The music is loud. The place is crowded, with hundreds of teenagers of all ages. Some are dancing; others lounge around. Kids are drinking- vodka, red wine, white wine, beer- anything they can get their hands on. Most take a few sips, just to get a little tipsy, while others polish off shot after shot. One teen has passed out, and lies on the floor. Outside, some are smoking cigarettes. Many are setting off firecrackers and exploding glass bottles. This is not a racy bar scene. This is a school, a Yeshiva in fact. On the night of Purim.

The Gemara in Masechet Megilla states that a man is required to drink on Purim "until he cannot distinguish between Mordechai and Haman." Immediately after this statement, the Gemara tells a well known story about Rabba and Rabi Zeira. They shared a meal together on Purim and were drunk. In the height of his drunkeness, Rabba killed Rabi Zeira. Afterwards, he prays and Rabi Zeira comes back to life.

Be the first to know - Join our Facebook page.


During my years in America, I was never taught that drinking was praiseworthy or even acceptable on Purim. Certaintly, I was taught, the above story is proof that drinking is bad. In my synagogue, only a few adults would drink, and I cannot remember ever seeing anyone drunk. Some synagogues even forbade drinking completely on Purim. As far as the story goes, I even saw an elaborate explanation that the two rabbis did not really get drunk. The writer, an American rabbi, explains that it is impossible that these two great rabbis got drunk. Rather, when the Gemara uses the work "drunk," it is referring to "getting drunk on Torah." Rabi Zeira was unable to reach the same spiritual level as Rabba, and as such Rabba "killed him". Later, though, Rabba returned to Rabi Zeira''s level and the latter came back to life. The American Jewish attitude views drinking negatively, even once a year.


The Israeli viewpoint, on the other hand, is completely different. During the weeks before Purim, a teacher of mine gave an interesting explanation of the story in the Gemara. He stated that this story is a proof of the requirement to drink on Purim. Rabba and Rabi Zeira were fierce enemies that argued on many subjects. On Purim, Rabba got drunk and therefore got a chance to take off his mask and reveal himself. By doing so, he brought out his hatred of Rabi Zeira, and instead of keeping it inside, killed the man. We too, my teacher explained, are given the chance once a year to reveal our true selves. This is healthy, and a good thing to do on Purim. Forget all the problems with drinking, or even with smoking- this holiday is a chance to relieve ourselves.

As I walked around at the party, watching kids'' behavior get worse and worse, watching kids grimace as they sipped vodka, watched one boy lie on the curb, with cars and busses approaching, I could not help but resent the Israeli attitude. The feeling expanded as I boarded a bus, mostly inhabited by haredi Yeshiva students, who were smoking and singing loudly on the bus. At a certain point, they were even opening the door while the bus was moving. The bus pulled over, and the bus driver was instructed to call the police if the situation exacerbated. I watched kids running through the streets, carrying six packs of beer, bottles and bottles of liquor, smoking cigarettes, and acting inappropriately. I couldn''t help but think- this is Purim? This is how we celebrate the survival of the Jewish people?




Relevant to your professional network? Please share on Linkedin
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this blog article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official position or viewpoint of The Jerusalem Post. Blog authors are NOT employees, freelance or salaried, of The Jerusalem Post.

Think others should know about this? Please share