the boys "boys, while it is a mitzvah to get drunk, it is simultaneously a sin to put your life at risk." The "good boys" will listen, the bad ones will not.

However, these same "bad boys" will ignore this ban anyway, and be the ones vomitting in the streets, while the "good boys" will be completely sober without the fulfillment of a mitzvah.

Way to go. I see the headlines of the future-

"Bread is now allowed on pesach- even though it is prohibited by the Torah- because the excessive amounts of cholesterol being consumed by the average Jew exceeds the amount the body can break-down on any given week, therefore, any man over the age of 45 is prohibited from keeping pesach. By allowing bread consumption these men will not feel as hungry as they would on a regular pesach, which would prevent them from their natural tendency to take an extra bowl of soup or another peice of steak on pesach. And it is because we know that the men will not listen when given appropriate dietary pesach-friendly ideas that we have to go through with this ban"


Child Ish Behavior said...

If you live you must die. To prevent death you must not live. The logic is flawless. So don't live it up, because in the end you may barf it up and that could lead to a slow death by way of heartburn. With this logic in place we are well on the way to matering driving on shabbos for people with aches and pains who can't walk to shul.

Jessica said...

OU may be making too harsh of a decision, but at least they're trying to do something about the underage drinking. OU is very respected so maybe them taking a stance will make other people rethink their underage son's drinking and actually explain the dangers to them.

And its not just yeshivish boys who are getting drunk on purim. Modern orthodox are too and they have just as little warning about alcohol as the yeshivish ones do.

Moshe said...

Here's an interesting custom I've heard of, you may substitute sleeping for a few hours for drinking because while you're sleeping you also don't know the difference between Haman and Mordechai. This goes hand in hand with another ridiculous custom of eating a head of lettuce on Rosh Hashana because now not only sheep is too disgusting but so is fish.
Obviously everyone forgot about the rabbi who drank 4 cups and would have a headache for half a year.

frumskeptic said...

"And its not just yeshivish boys who are getting drunk on purim. Modern orthodox are too and they have just as little warning about alcohol as the yeshivish ones do."

I know modern guys get drunk on Purim as well. However there is a huge difference btwn the stereotype modern guy and the stereotype yeshivish guy.

The modern guy would not listen to this ban anyway. And the modern guy is most likely more aware of the consequence of alcohol poisoning, either from TV or just because he had some sort of world experience outside of his sheltered life. He was more likely to read books that were secular that had alcoholics in it or something of the sort.

The yeshiva guy would not learn this because his family does not allow for TV watching (aside from disney and nick jr or PBS) and is unlikely allowed to read secular books.

If the modern guy gets drunk, he more likely is AWARE of the consequence.

Orthoprax said...

"Firstly, they often say everything goyish is bad (generally) and so therefore we should not follow in their ways."

Dina d'malchuta dina?

In any case, binge drinking is distinctly dangerous and it's a foolish thing to have enshrined in Halacha. It's only by virtue of the Orthodox establishment that makes getting wasted on Purim an acceptable night activity which requires the same Orthodox establishment to publically counter its consequences. I think it's good that some of the establishment is taking responsibility for how people are interpreting Halacha.

This holds no similarity to your Pesach example.

Jessica said...

If the modern guy is aware, he definitely doesn't show it. guys go crazy on purim no matter what their denomination. i know of a modern guy who drank an entire bottle of jack daniels on purim (and i married him, lol). being aware and actually taking those precautions to heart are two different things. its a maturity-level thing, not a religious-level thing.

Anonymous said...

"frummies should learn to properly discipline their children as well as properly educate them" Oh well, now you're just asking for too much! You start with education and discipline regarding controlled substances and before you know it you're on a slippery slope to teaching sex ed to frum boys and THEN what? They start getting ideas god forbid which could lead to independent thought and oh, the mind just boggles ;o)

Moshe said...

Will someone please think of the children!

Dave said...

Perhaps it's worth remembering that the quote is "Abayi bar Abbin and R. Hanina bar Abbin used to change their meals on Purim. Said Rabha: A man is obliged to intoxicate himself on Purim, till he cannot distinguish between cursed be Haman and blessed be Mordecai.
That's "Don't get wasted - just drink enough so you switch between cheering your own side and booing the opposition."

Jewish Sceptic said...

I recall the mishneh brurah relates a story about rav zeira and rabah, and how they got drunk and it ended with the death of rav zeira. i think that's pulled from a gemara in megilah.

Besides, one's never allowed to get drunk...must always remain in control. Same reason you can't get high. Apparantly...

Anyway, I skimmed through this article, looks like it may be interesting...

Moshe said...

Actually, you're supposed to be drunk enough that you don't see the faults of your Jewish brethren. Also, when a person is drunk, his negative traits come out so when you get drunk you'll see what you need to work on for next Purim.
If you have a person who, when he gets drunk, starts to behave very badly, he shouldn't get that drunk.
I got drunk pretty much every shabbat and on Purim I've had years with complete memory loss. However, I've never done anything that I'd have to regret afterwards.
Btw, what's wrong w getting high?