08 Mar DRINKING: WHEN AND HOW MUCH
The Taz in his commentary on the Shulchan Aruch (end of Orach Chaim), quotes from the Mordechai the following: from the simple reading of the mishna in the first perek in Megillah it would appear that although we do not read the Megillah on Purim Koton, nonetheless one is obligated to have a seudas Purim both in Adar Rishon and in Adar Sheini. However, when one studies the gemarah commenting on that mishna it becomes obvious and clear that there is no mitzvah of seudah on Purim Koton. True, as Rav Soloveitchik used to explain, every so often when we have a shanah m’uberes, there are four days of Purim: the 14th and the 15th of Adar I and the 14th and the 15th of Adar II. And because all four days are Purim, we do not permit hesped or ta’anis on all four, and we also delete tachanun from davening. But the mitzvos of Purim are only fulfilled on one of the four days, either on the 14th or 15th of Adar II. The Ramah (at the very end of Hilchos Purim) alludes to this comment of the Mordechai, recommends that one should have a seudah on Purim Koton, and concludes that volume of the Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim by quoting the possuk from Mishlei that reads “V’tov lev mishte tomid – a good hearted person will always be making parties.” Some of the commentaries explain thechoice of that possuk by pointing o ut that the very first comment the Ramah writes on the very first page of Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim begins with a different possuk which uses the word “tomid”: “Shivisi Hashem l’negdi tomid – I always visualize as if Hashem is before me.” So the Ramah concluded his entire commentary on Orach Chaim by quoting another possuk that contains the word “tomid” that alludes to having parties.
Rav Boruch Epstein writes an interesting comment in connection with the choice of this possuk from Mishlei. The entire possuk reads as follows: “Kol yemei oni Ra’im – the poor man is always miserable -v’tov lev mishte t omid – and the good hearted fellow will always bemaking partie s.” The gemarah suggests that the first half of the possuk (that the poor man is always miserable) is perhaps alluding to those who learn gemarah because there are always contradictions and questions left hanging in the air even after one works hard on the daf; while the second half of the possuk (“that the good hearted fellow is always making parties”) perhaps is alluding to the baalei batim who learn mishnayos with the Bartenura, always making siyumim, and are not really bothered with so many contradictions and questions. And perhaps this is the meaning of the statement made by the Taz after explaining that from the mishna in Megillah it would appear is obligated to have a seudah on Purim Koton but from the gemarah it becomes obvious that this is not so, that for that reason the Ramah chose to quote the second half of that possuk in Mishlei that thosewho learn mishnayos will alway s be making parties, i.e. on Purim Koton, because based on the superficial reading of the mishna one gets the impression that there is an obligation of seudah on Purim Koton.
When the Rambam quotes the mitzvah to celebrate Purim by having a seudah he adds that the seudah should consist of bosor v’yayin, just like on a yom tov. Those who will be following the recommendation of the Ramah, to celebrate Purim Koton by having a seudah, should certainly have bosor v’yayin. Rav Velvel Soloveitchik pointed out, based on a careful reading of the words of the Rambam, that the mitzvah mentioned in the gemarah that one should drink wine ad d’lo yodah does not really constitute an independent mitzvah, but is merely a detail within the mitzvah of seudas Purim. The Seudah should consist of bosor v’yayin — ad d’lo yodah. Many people get stone drunk on Purim but not as part of the seudah. Many others get drunk on leil Purim, when most assume that there is no mitzvah of seudah at all. According to Rav Velvel Soloveitchik, these practices are improper. Getting drunk on Purim outside the context of the seudah would be the same as getting drunk on July 4th.
I can imagine that some individuals will feel that they should fulfill all of the mitzvos m’hadrin min ha’miyadrin and would decide to get drunk on Purim Koton. After all, the Brisker Rov said that the mitzvah to get drunk is an integral part of the seudah, and the Ramah recommended to be machmir to have a seudah on Purim Koton. In my opinion this is highly improper. There is a limit to how many chumros one should accept upon himself. The Avnei Nezer writes in one of his teshuvos that one should be careful not to pile up chumros on top of chumros. And this is especially true in the present environment where we unfortunately see otherwise religious, observant people drinking alcohol in excess. The Rambam recommends that one should always chose to go in the “middle of the road”. He understands that that is meaning of “V’halachta b’d’rochov.” However if one lives in a society where some Torah values are under attack, then we would recommend that one should go to the opposite extreme and not go b’derech ha’memutza, until the issue is straightened out.
Even on Purim proper when the accepted opinion is that there is an inyan of ad d’lo yodah, the proper practice should be as spelled out by the Ramah in Orach Chaim, one should drink more than he would normally drink and after benching take a nap and while he would be napping he will be in a state of ad d’lo yodah.
The agadah in gemarah Chulin interprets a dream of Yaakov Avinu where he saw a ladder reaching up to heaven and angels climbing up and down, and then Hashem appeared on top of Yaakov Avinu. The agadah interprets this to mean that the angels went up to heaven and looked at the kisei ha’kovod where the image of Yaakov Avinu appears. They realized thatthis individual has fantastic, unbel ievable potential and then they come down to earth and they see that this individual with fantastic potential is sleeping! They decided that he deserves the deathpenalty. One who has potential sho uld use that potential to its maximum and not waste his time by sleeping in bed. However, Hashem appeared on top of Yaakov to protect him from the angels. Hashem defended Yaakov that he was exhausted and he had the right to sleep. He was not lazing around in bed which is highly improper, rather he was sleeping the amount of sleep that a normal person needs to be able to function in a healthy, normal fashion.
One who drinks in excess and becomes a lav bar da’as is clearly wasting his potential. And if the angels would have their way, the result of this behavior would be “bikshu l’horgo”. One who has talents (and we all possess talents to a certain degree) should not waste them but rather should use them to their maximum. At the same time, one should not cheat his body from the amount of sleep that is necessaryto maintain one’s health. In Volozh in there were people who learned at night and slept during the day and others who learned during the day and slept at night. Rav Chaim Volozhiner wanted the kol ha’Torah to come out from his Yeshiva twenty four hours a day to keep the whole world going. But at the same time, he insisted that everyone should get the decent amount of sleep that they needed to maintain their good health.