By 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.