Jack Berkowitz’s Purim Message to You


mo-berkowitzBy Steven Z. Mostovsky

My friend Jack is a special person.  He attends minyan on a daily basis, though he needs assistance to don and doff his tallis and tefillin.  He is always cheerful and freindly despite his circumstances.

He told me that he had special nachas when he would go to the bais medrash where his son learned with teens.  He would take a sefer and sit at a table behind his son.  The sefer was merely a ruse so he could listen to his son give a shiur, and watch the boys respond.

Jack’s ability to enjoy that special nachas ended on November 29, 2010, when a drunk driver killed his son, Moshe Berkowitz, A”H.

This past year, in another incident, a 16 year old with a learner’s permit, driving at high-speed lost control of the car.  A 16 year old girl, described as “bright and special” was a passenger.  She died.

Next Sunday is Purim.  Despite pleas and warnings, people continue to drink and are publicly intoxicated.  People drive recklessly in the mad rush to distribute shaloach manos, take their children to a rebbi or morah, and make it to their seuda.  They seem oblivious to the thousands of children walking in the streets.

When you give someone “just one drink”, you don’t know how many “one drinks” he already had.  You don’t know where his blood alcohol level is at the time you give him the drink.  Alcohol poisoning is not as rare as you’d think.  You also don’t know if he will get behind the wheel of a car when he leaves your home.  When we simply laugh at someone who is intoxicated without voicing out disapproval it may send a message to our children that the behavior is funny and perhaps not that bad.  When a parent becomes drunk the message sent to their children is worse.  If you really believe “ad dlo yada” means “intoxication” stay at home.  I don’t know a source that requires public intoxication.

We also take it for granted that drinking on Purim is benign.  This past motzoei Shabbos I heard a young man tell how he got high, for the first time, when he drank the first two kossos on Pesach on an empty stomach.  To recreate the feeling he started to drink.  This led to alcoholism and serious drug addiction.  Because he became involved with the organization “Our Place,” and after many false starts, he entered a one year drug rehabilitation program.  Others in his situation haven’t been so lucky.  While he remains drug-free he still visits an “Our Place” affiliate when he has personal problems to prevent him from looking to substance abuse as an escape.  So, if you let your child drink, or give someone else’s child a drink, know that you can’t predict the consequences of that “one drink.”

There are many mitzvos on Purim.  Perhaps instead of drinking we can “brighten” the day of an elderly or lonely Jew by visiting them in honor of layihudim hoyisa ora.  We can also re-dedicate ourselves to learning in the spirit of kimu v’kiblu.

Jack Berkowitz asked me to write this article.  He asks that at least this year, in memory of his son Moshe A”H,, we don’t drink to excess or drive negligently on Purim.

{Steven Z. Mostovsky-Matzav.com Newscenter}


  1. I grew up in the greatest neighborhood of the young israel of wavecrest and bayswater. we had so much fun on purim and every yom tov. i don’t recall any teenagers drinking more than a (forbidden) sip .Not even the cool kids. What happened?

  2. Thank you for writing this.

    I am very impressed with how Mr. Berkowitz has been able to pull positive actions from the tragedy. Probably what “Mo” would have wanted.

    I also very much like the idea of focusing on the other mitzvos, especially visiting the lonely and shut-in.

    May our behavior change enough that we won’t need more korbanos in order to bring the Geulah.

  3. i do agree that the driking got out of hand but to say its not a mitva is plain wrong we cant take away a mitzva is just plain wrong

  4. Ther is absolutely no mitzvah whatsoever min hatorah to become intoxicated on Purim. The only mitzvah is a mitzvah derabbanan to drink until you cannot tell the difference between arur haman and Baruch Mordechai .If you take the gematrias of Baruch Mordechai and arur haman, you will find them the same. Thus, the chofetz Chaim interprets the mitzvah to get drunk, as to mean that you should drink enough so that you cant calculate the gematrias of arur haman and Baruch Mordechai to be the same.

    Also, please consider the fact that if you want to be “machmir” and drink until intoxication, then you should also be machmir with the various other stingencies like cholov yisrael, pas yisrael, and are only drinking ” leshem shamayim. If not, I suggest to only drink say, an ounce of WINE.