There is certainly much hype and excitement about drinking on Purim. On the one hand, drunkenness is condemned, forbidden, and admonished against – to varying degrees – in the Torah, Prophets, Writings, Talmud, and Jewish ethical literature. Intoxication can lead to loss of self-control, alcohol addiction, transgression, weakened morality, and crime.
In contrast, we are surprised to read an offbeat line in the Talmud (Megillah 7b), where Rava tells us: “A person is obligated to drink on Purim until he cannot distinguish between ‘cursed be Haman’ and ‘blessed be Mordechai.’” This cryptic line is followed by an even more eyebrow-raising anecdote about Rabbah and Rabbi Zeira, two sages who had experienced an unusual, and controversial, Purim feast.
In this brand new NLE Thinking Gemara shiur we will attempt – through the eyes of generations of Jewish thinkers and halachic authorities – to figure out what the Talmud is trying to teach us in this puzzling passage. The shiur examines a broad range of halachic and hashkafic sources to understand how much, what, and why we drink on Purim.