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Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities

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Getting Into The Spirit Of Purim

Dear Rachel,

I am hoping you can help me sort out all of my mixed emotions — the result of my being alternately criticized and fawned over. While I admit to enjoying immense popularity in many circles, especially at parties and on holidays (like Purim), I also oftentimes encounter the kind whom I prove to be too much for. Unfortunately, my temperament lends itself to literally sicken people at times, at least those who don’t realize what they’re in for when they get too attached to me.

Let me clarify at the onset that hurting people is certainly not my objective. In fact, considering my tough upbringing – I’ve been left out in the cold for quite a spell, and that’s after sustaining a good pummeling earlier on – I am really very classy for the most part, and even bubbly when called for. And, in all honesty, both men and women feel relaxed with me around. Let’s just say that I am exceptionally adept at helping people unwind. I believe the younger generation calls it “hanging loose” or “chilling.”

My dilemma presents itself when I (sigh) overstay my welcome. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I’m pushy or force myself on people. At the risk of sounding arrogant, I will say that quite the opposite is true. Some people are so enamored of me that they tend to get carried away, refusing to let go. Then of course I’m the one me who ends up shouldering the blame.

By now you should have gotten quite a clear picture of what I’m all about. I realize I am what I am and that nothing you say will alter my nature, but I can sure do with some of your words of chizuk and support.

Blushing in Cabernet County

Dear Blushing,

At first let me say how deeply touched I am that you chose this column to confide your woes in. As a matter of fact, we have been in touch in the past and you have always impressed me with your mellow nature. If it is of any consolation, I have personally never experienced anything even remotely unpleasant in our interactions, you’ve invariably made me feel lighthearted in your company, and I have always found our brief tête-à-tête here and there to be delightful.

Moreover, your basic essence (or might it be effervescence?) is the stuff that has influenced the writings of the most famous of composers. Why, we need look no further than Shlomo HaMelech who authored the poignant allegorical song of love – Shir Hashirim – as eloquent testimony to the passionate relationship between the Children of Israel and their Creator. And what does he analogize that love with…? Yayin! — “Heviani el bais ha’yayin” – He brought me to the house of wine (alluding to the delight of Torah, no less)!

Surely the important role you played in Esther’s mishtei ha’yayin, the wine feast that Queen Esther devised to bring about the end of Haman, has not escaped you. Need further corroboration of your ranking? Our holy books are replete with samples… “Ein simcha ehlah b’yayin” – there is no true rejoicing without wine (Pesachim 109a). “V’yayin yesamach levav enosh” – and wine gladdens the heart of man (Tehillim 104:15).

And you ask me for words of chizuk and support? Oh my! I am almost giddy at the thought! On a sober note, there is no denying that for all your wonderful credentials you have indeed been the cause of trouble aplenty. But in all fairness, you shouldn’t be blaming yourself or feeling guilty. There is an old Chinese saying that sums it up: “Drunkenness is not the wine’s fault but the man’s.”

So let us set “man” straight, shall we? Anything but a moderate consumption of wine can have a devastating effect on every human organ. Doesn’t need to be long term heavy drinking; even short-term binges are hazardous to one’s health. Intoxication decreases blood pressure, pulse and respiration and compromises the abuser’s immune system — to say nothing of its deleterious effect on the brain that results in impairment of judgment, balance, coordination and reflexes.

Though it might take excessive amounts of alcohol over a prolonged period of time to increase the risk factor for cancer, stroke and liver disease, a large amount of rapidly consumed alcohol can, Heaven help us all, bring about coma and death.

On a less morbid note, I must hand it to you, Blushing. Who of us is not aware of your subtle yet cunning way of unlocking man’s deepest secrets? “When wine goes in, secrets come out…,” states the Talmud. I suppose that in itself (the revelations you are privy to) gives rise to your “blushing.”

Oh, and let’s not forget the time when over imbibing actually turned out to be a good thing, as when a tipsy Achashverosh unceremoniously did away with his Queen Vashti who refused his order to flaunt her beauty in public and subsequently set the stage for the ultimate miracle of Purim, with the coronation of the new Queen Esther. The rest, as they say, is history.

Speaking of history, all in all you ought to be quite pleased at the center stage you have taken throughout ours. Kiddush to sanctify the Shabbos, and as a prelude to every Yom Tov seudah, is made over your sweet nectar, extracted from the celebrated fruit of the vine. A heady privilege, to be sure!

To top it off, when Moshiach comes none other than Dovid HaMelech will proclaim with a huge goblet of wine in hand, “Kos yeshuas esah u’beshaim Hashem ekrah” – I raise the cup of salvation and call upon the name of Hashem (Tehillim 116:13).

So, Blushing, while the rest of us are advised not to “overdo it,” your cup, it would seem, runneth over.

LeChayim – to life! Simchas Purim!

About the Author: We encourage women and men of all ages to send in their personal stories via email to rachel@jewishpress.com or by mail to Rachel/Chronicles, c/o The Jewish Press, 4915 16th Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11204. If you wish to make a contribution and help agunot, your tax-deductible donation should be sent to The Jewish Press Foundation. Please make sure to specify that it is to help agunot, as the foundation supports many worthwhile causes.


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