Thursday, February 18, 2010

Aruch HaShulchan on Getting Drunk on Purim

In a previous news roundup, I noted two contemporary rabbis who spoke of an issur to become drunk, or over-drunk, on Purim. I have my own insight into this, as to why indeed we might establish a prohibition of drinking on Purim, the gemara notwithstanding. But I will explain my position, and logic, in another post. As important backup, and indeed in and of itself, it is worthwhile to read what the Aruch HaShulchan writes about the mitzvah to drink on Purim.

I was going to embed images from the appropriate page in Aruch HaShulchan on Hebrew Books. However, I think it would be even nicer to copy the Hebrew text from the wikisource Aruch Hashulchan project . The text will be smoother as one makes it bigger. What follows is the text of Aruch Hashulchan, Orach Chaim (chelek 3), siman 695, with my own translation in between paragraphs.

סימן תרצה סעיף ב

בגמרא (ז ב) איתא: דמחייב אינש לבסומי בפוריא, עד דלא ידע בין "ארור המן" ל"ברוך מרדכי".י
והדבר מתמיה: דאם כן, צריך להיות שכור קרוב לשכורו של לוט! והרמב"ם לא כתב בלשון זה, וכתב דשותה יין עד שישתכר, וירדם בשכרותו. עד כאן לשונו. ואולי היה מפרש "עד דלא ידע..." מפני שנרדם. וזהו כמו שכתב רבינו הרמ"א, וזה לשונו:
ויש אומרים דאינו צריך להשתכר כל כך, אלא שישתה יותר מלימודו, ויישן, ומתוך שיישן – אינו יודע בין "ארור המן" ל"ברוך מרדכי". ואחד המרבה ואחד הממעיט, ובלבד שיכוין לבו לשמים.
עד כאן לשונו, וזהו כדברי הרמב"ם.

It is stated in the the gemara (Megillah 7b) that a person is required to become inebriated on Purim to the extent that he cannot distinguish between "Cursed be Haman" and "Blessed be Mordechai". And the matter is astonishing -- for if so {that one should not be able to make such a determination}, one would need become as drunk as the drunkenness of Lot {who slept with his daughters in a drunken stupor, and was unaware of it}. 
 And the  Rambam does not write using this language, and rather writes that "he should drink wine until he becomes drunk, and then should doze off in his drunken state." End quote. And perhaps he explains "until he does not know" as {not knowing} because he dozed off. And this is as Rabbenu the Rema writes:

And there are those who say that he does not need to become so drunk, but rather that he should drink more than his usual, and then sleep; and because he slept, he does not know the distinction between "Cursed be Haman" and "Blessed be Mordechai". And both he who increases and he who decreases is fine, so long as his intent is towards Heaven.

End quote. And this is like the words of the Rambam.

[]סימן תרצה סעיף ג

אך אינו מובן: לפי זה למה היה לה להש"ס לומר בלשון משונה "עד דלא..." – לימא: "חייב לבסומי עד שירדם"?
ולכן יותר נראה דאין כוונת הרמב"ם לפרש הגמרא כן, אלא שדחה מאמר זה מהלכה, כמו שכתב הר"ן בשם רבינו אפרים. שכיון דמבואר בגמרא שאירע סיבה על ידי זה, עיין שם, נדחה זה מהלכה. אבל הטור והשולחן ערוך כתבו ממש כלשון הגמרא: עד דלא ידע וכו', והיא תמוה.
ויש שכתבו שהיה אצלם זמר שהיה מסיים ב"ארור המן" ו"ברוך מרדכי", והיה זמר ארוך, וכשהוא מבוסם מעט – לא יוכל לאמרו כולו. ויש שכתבו לעניין המספר, דבמספר שניהם שוה, וכשהוא מבוסם קצת – לא יוכל לחשוב. והתוספות כתבו דהכוונה כפי הירושלמי: "ארור... ארורה זרש... ארורים כל הרשעים, ברוכים כל הצדיקים", עיין שם, וכוונתם דבזה יש אריכות קצת. וכשהוא מבוסם – קשה לאמרו כולו (ב"ח).ל

But this is not entirely understandable. According to this, why did the Shas use this unique language "until he does not..."? Let it say "he must drink until he dozes off?"
And therefore, it seems more likely that the intent of the Rambam is not to explain the gemara in this way, but rather that he rejects this statement from being halacha, as the Ran wrote in the name of Rabbenu Ephraim. For since it is made clear in the gemara that a negative incident occurs because of this {namely, that in a drunken stupor, Rabba killed Rabbi Zera; he resurrected him, but the next year Rabbi Zera refused an invitation}, see there, this was rejected from halacha. But the Tur and the Shulchan Aruch wrote absolutely like the language of the gemara, "until he does not know...", and it is confounding.
And there are those who write that there was, by them {=Chazal} a song which ended {stanzas within it} with "Cursed be Haman" and "Blessed be Mordechai." And this was a long song, and when he was a bit inebriated, he was not able to say it in its entirety. And there are some who write that it pertains to the matter of numbers {and gematria}, for the gematria of the two of them {Cursed be Haman and Blessed be Mordechai} are the same/ And when he is a bit inebriated, he is not able to calculate. And the Tosafot wrote that the intent is in accordance with the Yerushalmi: "Cursed... Cursed be Zeresh... Cursed are all the wicked; Blessed are all the righteous." See there. And there intent is that in this, there is a bit of length, and when he is inebriated, it is difficult to say it in its entirety. (Bach)

[]סימן תרצה סעיף ד

ויש לפרש "עד דלא ידע..." כלומר: עד שלא יוכל להכריע איזו טובה היתה יותר גדולה לפנינו, אם מפלת המן אם גדולת מרדכי (עיין ט"ז).
ובהגהת מיימוני בשם ראבי"ה כתב דזהו למצוה ולא לעיכובא, עיין שם. ואינו מובן, דהא אומר לשון חיוב: "מחייב אינש לבסומי...". ויש לומר שיש לפרש דהכי פירושו: "מחייב אינש לבסומי" – כלומר דזהו חיוב על כל אחד "עד דלא ידע...", כלומר: והרשות ביד השותה לשתות "עד דלא ידע...". דבוודאי אין כל בני אדם שוים בזה, ואומר דהחיוב על כולם – כל אחד לפי מדריגתו, והרשות "עד דלא ידע...": אפילו אם שותה עד דלא ידע – לא נגעור בו.

And there is to explain "until he does not know..." that it means to say: until he is not able to determine which goodness was greater before us -- whether the downfall of Haman or the rising in stature of Mordechai. (See the Taz).
And in Hagahot Maimoni, in the name of Raavya, he wrote that this is for mitzvah {precept, a good fulfillment}, but not le'ikuva {a requirement such that one does not fulfill without it}. See there. And this does not make great sense, for behold it states it in the language of obligation: mechayev inish livsumei...And there is to say that one can explain that this is its meaning: "A man is obligated to drink" -- that is to say, that this {portion} is an obligation upon each individual; "until he does not know..." -- that is to say, and the permission {/authority} is in the hands of the drinker to drink "until he does not know...". For certainly not all individuals are equal in this, and yet it states that the obligation is upon them all -- each one in accordance with his level, and the permission is "until he does not know....", that even if he drinks until he does not know -- we to not vocally rebuke him.

[]סימן תרצה סעיף ה

אמנם רבינו הבית יוסף בספרו הגדול כתב בשם אורחות חיים, וזה לשונו:
חייב אינש לבסומי בפוריא. לא שישתכר, שהשכרות איסור גמור. ואין לך עבירה גדולה מזו, שהוא גורם לגילוי עריות, ושפיכות דמים, וכמה עבירות זולתן. אך שישתה יותר מלימודו מעט.
עד כאן לשונו, וקשה: דאם כן מאי "עד דלא ידע..."? ואם מפרש כאיזו פירוש שנתבאר, איך סתם רבינו הבית יוסף דבריו בשולחן ערוך, דלהדיא משמע שכרות גמורה? וצריך עיון.
ו(ואולי יפרשו: עד ולא עד בכלל. ולמעשה יש להתרחק מן השכרות, ובפרט שתיית יין שרוף, שבשכרותו יתמלא קיא צואה, ורק לשתות מעט יותר מלימודו ולישן קצת.)י
However, Rabbenu the Beit Yoseif in his great sefer {namely, Bet Yosef, a commentary on Tur} wrote in the name of the Orchot Chaim as follows:
A person is obligated to drink on Purim. {note that he does not continue "ad de-lo yada.} Not that he should become drunk, for drunkenness is absolutely prohibited! And there is no greater sin than this, for it causes violations of sexual propriety, shedding of blood, and many sins such as them. But rather that he should drink a bit more than his usual amount.
End quote. And it is difficult, for if so, what is meant by "ad de-lo yada?" And if he explains it via whatever apparent explanation, how does Rabbenu the Bet Yosef write plainly {without expansion or explanation} his words in Shulchan Aruch, where it explicitly implies complete drunkenness?

(And perhaps one can explain: until, but not inclusive of the boundary.  And in practice, one should distance oneself from drunkenness, and in particular from brandy {lit. burnt wine}, for in his drunkenness he is filled with vomit and excrement. And one should only drink a bit more than his accustomed amount, and then nap a bit.)

Josh: This ends my translation of the Aruch HaShulchan. For actual practice, consult your local Orthodox rabbi. Do not generally pasken based on things written on blogs. But this seems correct. In a follow-up post, I plan to address what ad delo yada meant, and why one should not become a roaring drunk bezman hazeh. But even before anything I say, the Aruch Hashulchan is pretty clear.


Anonymous said...

One thing I'm not yet clear on is what "ad de-lo yada" is hinting at in the first place. I understand all the general idea that the miracles of Purim are hidden, thus we shouldn't know the difference between...; but what is the true meaning/essence of ad d'lo yada?

joshwaxman said...

well, as i'll say in the next post in this series, guzma / cute idiom, and nothing more...

obviously, many of the positions above were trying to answer it. and i've heard some deep pnimiyus answers to it. but i would maintain what i maintained in the first paragraph of this comment.


Yosef Greenberg said...

Do you really believe this to be the pshat? Or is some of the basis built around you're own belief on what is right to do?

I find agendas to spin halachos into our modern sensibilities to be off-putting.

joshwaxman said...

i really do believe it to be peshat, and thought so years ago. it sounds like a clever turn of phrase. and it answers the text-internal question of why not say that it is like Lot's drunkenness, a text-internal question. and i think that rambam regarded it the same, which answers aruch hashulchan's questions on rambam as well.

on the other hand, i do think that with their poetic exaggeration, they *did* mean pretty soused. that is the point of an exaggeration. and the story which follows, in which rabbi zera is killed in drunken stupor, suggests (to me) that they meant fairly drunk. why our present practice should differ (and i think it should) is another issue.

but i'm spoiling the next post!


Yosef Greenberg said...

"they meant fairly drunk"

That's what I thought all along. Point being, that the reason our practice should differ is indeed another issue, although some wouldn't listen unless we can twist halachah to fit it.

joshwaxman said...

this would then be "yoteir milimudo". but those people who drink so much as to get alcohol poisoning, because unless they do so, they have the slightest thought and can literally tell the difference, are not understanding the statement of Chazal as an idiom or guzma. so it is important in that respect.

the reason, to my mind, has more to do with the reasoning (though not the absolute position) of Rabbenu Ephraim, combined with changing circumstance. our situation has become, alas, that of Rabba and Rabbi Zera, and different metziut leads to different halachic applications. more on that later, but this hint is likely enough.

there is also balashon's point.


Gematria Scholar said...

As always, thanks for a very interesting and thoughtful post. I particularly liked your note on the Hebrew Gematria that "Cursed be Haman" and "Blessed be Mordechai" both have the same Gematria :-)


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