Without Being the Grinch That Stole Purim…


sender-kaszirerBy Rabbi Sender Kaszirer

“Mishenchnas Adar Marbim B’simcha,” the very mention of this statement   evokes a feeling of happiness, and forces an unwitting smile across our face. Coming out of a long cold winter, the Purim feeling that is in the air with all its preparations and activities is the light at the end of our cold and dark winter tunnel. Nowhere more is the excitement felt than in the halls of our yeshivos and batei midrash. During bein hasdorim, late at night and every free moment, bochurim are planning and schmoozing all about their Purim plans. Tzedaka groups, costumes, routes, shpiels, and parties are the highlight of each conversation for these few weeks of the year.

While there is no greater simcha then simcha shel mitzvah and the hachanos and preparation are what make mitzvos so much more meaningful. Purim became associated with a certain hefkairus and undisciplined behaviors, specifically excessive drinking. While year round we disprove of these behaviors, on Purim the mitzvos hayom seem to allow for this let loose attitude.

The halacha states clearly “chayov inish lebesumei b’puria ad d’lo yada” While the poskim discuss if the halacha is to be taken literally or not, there are many gedolim who celebrate Purim particularly through drinking wine to a level of “ad d’lo yada”. Many Gedolei Rosh Yeshivas, Admorim, and Rebbeim actually drink and become inebriated to this state. They use this opportunity to disperse divrei chochoma umusar, and countless brachos while under the influence. In addition, it has become a big “eis rotzon” to catch a bracha or havtacha from a tzadik while he is mesameach himself and others on Purim. Many talmidim truly feel a special connection with their Rebbe/ Rosh Yeshiva at this time. I have seen countless talmidim who have been closed and introverted all year long, on Purim their true pnimius is revealed. Likewise rabbeim have a unique way of showing talmidim their true ahava and emotions to each and every talmid.

Yet conversely, this drinking when unsupervised and unmonitored has turned our yeshiva bochurim on Purim into a wild group of boys. They drink unsupervised, without limit and run wild all over the streets. Unfortunately Hatzaloah has to be called upon too many intoxicated teens on Purim night. In addition this mitzvah of drinking on Purim led to a new mentality that “everything goes!” On Purim it is muttar to smoke, (even if you are 10 years old!) muttar to speak vulgar and create a breakdown in all g’darim that we adhere to all year round. (I took a survey in my Mesivta and 50% of the bochurim told me their very first cigarette was on Purim!)

We must analyze this great mitzvah and come up with a solution where one can experience the simcha without the typical holelus that accompanies it. In the past, some well meaning mechanchim and askonim have tried to implement a no drinking policy for teenagers on Purim, however experience has shown that as credible this idea is, it is surely not practical and nearly impossible to enforce.

Without being the Grinch that stole Purim, I therefore suggest a three step approach that can be implemented in our Yeshivas and Mesivtas. (This method was instituted in our Yeshiva and B”H had great results!)

1.       Education: For the weeks preceding this Yom Tov in addition to learning hilchos Purim, Rabbeim, must be mechanech how to drink, what to drink, why we drink and especially how a Ben Torah acts when he drinks. I was zoche for many years to hear my rebbe the Novominsker Rebbe Shlita speak before Purim how a Ben Torah acts on Purim.  He would constantly remind us talmidim. That:

A. Only drink wine, no hard liquor should be served.                                                                                       B. Drinking should only be done during the seudah.                                                                                      C. As every mitzvah it should be done leshem shomayim and with a hecherkiet.

These yesodos must be reviewed and engraved in every bochur and talmid. (Parents don’t usually get this message across)

In addition boys must understand the reason behind the simcha and all the drinking. We must truly enjoy Purim! If one gets immediately intoxicated and trashed he will be missing out on the true simcha of Purim. Yet if done properly not only is he mekayem this mitzvah he actually enjoys it as well.

2.       Monitoring: on Purim itself specifically during the seuda or yeshiva mesiba one or two of the Rabbeim shall not be intoxicated and they should monitor who drinks and how much each bochur is drinking. This Rebbe can keep seder and make  sure nothing gets out of hand. This way, a boy who has had one drink too many can be tended to and cared for responsibly.

3.       Follow up: at a designated time (12-1 AM is reasonable) transportation shall be provided to take each and every talmid home, to his parents, to his own bed! (Purim night is a nightmare for parents not knowing where their son is at 3 AM!) With today’s communication a quick text or email can be sent to the Rebbe that my child is home safely. This method shall be done in conjunction with the parents as their input is vital. Understandably there is some cost involved, but some well meaning parents or friends can supplement in order to ensure a safe and kosher Purim.

Please understand, I did not discuss in this write up the many nisyonos and pit falls a teen encounters on Purim as it is beyond the scope of this article. But parents must be aware of the unacceptable behaviors that take place at countless parties, on street corners, or in rented limousines where there is a breakdown in all barriers of kedusha and tznius. Proper education and supervision must be ensured. Likewise the suggestions that were given are not fool proof but hopefully can be an eye opener and guidance for the Yom tov of Purim.

As Purim is a great eis ratzon let us be mispallel for siyata dishmaya to always have nachas d’kudosha from our children and talmidim.

Ah Freilichen Purim.

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  1. A couple of years ago i spent a better part of my purim in a local hospitals emergency department. while i was there, there were a few young bochurim who apparently were brought in by hatzollah due to excessive alcohol consumption.

  2. Thank you for saying what needs to be said. I was very gratified when my (young) bais medrash son told me that he got the exact chinuch from his rebbe you describe to drink appropriately.

  3. Well Said! I know Rabbi Kaszirer well and he is truly an exemplary mechanach. May his words have the necessary impact, and may he continue to have much Hatzlocho! A Freilichen Purim!

  4. This is what happens when we turn our boys over to the yeshiva system instead of raising them ourselves. You can’t teach derech eretz and midos in a classroom. You learn it from your parents and other older relatives, not from rebbeim or the other boys in the classroom or dorm.

    The seders stretch further and further into the night, the gemara takes over from hashkafah and Tanach, the pressure gets worse and worse. We put our boys under tremendous pressure without giving them the emotional and human resources to cope with it. Of course when they have a chance they are going to burst out. Let’s let the boys spend more time at home with the parents who can teach them midos. And NEVER EVER send a young teen-ager away to yeshiva unless there is some really compelling reason.

  5. Thank you R’ Sender for bringing this up in a way that gives bochurim the opportunity to enjoy but with responsibility. I hope that your suggestions will be acted upon as the breakdown in areas of tznius on purim has become very sad. Let us all have an enjoyable, purim filled with simcha and kedusha.

  6. I want to hear how gedolei Yisroel, our leaders, like Rav Moshe, Rav Yankev, Rav Elya, Rav Gifter, Rav Aharon and Rav Schneur Kotler, Rav Shlomo Zalman, Rav Elyashiv, etc. acted on Purim. Did they get drunk and crazy and wild? I don’t think so. Case closed.

  7. #9 – When you need a psak from those gedoilim, do you go by what they held at twenty years old, before they became the gedoilim they became, or what they held later? Of course, by what they held later. The same in this case, we go by their position when they were older.

  8. This seems to be aimed at bnei torah. If so, why is it on the web?

    If not, what is the point? You do not give guidelines for what television shows people should watch.

    I have heard many people say that they do not want their children to see people drunk on Purim. Yet they are totally content allowing their children to watch tv.

  9. #8 the satmar’e rebbe zt”l while still in europe used to get SHIKER, its known that r’ yisroel salanter used to ALSO and his talmidim would bend down and he would say then sisrey torah. so iguess it is a minhag from our gedolim.
    #2 This minhag started by r’ ahron kotler tz”l
    a freilichen purim

  10. #13 – 1) We are talking about Yeshivishe hanhoga here.

    Hard to believe what you claim about Rav Yisroel Salanter – what is the makor?? Did his talmid the Alter of Slabodka do so? The Alter of Kelm? Rav Itzel Peterburger? Sounds fishy to me.

    What you claim re Rav Aharon Kotler is fishy to me.

    In general, I suspect that you are confusing different levels of the after effects of drinking. They may have gotten jolly, but that is not the same as ?????? ????. It is very important to distinguish them. Please do not confuse and mislead the people here.

  11. “Without being the Grinch that stole…”

    With all due respect, I think that expression comes from a goyishe holiday and should not be used by us.