“It is an Aveira to Get Drunk on Purim” (Reb Shmuel Kaminetsky, Shlit”a)

This was a direct quote from Rabbi Shmuel Kaminetsky Shlit’a who took precious time from his busy schedule and shared his da’as Torah with our listeners on Thursday night during the Project YES conference call titled, “Purim Parenting: Keeping Our Children Safe and Sober.”

I asked the Rosh Yeshiva to address this matter because many people who heard about our Purim program had asked me to clarify the words of our chazal (sages) “Chayav einish l’besumei be’puria ad deloi yoda bein arur Haman l’baruch Mordechai” which loosely translated says, that one is obligated to drink [on Purim] until he cannot discern between Haman and Mordechai.

“Chas v’shalom (Heaven forbid) that our Torah would consider getting drunk to be a mitzvah!” said Reb Shmuel. He explained that the word l’besumei is derived from the root word which means to sniff something – and said that this means that one should have only “a whiff” of drinking (wine only; he was clear to state).

The Rosh Yeshiva also shed light on the words “ad deloi yoda bein arur Haman l’baruch Mordechai” and said that when one sings verses of a song when he is in a heightened state of simcha (joy) he occasionally will sing the verses in incorrect order – meaning that he will sing the verse of Arur Haman in the place of the verse of Baruch Mordechai. It is inconceivable, he stated, that this is to be taken to condone drunkenness – which is in direct contrast to the teachings of our Torah.

There were many other important take-away messages gleaned from the words of Reb Shmuel and from those of our two other guests, Dr. Benzion Twerski and Professor Lazer Rosman, and I plan on writing them in detail next week. But I feel an obligation to disseminate the words of Reb Shmuel Shlit’a today so parents and educators can discuss them with their children over Shabbos.

This is an important discussion, one that will help us enjoy Purim in a safe and enjoyable manner.

This Post Has 30 Comments

  1. t’s a tragedy that our system of halacha has become incapable of adapting to new realities. A takana would be a far better way to deal with this issue.

  2. This should be posted in every shul and anywhere it will help to make Purim enjoyable!

  3. I very well understand the dangers in drinking and I’ve seen many instances which have disgusted me. When I was younger, seeing men and bachurim drunk scared me and bothered me immensely.
    As I got older and was exposed to the true Yeshiva world and very serious bnei Torah, I was amazed to see how beautiful Purim can be- including drinking. My husband and his friends/ people like him drink for the mitzvah only (he doesn’t touch anything during the year) They sing songs L’chvod Shamayim, they say divrei Torah and are mechadesh things that they wouldn’t otherwise. They cry about bringing Hashem’s glory into the world and how to help bring Mashiach. They give beautiful brachos to people and daven sincerely for them.

    They do this carefully by eating certain foods to fill their stomachs beforehand and drinking dry, white wine so as not to become sick from the wine (or other).

    My feeling always was that a person should know himself well enough to know what will come out of him if he drinks and that some people should never drink.

    I’m not coming to question whether there is a drinking problem in the community or if many of the bachurim should be stopped from dangerous drinking.

    All I’m asking is if what R’ Shmuel is saying must apply to everyone? Will the answer be “yes” only because we can’t differentiate between who should and should not drink?

    I’d appreciate if you can explain this to me.

  4. Unfortunately you are preaching to those who agree with you and not to the Rabbonim and Roshei Yeshivas who truly have control of the situation. It is the Roshei Yeshivas that have to issue this psak to each and everyone of their talmidim present and past!!! Most kids take their first drink at purim in their Rebbe’s house. That has to be assured! A Rebbe should never, ever serve liquor to hia talmidim no matter what age they are, it is a poor example and it negates the halacha of drinking only wine at the seudah.
    A YID can be be’simcha without booze. They should count their blessings B”H for the matanos Hashem gave them; such as a wife, children, health, parnasah, ability to learn Torah, and be in a country where they can do that freely, arichas yomim for their parents, elderly relatives and Rebbeim. There is a lot to be b’simcha about and being drunk is not simchadik for the people around you unless they are also drunk.

  5. I am a Hatzalah member and I can tell you that I dread two holidays, Purim and Yom HaKipur. Why? Because some of our most serious calls are bochrim drinking themselves into a toxic stupor, falling from heights, driving while under the influence etc. And Rashei Yeshivoth condoning the behavior and even giving alcohol to their young visitors on Purim.
    Yom HaKipur has its problems because many people stop taking their life preserving medications for the day. I have only seen one man who observed Yom Hakipur correctly. On the table in front of him were shot cups with “shiurim” of water that he drank, out in the open, k’dath u’k’din throughout the day with his medications. No back room for him. He was observing Halacha, the way it should be – out in the open. It was a learning experience for all the youths and adults who davened with him.

    If your presentation influences even one person only it was worth the while. Y’asher koach!

  6. I would like to echo #3’s sentiments, as the experience she describes is the same experience my family has on Purim. is this truly for everyone? Are there gedolei Torah who differ with Rav Shmuel Kaminetzky on this issue?
    We’d appreciate clarification.

  7. If anyone believes that Reb Shmuel shlit”a said anything about not drinking, then someone did not hear correctly. He addressed “drunk”, not “drink”. If someone handles their alcohol, there is no one to measure the amount. And the proper drinking can truly serve as a kiddush Hashem. The questions arise when we observe the types of intoxication that involve chilul Hashem, medical emergencies, etc. The Rosh Hayeshiva was clarifying that such scenarios are not fulfilling a mitzvah, but rather committing an aveiro. There is no obligation to get sick or put oneself or others in danger, and, as Reb Shmuel made clear, it is an aveiro to attribute the the Chazal such an “obligation”.
    When individuals lack the level of control is takes to stop imbibing at the proper time, then it is better to avoid aveiros and dangers. No one suggested modification of the statement by Chazal.

  8. Did R’ Shmuel shlit”a draw any distinction between drinking wine – which is how we are generally mekayeim the mitzvah – and whiskey (which has no mitzvah whatsoever, and generally seems to be causing most of the problems that we hear about)? It seems to me that there if we would all stick to the mitzvah, instead of taking it as an excuse to drink anything with an alcoholic content higher than our ages, a lot of the chillul Hashem could be avoided (and there may not even be any need for these types of forums) – anyone agree?

  9. Thank you to Rabbi Benzion Twerski for that clarification. It is appreciated.

  10. We need to help kids understand the importance of responsible drinking and Not overdoing it. And like I read somewhere else, let them know that if they don’t feel well, you’ll gladly pick them up.

  11. My Rebbi once quoted Rav Hutner saying “You need 1000 tons of da’as before u can lose 1 on purim.”

  12. There is no such thing as kids and responsible drinking. What we have to teach our kids is that they have to be home for the seudah and maybe Tatty will give them a glass of wine at that time to be mekayem the mitzvah. That is the only alcohol they are allowed to accept and consume! In NY, drinking under the age of 21 is illegal and that is another thing we have to teach our kids and unfortunately their Rebbeim

  13. What is going on? How come other comments submitted today were posted and not mine? Just because I quoted Torah sources that don’t agree with yours?
    Yashrus!

  14. I reported you to Rabbi Horowitz via email. It’s quite a chutzpa on your part to post my protest and not my comment on the article. You have no right to censor Torah sources and Torah-based opinions expressed by readers of this site.

  15. The Emek Bracha brings Rabbi Yisrael Salanter’s chidush in the obligation to drink ad d’lo yoda. Although it is commonly accepted that the word “ad” (until) in this context, refers to the shiur one has to reach to fulfill this mitzva (similar to saying one must eat matza at the seder until one consumes a k’zayis), R’ Salanter maintains that the word “ad” is a shiur of ptur (like one must eat matza until one is forced to stop and just can’t eat a full k’zayis, l’mashal).
    I.e. one is required to drink all day until he forgets there is such a mitzva of ad d’lo yoda, when he is so drunk that he is exempt from mitzvos.

    R’ Itzele Blazer is the source for this explanation and he himself followed it.

    The Sfas Emes in his chiddushim on meseches Megilla explains it the same way.

    Numerous rabbonim and roshei yeshiva have gotten drunk on Purim (and Simchas Torah too where there isn’t even any halachic injunction of ad d’lo yoda). They cannot be dismissed as sinners.

  16. My father A”H was a diabetic and over a year ago went into a diabetic coma on Motzei Yom Kippur because he refused to take his meds on Yom Kippur.
    We need to educate the old as well as the young regarding what is mutar in halacha!

    As #12 wrote “no kids under 21 have any business drinking ” other than a taste of kiddush on shabbos for sacramental purposes. IT’S THE LAW!!!

    The Rebbeim should get out there and reinforce this!

  17. I don’t know how many of you realize how crazy and ridiculous it is that so many people are arguing this point on this and other blogs. People refuse to accept the dangers of drinking and teaching children to drink which begins with Purim. It is so dangerous and life threatening that Rabbonim are coming out in public proclaiming it and pointing out that the Halacha has been misinterpreted and are trying to correct it.
    That is not and should not be taken lightly!!!! It is no joke. It is serious, very serious business. Think about it. Things have gotten so out of hand that it has nothing to do with being mekayem a mitzvah but everything to do with drinking and getting drunk that it has become a dangerous out of hand situation that Rabbonim, serious and ehrlich Rabbonim are doing everything they can to impress upon frum and ehrlich yidden to stop the practice and abide by the basic concept and halacha.

    They are imploring us to take the situation seriously and not wait till WE are involved in a personal and private situation where we are scared straight into understanding this issue.

    How many children and adults need to be hurt, harmed, become ill, or killed before WE as a kehillah get it??????

    Why are so many arguing for the right not to enjoy Purim but to get DRUNK on Purim. What is wrong with this picture???? Can you see it? People are saying that kids, teenagers, NEED this opportunity once a year to get drunk. Does this make sense to any normal person? One person on another blog said he gives his 6 year old mashkeh on Purim, do you see how wrong this whole thing is?????

    There is no such thing as responsible drinking as you can see if a parent gives a 6 year old alcohol. That parent should be arrested for child abuse and neglect. There is no excuse for getting drunk on Purim, there is no excuse for abusing mashkeh on Purim and there is no excuse for under-age drinking on Purim. I don’t care who you are, or who your Rebbe is. I have not heard one of my kids tell me that they ever saw their Rebbe get drunk on Purim. I have not heard or seen not one of my shul Rebbeim get drunk on Purim and I have never heard of any of the Roshei Yeshivas in my neighborhood get drunk with their bochurim at a Purim Chagigah on Purim.

    So enough with this argument. If you want to get drunk on Purim it is only an excuse to abuse alcohol and get drunk. It has nothing to do with Purim!

  18. Why are so many arguing for the right not to enjoy Purim but to get DRUNK on Purim.
    Because it’s brought in halacha.

    There is no such thing as responsible drinking
    Of course there is.

    There is no excuse for getting drunk on Purim
    Excuse? It’s how some pasken the halacha. See comment #15.

    It is counterproductive to make believe that no poskim pasken to drink on Purim to the point of being drunk. It is offensive to dism

  19. That parent should be arrested for child abuse and neglect.”
    How about you arrest every Mohel for providing a baby with wine at the bris?

  20. How do you compare a mohel who puts a few drops of wine on a piece of gauze to calm a baby to irresposible parents who let thier kids drink shots of mashke?????
    I agree with #17- Do we have to wait for a tragedy to happen?

  21. I read that the Ramchal says that since a Jew is in a constant state of mourning for the Churban and Purim is a day of happiness, we get drunk on Purim since it is the one day a year that we must be happy without even thinking about the Churban

  22. It is just a shame that babies don’t come with instructions or Parents don’t need a license to have children. Some people could really use it!

  23. Next time you are at a bris observe how much wine is absorbed in that gauze. Consider the size of the baby and the size of a teenager drinking a few cups of wine. Finally, if you ask most Mohels, they will tell you that they recommend minimal pain medication after a bris because of the alcohol in the baby’s system. Please have some knowledge before disputing people’s comments.

  24. R’ Sholom Schwadron addressed b’nei Torah and exhorted them to drink on Purim as R ‘Itzele Peterberger, talmid of R’ Yisrael Salanter, did. He lay under a table and delivered a mussar shmuez!
    And one year on Purim, R’ Salanter told his talmidim that on Purim a person is granted everything he asks for. “Kol ha’poshet yad …”

    “What are you asking for Naftali?” he asked his talmid, R’ Naftali Amsterdam.

    R’ Naftali said, “I’d like the head of R’ Akiva Eiger, the depth of the Nesivos, the breadth of the Ketzos and the heart of Rebbi (i.e. R’ Salanter).”

    R’ Salanter told him not to ask for the mind or hearts of other people but to use his own!

    These were the kind of things that they heard on Purim.

    (as related in the book, “From the Maggidim of Yesteryear”)

  25. Yesterday, on Purim, I had the priviledge and pleasure of meeting two distinguished Rashei Yeshiva who have been long-time Talmidim of HaRav Shmuel Kaminetsky SHLIT”A. Their conduct confirmed my understanding of the situation: * One Rosh Yeshiva was obviously drunk. However, he did not leave his home all day. * The other Rosh Yeshiva drank in moderation and drove.
    Conclusion: Rav Kaminetsky SHLIT”A cannot deny the millennia-old tradition — advocated by CHAZAL — of drinking on Purim. However, considering that “UShmartem LeNofshoseichem” is our first priority and “Chamirah Sakantah MeiIsura,” we are all obligated to drink responsibly. Because of the danger of drunken driving and the failure of today’s Talmidim to drink responsibly, HaRav Kaminetsky SHLIT”A and other current Gdolim have no alternative but to ban drinking by Yeshiva students, even on Purim.

    This reminds me of my father ZT”L: Knowing that I could not handle alcohol, he told me — fifty years ago — to fulfill “Ad Delo Yada” by taking a nap on Purim.

  26. I have an off topic question that relates to Purim for B. Twerski – I listened to “Purim in Berditchev” in four parts on torah.org and wondered whether you were the one who gave those classes. I enjoyed them.

  27. The presenter of the Purim in Berdichev classes on Torah.org is my cousin who is a rabbi in Milwaukee. Sorry, I can’t take credit for this one. I am glad you enjoyed it. He has many other audio shiurim available on the web.

  28. This was posted on the wonderful Torah site: revach.net
    Rabba and Rebbi Zeira had a Purim Seudah together. They both got highly intoxicated as the halacha requires. So drunk that Rabba slaughtered Rebbi Zeira. After sobering up and seeing the damage Rabba davened and brought Rebbi Zeira back to life. After this (near) fatal accident do you think they decided the next year that they would stay sober? Of course not! The halacha still demanded it. However Rebbi Zeira opted to have his Seudah elsewhere as a safety precaution.

    Sure drinking on Purim has its dangers, but are we smarter than halacha? Is there a halachic reason not to drink or is it moral, ethical, and self righteous? Of course you can find many peirushim that explain that getting drunk doesn’t really mean getting drunk, but Ein Mikra Yotzei Midei Pshuto.

    Boruch Hashem most of us don’t drink or smoke or have some other unpleasant vices. I personally don’t like wine, am not crazy about getting drunk, and certainly do not like the physical after shocks. But on Purim it is part of the Mitzvos HaYom. The fact that I am not the biggest tzaddik when it comes to all other mitzvos doesn’t exempt me from this one. Why do I need to apologize for getting drunk on Purim?

    Why is there a mitzva to get drunk? I will try to offer my own post Purim perspective. At Seudas Achashveirosh it says “V’HaShisia Kadas Ein Ones”. No one forced anyone to drink. Why? Maybe because Achashveirosh knew that attending his feast would be a great aveira on the part of the Yehudim. He didn’t want them drunk. He wanted them nice and sober so they would have to account before Hashem for every single moment of their attendance in sound mind. “Ein Ones”, they could not claim that their actions were taken while drunk.

    The Seforim HaKedoshim tell us that Purim is the loftiest day of the year. It is a time when hashem’s love for us reaches its peak. Anything we ask for, Hashem will grant us. On Purim Hashem showers upon us Brachos Ad Bli Dai. But Purim on the outside is a day of merriment which always spells trouble for us. Our lack of awe like during Yamim Nora’im, our lack of Yiras Cheit like on Pesach create a carefree attitude that turn us from true Avodas Hashem. Kedusha V’Tahara is not the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of Purim Seudah.

    Hashem has a great way to deal with this. Drink! Listen to the words of the Chachomim, one of the great mitzvos that we can do. Not only will we be Mikayem a mitzva by drinking, but when we are drunk we can do no wrong. “Yesh Ones”. Unlike Seudas Achashveirosh, our actions at the Purim Seudah are not in sound mind, and it was not us that chose to become punch drunk. This mitzva neutralizes us during these lofty hours and let’s Hashem bestow his love upon us without us spoiling it.

    So those who are mortified by our drunken stupors, you can sit around and spend these precious moments in a politically correct manner. You can even laugh at us and call us silly. “Mutav Li LiHikarei Shoteh Kol Yamai V’Lo Lei’asos Shaa Achas Rasha Lifnei HaMakom” (Eidiyos 5:6). When you are running around with your segulos and brachos all year round, remember the big one that got away. Most of all remember the one who laughs last, laughs best.

    Important Note: This article does not come to deny that there are those who rightfully hold that halachicly one should not get drunk. Nor does it absolve those who get drunk irresponsibly. And of course we understand that there are many people who have a Seudas Purim without getting drunk who give great Nachas Ruach to Hashem.

    http://revach.net/article.php?id=4433

  29. A Mother – Baltimore

    Atrocious to have people defending getting drunk l’shem Shamayim. You want to get drunk? Do so in peace but don’t proselytize.
    These days drunkenness is not like it was in the old days. We are not taught how to get drunk in a holy way. Kids drink to excess. Sure, it’s fun, it’s cool. Everyone is doing it. But what are they drinking? Hard liquor! Assur! Then you hear about some kid found lying in the middle of the sidewalk in a puddle of his own drool and worse. Why should any of our precious neshameles have to go through this?

    Our drunken manners generally reflect those of the goyim around us. We are loud, brash, insulting. I was once at a Purim chagiga by lomdish people, people of great Torah, and one of the Rabbis vomited all over the floor. Disgusting. It stunk up the place and was humiliating. People in the community were appalled and it caused lashon hora to fly.

    Peer pressure abounds in the yeshivas and everyone wants to be seen as one of the guys. Why add to the pressure? Why support drunkenness when there is a valid halachic viewpoint to drink 1 glass more than you normally drink? We need to arm our families against the outside influences that pressure us to drink to excess.

    We are not like the generations who came before us. We are living in a society where there are temptations and thrills beyond the imagination of past generations. What was good for them — and tzaddikim — just doesn’t stand up to today’s challenges.

    As a society, we Yidden need to adjust our eyes. The halacha is clear: do not put yourselves in danger. Drunk is not healthy or desirable and certainly is dangerous.

    Let’s also note that most of this discussion pertains to men and boys. We don’t see this problem with women and girls… but it is not unknown. What an ugly picture it paints of a woman, a bas melech, drunk and slurring. I shudder. Today’s world has women drinking to catch up with men. Drinking is no mitzvah for women, but worse, it’s being tried out by our girls.

    Can we go much lower?

    I want to remind all that we are Hashem’s representatives to the nations. If even on this one day of joy we present a less than G-dly face to the goyim, it is a true shanda.

  30. our title is correct – Today times are different. In the new Dirshu Mishnah Brurah, in Siman 695, where the M”B says (from the Pri Magadim) that the best eitza is to take a nap, the Dirshu adds a note from the Ran, that he agrees with this approach as ‘today times are different.’ If in the times of the Ran it was already necessary to drink a little and sleep to the point of Lo Yada, kal v’chomer in our days, hundreds of years later, with our yeridos hadoros!

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Rabbi Yakov Horowitz

Rabbi Yakov Horowitz, Founding Dean of Monsey’s Yeshiva Darchei Noam and Director of The Center for Jewish Family Life, conducts child abuse prevention and parenting workshops internationally, and sponsors the Bnos’ One on One Big Sister Program with branches in seven states and Canada. He’s the author of two books, published the landmark children’s personal safety picture book Let’s Stay Safe!, which has been adapted into Yiddish and Hebrew, and the Bright Beginnings Chumash and Gemara Workbooks which helps children acquire Judaic Studies skills in a fun-filled manner. Rabbi Horowitz received the prestigious 2008 Covenant Award in recognition of his contribution to Jewish education.