• Rabbi Rubanowitz

Purim - “Where’s my drink? I can’t see! A Purim Chiddush”


We all know the famous/infamous command of Purim: “One must become intoxicated until he knows not the difference between cursed is Haman and Blessed is Mordechai”. (Talmud, Megilla). Much ink has been spilled on understanding this “Jewish drinking Mitzva” of getting hammered on Purim. It defies logic for so many reasons. One would have to be really, really drunk to not know the difference between say, Hitler and Churchill, wouldn’t we? Let alone the difference between Hitler and a Tzaddik like the saintly Chafetz Chaim! For modern times, would that mean we should get so plastered that we walk right into the heart of Gaza offering every sworn terrorist a L’chaim? And what about all the Mitzvos, the commandments we could so easily abandon while being smashed? Praying? (on time?) Damaging property? Remembering about G-d, Loving him…, being “conscious” in our Judaism and practice?

Here is a radical idea. The Talmud does not wish us to lose our identity and ourselves through the escapism of inebriation. Rather, the Talmud seeks us to lift the cloud sufficiently so that we find clarity and vision amidst a hazy world. To know who we are and what we stand for. To escape our day to day just enough to see ourselves and everyone a bit more clearly. It is so easy for us, especially us of American sensibilities, to say: “live and let live”. I’m ok you’re ok”. It’s a melting pot. To celebrate “Chrismikkuh”, and to bumper-sticker Rose Avenue with “Coexist” signs (see pic below). Too many of us like to be Mordechais -but with a “touch” of Haman. Let’s be Othodox, but not so much that our friends notice it. Let’s be spiritual but embrace materialism for “balance”. Says the Talmud: on Purim, remember that the Germans, the Hamans never forgot who we are. Mengele’s hand wouldn’t waiver because someone lit up a Hannuka Bush instead of a Menorah. Super clarity is what we seek: that we untangle the scurried and blurred lines. In this age of the “global citizen”, Haman and Mordechai cannot share the same identity. One must realize that indeed there is no actual difference between Blessing Mordechai and Cursing Haman. If Mordechai is blessed-that’s an automatic curse for Haman, and vice versa. Hamans and Mordechais, Israelis and Amalekites (those who wish us eliminated from the face of the earth), simply don’t get to share the same Kiddush cup.. May we all merit clarity of vision to know and see ourselves for who we are and what we stand for-this Purim and forever!

Good Shabbos and a Freilichen and Happy Purim!