Rabbi Sender Kaszirer for TLS. The Purim spirit in the air, with all the preparations and activities, is the light at the end of the cold and dark winter tunnel. Nowhere is the excitement felt more than in the halls of our yeshivos. During bein hasdorim, late at night, and at every free moment, bochurim are schmoozing about their Purim plans. Tzedaka groups, costumes, routes, shpiels, and parties are the highlights of each conversation for these few weeks of the year.
But while there is no greater joy than simcha shel mitzvah and the hachanos (preparations) are what make mitzvos so much more meaningful, Purim has unfortunately become associated with undisciplined behavior – most specifically, excessive drinking.
In truth, it’s not a simple subject. While we disapprove of drinking year round, on Purim, the mitzvos hayom seems to call for a “let loose” attitude. The halacha states clearly “chayov inish lebesumei b’Puraya (on Purim) ad d’lo yada – a person should become intoxicated on Purim until he cannot differentiate…” The poskim discuss whether this halacha is to be taken literally or not, and if there are other ways to fulfill this mitzvah. But many Gedolei Rosh Yeshivas, Admorim, and Rebbeim take the chiyuv at face value, and actually become inebriated to the level of ad d’lo yada. While under the influence, they dispense divrei chochoma umusar and countless brachos. Many talmidim truly feel a special connection with their Rebbe/ Rosh Yeshiva at this time. I have seen countless introverted talmidim who have been closed books all year long, only to reveal their true pnimius on Purim. Likewise, rebbeim have a unique way of expressing their true ahava to each and every talmid.
On the other hand, when unsupervised and unmonitored, drinking can turn yeshiva bochurim into a wild horde. Hatzolah has been called to the aid of far too many intoxicated teens on Purim night. Far worse, the 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 utter vulgarities, and to create a breakdown in g’darim that we adhere to all year round. (In an informal survey in my Mesivta, 50% of smokers told me that they smoked their very first cigarette on Purim!)
In the past, some well-meaning mechanchim and askonim tried to implement a no drinking policy for teenagers, but experience has shown that it is nearly impossible to enforce. And considering the upshots of drinking we mentioned above, it would seem that doing away with drinking altogether might not be the best solution. We must therefore analyze this great mitzvah and come up with a method in which bochurim can experience the positive side of drinking without the typical holelus that accompanies it.
As I try to avoid being the Grinch that stole Purim, I want to suggest a three step approach that can be implemented in Yeshivos. (This method was instituted in our Yeshiva and B’’H had great results!)
- Education: During the weeks leading up to Purim, in addition to learning the relevant halachos, Rabbeim must teach why we drink, how to drink, what to drink, and especially, how a Ben Torah acts when he drinks. I was zoche to hear my rebbe, the Novominsker Rebbe shlita, speak many years before Purim, and he would tell us how a Ben Torah acts on Purim. He would constantly remind us that:
A. We should only drink wine, no hard liquor.
B. To drink only during the seudah.
C. As with every mitzvah, we should drink l’sheim Shomayim and with a hecherkeit (upliftedness).
These yesodos must be reviewed and ingrained in the mind of every talmid. (Parents usually don’t succeed in delivering this message.)
Boys must also understand the reason behind the festivities and drinking. We must teach them that if they get “trashed” at the beginning of Purim, they will they miss the true simcha of the day, but if they drink properly, not only will they be mekayem this mitzvah, they will enjoy it as well.
- Monitoring: On Purim itself, and especially during the seudah or mesibah, one or two of the rebbeim shall not be intoxicated, and they should monitor who drinks and how much each bochur is drinking. These rebbeim should dispense the drinks and keep things orderly, and they can tend to any boy who has had one drink too many in a responsible fashion.
- Follow up: Discussing the pitfalls a teen encounters on Purim is beyond the scope of this article. Parents must be aware, however, that unacceptable behavior takes place at parties, on street corners, and in rented limousines, often accompanied by a breakdown in all barriers of kedusha and tznius.
Therefore, At a designated time (12-1 AM is reasonable) each and every bochur should be transported home, to his parents, to his own bed! (Purim night is a nightmare for parents who don’t know where their son is at 3 AM.) Parents can send a quick text or email to the Rebbe who acted as the chaperone to let him know that their child is home safely. Understandably, there is some cost involved in providing transportation, but some well meaning parents or friends can supplement in order to ensure a safe and kosher Purim.
I realize that my suggestions are not foolproof. But I hope they will serve as eye openers and guidance for the Yom Tov of Purim.
Finally, let’s use the great eis ratzon to be mispallel have only nachas d’kudosha from our children and talmidim.
A Freilichen Purim!
Rabbi Sender Kaszirer is the Rosh Yeshivah of the Mesivta of Eatontown NJ (MOE). MOE is a yeshivah high school that is dedicateed to service talmidim and bochurim who are at risk of failing in the traditional yeshivah system. Rabbi Kaszirer is sought after by Mechanchim, Parents and teens for counsel, advice and guidance, he has presented at the national conventions of Agudath Yisroel and Torah Umesorah.