Alcohol On Purim - חייב איניש לבסומי בפוריא

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Yom Kippur is a day like Purim (Yom K – Purim), yet the two days could not be more diametrically opposed.

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חייב איניש לבסומי בפוריא – Alcohol on Purim


Yom Kippur is a day like Purim (Yom K – Purim), yet the two days could not be more diametrically opposed. On the one we fast, pray and dress in white like angels and on the other we get dressed up and party and some even behave like animals.

Abudraham (14c Spain) asks a poignant question concerning Seudat Purim. How can it be possible that the Rabbis instituted inebriation on Purim when on the few occasions that wine is mentioned in the Torah it is with negative consequences? Noach and Lot are prime examples of this. The reason is that all the miracles of Purim were connected to wine and partying. Therefore there is an obligation to drink on Purim because this enables us to remember the great miracle that happened. This is similar to Seder night. On Seder night not only do we retell the story of the Exodus but we also actively do things to recall and remember the Exodus. We eat Maror to remind us of the suffering and bitter times and Matza to remind us that we left Egypt in a hurry. Yet there is a significant difference because wine and inebriation can lead to failure and sin. This is the reason that Chayye Adam states that if a person knows that drinking will lead him to slight or snub the mitzvoth then it is better that he does not drink.

What is the essence or importance of drinking wine on Purim? There is a fascinating discussion between Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai and his students (Megilla 12a) which sheds light on this question. They asked him why the entire generation, at the time of the Megilla, were punishable by death and they themselves responded that the reason was that they ate and drank at Ahashverosh’s seuda. What was so wrong with participating in the seuda? Since when has eating at a non-kosher function or at a kosher but not glatt kosher function been punishable by death? They transgressed a negative commandment and that is a serious offense but a decree of death? A closer look at the seuda will shed some light on the severity of the sin. ‘In those days when Ahashverosh sat on his throne” and “in the third year of his reign” are descriptions of the time of the seuda. The Gemara questions whether this took place at his coronation or in the third year of his reign. This difficulty is settled by the fact that he celebrated in his third year when he was sure that he was king and his mind was at ease. Why was the third year so important? Yirmiyahu prophesied that the exile in Babylon would last seventy years (ch 29) and Daniel (ch 9) explains that the exile would last seventy years after the destruction of Jerusalem. According to Ahashverosh’s calculations the seventy years ended in the third year of his reign. The ‘glatt kosher’ seuda in which Ahashverosh clothed himself in the priestly clothes and used the vessels from the Bet Mikdash was a celebration that the Jewish people would no longer be redeemed as the prophecies had not come true.

Maharal (אור חדש) explains that Ahashverosh felt on top of the world. He had a party for half a year to enrage Hashem and the Jews joined in!!! They raised a toast to King Ahahverosh and declared that they would be staying in the galut – a chillul Hashem. To celebrate, party and rejoice the concept and reality of galut when the redemption has begun is a chillul Hashem and justifies the explanation of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai's students that the generation was worthy of the decree of destruction.

This year drink to the times that we are experiencing – ראשית צמיחת גאולתנו and forty years of a reunified Jerusalem.

חג פורים שמח



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