Michayev Inish Livsumei Befuraiya Ad Delo Yada … A Closer Look at Drinking on Purim (Megillah 7b)


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.

With this in mind 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 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. Our quest will demand a thorough examination of the halachic sources that deal with drinking on Purim.

This class will address the following questions:

  • How does the function of drinking on Purim contrast with its function on other Jewish holidays?
  • What does Rava mean by “until he cannot distinguish between ‘cursed be Haman’ and ‘blessed be Mordechai’”?
  • What are the halachic guidelines for drinking on Purim?
  • What is the underlying meaning behind drinking on Purim?


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