May a Clown Daven Minchah?

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clownAs the joyous Purim holiday is underway, many preparations are underway for assembling and distributing Mishloach Manos. The custom of Mishloach Manos derives from the mitzvah of sending two types of ready-to-eat food to a poor person. The root mitzvah, of course, is charity. Since time immemorial, collections of charity have been undertaken on Purim for all needs.

Yeshiva students, dressed in costumes, customarily band together and travel in small groups visiting affluent homes and providing entertainment. They sing, dance, tell humorous stories, and recite amusing commentaries on the Megillah. The groups rent cars and vans in order to get around. An older student is usually designated as the driver and is responsible to get the group to their destinations. Efficient planning will get the group to the maximum number of households and generate the greatest amount of charitable contributions.

Most yeshivos encourage their students to participate in this annual tradition. Some, though, are unhappy with the prospect of their students journeying around town without proper supervision. In particular, certain Chassidishe yeshivos have issued warnings to their students not to travel by means of buses, mini-buses or limousines. Car services, too, are listed as less than ideal.

In years past, the Hisachdus Horabbonim, the organization of Chassidishe Rabbis headquartered in Williamsburg, issued a number of practical safety directives. The Hisachdus calls for groups to travel with a designated leader, by car or mini-bus and nothing larger, to sing only songs that are not influenced by secular music, and that the organization appoint supervisors over these activities. In addition, an alarm should be sounded if the conduct of any group is found to be unacceptable.

Needless to say, liquor should not be offered to group members. The Hisachdus did, however, call upon the public to heavily favor and reward those groups whose conduct is within the guidelines.

Additional warnings constrain use of loudspeakers which, according to the directives, create an atmosphere that is the exact opposite of that desired by yeshivos. The students are likewise warned not to participate in large gatherings in the streets, which tend to get rowdy.

Contemplating the warnings, the observant community can take great pride in the aspirations and activities of our yeshiva students, who overwhelmingly conduct themselves as gentlemen, reflecting most positively on their yeshivos and the organizations for which they collect. On the morning after Shushan Purim, all students are remarkably and refreshingly at their stations in the beis medrash, back to their lofty routine of Torah pursuit. “May Heaven grant that their number multiply!”

Do Not Get Drunk On Purim!

Having received many requests to revisit this issue, we again bring you this report. The Talmud refers negatively to drunkards several times. “A drunkard should not pray, and if he prayed, his prayers are an abomination” (Eruvin 64a). The Aruch HaShulchan equates drunken prayers to idol worship, a total negation of respect for Heaven (Aruch HaShulchan, Orach Chaim 99:4). One that becomes drunk is as though he worshiped idols” (Mishnah Berurah 99:1:5). The Gemara continues the discussion of the abhorrence of intoxication and the disqualification of prayers of one that is drunk. This unfavorable attitude and negation applies all year round, 24/7, including Purim.

Thankfully, alcoholism is not a serious problem within the observant community. The continuous uproar against Kiddush clubs by the organized rabbinate is indicative of its extreme displeasure against alcoholic excesses. Our vigilance must never be allowed to slacken in face of its ugliness and destructiveness to individuals, families, and to our holy institutions.

With the approach of Purim, when some give themselves license to take an extra drink, public announcements by many yeshivos and organizations warn against doing so. The declarations remind us of tragedies that occurred in the recent past.

The Satmar Yeshiva, amongst others, continues to bluntly prohibit its students from renting or riding in trucks on Purim. In years past, groups of boys would rent a truck, the cheapest mode of transportation, and travel to homes soliciting for worthy causes. The boys would be in the cargo area of the truck and its doors open to allow its music to be heard. After a dose of alcohol and without seats or safety barriers, inevitably someone, Heaven forbid, falls out of the open door while traveling and is seriously injured.

The Drinking Chart
In preparation for Purim a few year’s ago, a two-page guide to inebriation and its categorization within Halachah was widely circulated. In almost every shul and yeshiva, the revised and updated chart was received with great and careful interest. Observant Jews deal with everything within a carefully calibrated Halachic approach. The chart is an effective tool is glimpsing an overview of Halachah and drinking.

How Much Makes You Halachically Drunk
The guide divides those that drank a revi’is (4.42 liquid ounces or 86 grams) or more of wine into four categories: (1) One who is “unaffected by the intoxicant,” (2) One who is affected slightly but continues to “speak coherently, neither slurs nor repeats his words,” (3) One who is affected to the extent that one “slurs and/or repeats his words,” and (4) One that has become “oblivious to his surroundings.”

The guide charts the Halachic viability of the these four categories as it applies to Tefillah, being counted in a minyan, Kriyas Shema, Birchos Kriyas Shema, other berachos, Birkas HaMazon, being counted in for quorum for bentching, and Kohanim duchaning. The critical line drawn is the one in between those that slur their words and those that are oblivious to their surroundings (plain drunk). Those that are only affected to the extent of slurring their speech may, for the most part, fulfill their Halachic obligations. Those that are drunk are disqualified from offering prayers and cannot be included in a minyan.

However, quite noteworthy, Kohanim, to whom we look up to and from whom we expect a nobler mode of behavior, are held to a stricter interpretation in regards to Duchaning. If a Kohen speaks coherently and does not slur his words but is affected by the wine that he imbibed, he is not permitted to participate in the Priestly Blessings.

May A Clown Daven Minchah?
In an interesting footnote on the chart, the question if one is permitted to pray while wearing a Purim costume is dealt with. If the costume consists of regular clothing that one ordinarily does not wear, such as a kaftan, bekeshe, shtreimel, beeber hat, etc., prayer is permitted while sober. However, clown or animal costumes, etc. according to some opinions, would preclude one from praying.

{Rabbi G. Tannenbaum-The Jewish Press/ Newscenter}


  1. I’ve heard many clowns daven at the amud- they don’t know nusach- have no voice and try to squeeze words into melodies -problem is -its all year long not just purim

  2. The mitzvah of mishloah manos is not specifically to give to a poor person. Matanos l’evyonim is to give to a poor person.

  3. “The custom of Mishloach Manos derives from the mitzvah of sending two types of ready-to-eat food to a poor person.”
    Isn’t the mitzvah of mishloach manos a separate mitzvah and derived from sending from person to his fellow, which was introduced before Mordochai and Esther established matanos leevionim which is a charitable act to give to the poor in our community. These two mitzvos have many nafka minahs.

  4. “to sing only songs that are not influenced by secular music”

    There isn’t really any Jewish music that has not been influenced by non-Jewish music.


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