Alcohol is a traditional part of Purim. The Talmud says people should become so tipsy that they do not know the difference between "Cursed be Haman" and "Blessed be Mordechai." The writer, Calvin Trillin, once said the theme of most Jewish holidays is: "They tried to kill us, we won, let's eat." On Purim, in addition to "let's eat," it's "let's party." While Judaism is not a religion that advocates teetotaling, drunkenness is generally frowned upon. Alcohol loosens inhibitions, and drinking is a risky business; again, note the theme of risk, because it may entail losing control, but on Purim almost anything goes.
We can transgress taboos and make fun of things we normally venerate. Cross-dressing, forbidden by Jewish law, is permitted on Purim when we masquerade. There is a tradition of "Purim Torah," much like Torah learning presided over by a Purim "rabbi." Even in yeshivot, greatly respected teachers may be mocked on Purim. On this day, we are permitted to be what we usually are not.
Purim is a holiday for letting off steam in a religiously sanctioned way and allowing some forbidden urges. Especially during times of persecution, Jews needed a reason to celebrate their survival and enjoy a holiday where the results were the polar reversal of what so often happened in Jewish history.
In gematria (Jewish numerology), "Cursed be Haman" and "Blessed be Mordechai" are numerically the same. The Kabbalists point out that they are also equal to the phrase "emunah peshutah," which means "simple faith." Hopefully, we do not need the alcohol to have faith in the Jewish future and faith that God will provide us with guidance along the way.
Have a joyous Purim and l' chaim!
Friday, March 21, 2008
Like Navruz, Purim has Persian origins...Rabbi Alan Iser explains, in The Jewish Exponent: