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Drinking on Purim: Holy or Wholly Irresponsible?

Religious Jews Celebrating Purim

Religious Jews Celebrating Purim
Photo Credit: Kobi Gideon/Flash90

‘Wine Enters, Secrets Come Out’

Drinking on Purim also allows us to escape from the boundaries of our intellect. As human beings, we are bound by our logic and reason. The whole year, we perceive Jewish History and our own lives in a very narrow and limited way. But on Purim, we are obligated to reveal the hidden, to see Hashem pulling the strings behind the curtain.

“Rabbah arose and slaughtered Rabbi Zeira.” In Aramaic, rabbah literally means great and ze’ir is small. Rabbah represents mochin d’gadlut – expanded consciousness and Rabbi Zeira represents mochin d’katnut – limited consciousness. When a Jew drinks on Purim, his expanded consciousness comes and slaughters his limited consciousness. Redemption and salvation are beyond human comprehension. Drinking on Purim opens one up to seeing Hashem’s Hand guiding history and feeling Hashem guiding his life.

The word the Gemara uses to get drunk on wine is “l’besumai,” literally – to become fragrant. Not stinking drunk, but rather like the incense in the Holy Temple; a sweet smelling aroma (See Megillah 10b and Chullin 139b, where Mordechai’s name hints to the myrrh in the ketoret).

The Chassidic Masters point out that the obligation is to get drunk on Purim – Purim itself that is! One need not drink very much at all to feel the simchah in seeing Hashem’s Hand guiding Jewish History and his own life.

About the Author: Rabbi Shimshon HaKohen Nadel lives and teaches in Jerusalem.


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