Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Texts on intoxication and Purim: Beyond עד דלא ידע

(Crossposted to Jewschool.)

Talmud Bavli, Megillah 7b:

אמר רבא מיחייב איניש לבסומי בפוריא עד דלא ידע בין ארור המן לברוך מרדכי רבה ורבי זירא עבדו סעודת פורים בהדי הדדי איבסום קם רבה שחטיה לרבי זירא למחר בעי רחמי ואחייה לשנה אמר ליה ניתי מר ונעביד סעודת פורים בהדי הדדי אמר ליה לא בכל שעתא ושעתא מתרחיש ניסא

Rava said: A person is required to become intoxicated on Purim until he does not know the difference between “Cursed is Haman” and “Blessed is Mordechai”. [This is where most people stop reading.]

Rabbah and Rabbi Zeira had a Purim feast together. They became intoxicated. Rabbah got up and slaughtered Rabbi Zeira. The next day, he prayed for mercy and revived him. The following year, [Rabbah] said to him “Come, let’s have a Purim feast together.” Rabbi Zeira said to him, “A miracle doesn’t happen every time.”

Ran, ad loc.:

ומחיחייב לבסומי עד דלא ידע מאי קאמר וכתב רבינו אפרים ז”ל מההוא עובדא דקם רבה ושחטיה לר’ זירא כדא’ בגמ’ אידחי ליה מימרא דרבא ולא שפיר דמי למעבד הכי

“A person is required to become intoxicated until he does not know” - what does this mean? Rabbeinu Ephraim wrote: From the incident in which Rabbah got up and slaughtered Rabbi Zeira (as we have said in the Gemara), Rava’s statement is rejected, and it is not appropriate to act thus.

The Ba’al Hama’or quotes the same statement of Rabbeinu Ephraim, adding the line “ולית הלכתא כוותיה” = “the halacha is not like him [Rava]”. (Rabbeinu Ephraim may not be such a big name, but the Ran and Ba’al Hama’or don’t cite any other opinions on this issue, so they are agreeing at least implicitly.)

So even if you think that drinking on Purim is a “mitzvah” (a highly dubious claim), if you’re going to observe a Purim mitzvah to excess this year, my recommendation is matanot la’evyonim.

Happy Purim!

1 comment:

  1. It would also be hard to go too far wrong by distributing excess shalach manot, or by inviting a big crowd to your seudah.