The Gemara, Megilah 7b states, אמר רבא מיחייב איניש לבסומי בפוריא עד דלא ידע בין ארור המן וברוך מרדכי.
“Rava said, “One is obligated to get intoxicated on Purim until he does not know Arur Haman from Baruch Mordechai.” The Gemara then relates the incident in which Raba and Rabi Zeira were conducting their Purim meal together when Raba became so intoxicated that he went ahead and ‘slaughtered’ Rabi Zeira. The next day Raba prayed on behalf of Rabi Zeira, and he was miraculously resurrected.
On Purim of the following year Raba asked Rabi Zeira to join him again for the Purim festivities. However Rabi Zeira declined, responding that one cannot rely on supernatural miracles occurring regularly. Rabi Zeira did not want to take the chance of possibly getting killed by Raba at the Purim meal with the hopes of being miraculously resurrected, again.
Maharsha explains that it would be far-fetched to interpret this passage literally. Rather the Gemara does not mean that Raba literally murdered Rabi Zeira, but that he forced him to drink to the point that he got sick. When he prayed on his behalf afterwards, Rabi Zeira was not resurrected from death but miraculously recovered from his illness.
The Yaavetz explains differently that Raba did not physically slaughter Rabi Zeira but that he performed a magic trick of sorts, fooling the other on-lookers at the party into believing that he killed him, in the way that magicians fool people. It was just a trick with an optical illusion. However, after performing the magic trick, Rabi Zeira had a heart attack as a result and died. The magic trick had gone too far. The next day Raba prayed on his behalf and had him miraculously resurrected. So according to the Yaavetz he did kill him, albeit indirectly.
R’ Shlomo Zalman Aurbach (Halichos Shlomo, Moadim Chapter 19, Orchos Halacha Footnote # 77) explains that Raba did not physically murder Rabi Zeira, rather he got drunk and insulted him, embarrassing him publicly.
This incident is a reference to the concept in Chazal which is derived from the story with Tamar and Yehuda that one who embarrasses another Jew in public, is as if he killed him.
Not drunk at all.
The Ran, Baal Hamaor and Rabeinu Yehuda bar Brechya (nephew of the Baal Hamaor) explain that one is not obligated to get drunk on Purim at all, not even a little bit. The proof to this is that immediately after the Gemara mentions the obligation to get drunk it relates the incident in which drunkenness lead to Raba murdering Rabi Zeira. The intent of the Gemara by putting this incident of murder immediately after the statement of Rava that one must get intoxicated, is to subtly if not blatantly dismiss it by displaying that drunkenness on Purim can have catastrophic consequences including murder. Otherwise it would just be a story which contradicts the very point it’s trying to prove (maaseh listor.) Therefore, they explain that the point of bringing this story immediately after the halacha of ad dilo yo’da is to completely reject it.
Drunk but not off the wall.
However the Yad Efrayim and Pri Chadash (O.C. 695:1-2) explain this passage differently: When the Gemara mentions the incident with murder right after the statement of Rava, the intent was not to dismiss the obligation of getting drunk completely but rather to put a limit on it. There certainly is a mitzvah to drink and to be happy on Purim but the intent of the Gemara is to demonstrate that if one’s drunkenness surpasses the stated limit of ‘ad dilo yo’da’ it can have catastrophic consequences. This is alluded to in the terminology of ‘ad dilo yo’da’ – meaning ‘ad vilo ad bichlal’. One should get drunk only up until the point of ‘ad dilo yo’da’ but not actually at the point of ‘lo yo’da’. If one surpasses the limit of ‘ad’ and reaches the point of ‘lo yo’da’ he has gone too far, as he is too drunk to appreciate the miracle of Purim, which is the whole purpose of the wine in the first place.
Tosfos cites the Yerushalmi that there was a song with the words ‘arura zeresh, berucha esther, arurim kol harishaim, beruchim kol hayehudim’ etc. Some explain that in those times there was a lengthy song that contained all of these words and that one need only get drunk to the point that he is not able to sing the entire song with all of the words. When Rava said between ‘arur haman and baruch mordechai’ he was merely paraphrasing some of the words from the song. According to this view, the requirement to get drunk ‘ad dilo yoda’ is in effect, but ad dilo yo’da is not exactly as it sounds. It does not mean that one must be a complete drunk, but merely that he is perhaps too inebriated to sing a long song with all of the words correctly.
The Orchos Chaim (cited in the Bais Yosef’s commentary on the Tur) writes strongly that there is no greater sin than drunkenness which leads to immorality, murder and other sins. It is unfathomable that there would be an obligation to get that drunk on Purim. Therefore, the passage of ‘ad dilo yo’da’ should not be taken literally but that one should merely drink a bit more than usual (yoser milimudo me’at.)
Mogain Avrohom (O.C. 695:3) explains that the numerical equivalent (gematria) of arur haman is the same numerical equivalent as that of baruch mordechai, which equals 502. One need become intoxicated only to the point that he cannot make this mathematical calculation. This would seem to be a significantly lower level of intoxication than the basic interpretation of ad dilo yo’da.
The Taz and Gra understand the obligation to mean that one must drink only until he reaches the point that he cannot pinpoint which was a greater miracle, the downfall of Haman or the promotion of Mordechai thereafter.
The Maharsha, Bava Metzia 23b d.h. bepuria writes that on Purim one is allowed to alter the truth a bit and to say that he is at the point of ad dilo yo’da even if he is not actually at that extreme state of intoxication. This as well would seem to indicate that one is not required to reach that extreme point of drunkenness, but should still get somewhat drunk in a more controlled state.
Additionally, the view of Hagahos Maimonos (brought in Darkei Moshe) is that it is in fact a mitzvah to get drunk on Purim as the Gemara tells us, but it is not a mandatory obligation (me’akev.) One can fulfill his mitzvos of Purim even without getting drunk.
The Chayei Odom (Hilchos Megilah 155: 30) writes that since the whole miracle of Purim was brought about through wine, Chazal said to drink a bit more than usual on Purim. However, one who knows that as a result of drinking he will end up being lax with any mitzvos e.g. netilas yodayim, birchas hamazon, missing mincha/maariv, behaving with lightheadedness etc. would be better off to abstain from drunkenness. This ruling is also cited in the Biur Halacha (O.C. 695:2 d.h. ad dilo yoda.)
Completely and totally wasted.
The Rif, Rosh, Tur and Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 695:2) all mention this statement of Rava verbatim that one is obligated to get intoxicated until he cannot differentiate between arur haman and baruch mordechai. They do not seem to give any leeway as the first two schools of thought do. They seem to understand that the Gemara means exactly what it says; One is obligated get drunk ad dilo yo’da. The Shaarei Teshuva notes that Rav Yaakov Emden related that his father, the Chacham Tzvi, was a gaon and understood the obligation of getting drunk to be taken literally. Therefore, when the Chacham Tzvi was in his youth he would indeed get drunk on Purim until the extreme state of ad dilo yo’da.
Just drunk enough to fall asleep.
The Rambam (Hilchos Megilah 2:15) does not cite this clause of ad dilo yo’da in his halachos of Purim. He writes that one should merely drink wine until he gets drunk enough to fall asleep. This is also the ruling of the Rema (O.C. 695:2) who argues on the Mechaber that one need not drink up until the point of ad dilo yo’da but only somewhat more than his norm, and then go to sleep. Then, since he is asleep he will not know the difference between arur haman and baruch mordechai. This is also the ruling of Pri Migadim and of Mishna Berura as well.
The Aruch Hashulchan (O.C. 695: 2-5) raises several problems with this topic:
What is the nature of this obligation to get so drunk on Purim? It is mind-boggling to imagine that we are required to get drunk to the point of ad dilo yo’da, and as a general rule drunkenness is frowned upon.
Now, if the intent of the Gemara is really like the understanding of Rambam and Rema that one should drink only to the point of falling asleep, then why does the Gemara employ the usage of such extreme terminology that one should get drunk ad dilo yo’da? Why doesn’t the Gemara just say what it means, that one should drink until he falls asleep? Perhaps it can be argued that the Ran is correct and that this unique obligation of getting plastered on Purim was dismissed completely with the ensuing story of drunk-driven murder. But then what can be said for the Tur, Rosh and Shulchan Aruch who all mention the clause of ad dilo yo’da verbatim? They do not learn that one can discharge his obligation merely by falling asleep.
And if the view of Hagahos Maimonos is correct that it is only a mitzvah but not mandatory, then why does the Gemara use the terminology of ‘chayav,’ which indicates that it certainly is a mandatory requirement to get intoxicated, and not just extra credit? He suggests that perhaps the statement of Rava should be split into two mini-statements as follows:
1. Everyone is obligated to drink on Purim.
2. Each individual may drink on Purim at his discretion and according to his own individual level of tolerance. If one wishes, he is permitted to drink until the point of ad dilo yo’da and we do not stop him.
Furthermore, Bais Yosef, in his commentary on the Tur, cites the above-mentioned view of Orchos Chaim that drunkenness is a tremendous sin which can lead to murder, immorality and other sins. Therefore, one should just drink a bit more than usual. According to this view there is no requirement to get intoxicated but merely to drink a bit more than usual (yoser milimudo me’at.) However, the Bais Yosef in the Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 695:2) cites the statement of Rava verbatim that one is obligated to get intoxicated on Purim until he cannot differentiate between arur haman and baruch mordechai. This would seem to be a paradox in the Bais Yosef. Does Bais Yosef maintain that drunkenness is a sin like the Orchos Chaim does? Or does he hold that one must get drunk ad dilo yo’da? To hold of both views is contradictory. Aruch Hashulchan does not give an answer to this discrepancy; rather he closes with a ‘tzarich iyun’. As a final ruling he suggests (in the parentheses) that perhaps one should drink a bit more than the norm and then go to sleep.
It is not the intention nor within the scope of this work to be machria on this issue. For a final ruling a halachic authority must be consulted.
The Mordechai (Megilah Chapter 1, Note #789) comments that Purim is a special day similar to the day of Matan Torah. This is why Mar Brei Diravina would fast daily the entire year except for two days a year, Shavuos and Purim. (According to the Gemera, Pesachim 68b he did not fast on Erev Yom Kippur either, making it 3 days a year that he did not fast.)
This is based on the Gemara, Shabbos 88a which tells us the drasha of kiymu vekiyblu: Although the Jewish people were forced to accept the Torah at Har Sinai with the mountain being held over their heads, they re-accepted the Torah completely out of free will after the story of Purim, out of their deep gratitude to G-d for the miracle of Purim. This is the connection between the day of Matan Torah and the day of Purim.
Accordingly, the Maharil had the custom to don his Shabbos clothing in honor of Purim. This custom is also mentioned by Rema as something which is proper to do.
A Freilichin Purim!
Written by: Rabbi Binyomin Radner. For any questions or comments or to receive this publication via email please contact firstname.lastname@example.org