Here’s an easy way to test if you’re preparing for Purim properly. I’m going to ask you one simple question, that’s it:
If you answered MiShenichnas, or the other MiShenichnas, or LaYehudim , or Shoshanas Yaakov, or any of the other ones, you passed. If, however, the first song that came to mind, and maybe you’ve already been singing, was Chayiv Inish L’Visumei B’Puraya… we should talk.
Purim is about a lot of things. 1) It’s about hidden miracles, with Hashem pulling the strings behind the scenes of what looks like just a lot of political intrigue and maneuvering. 2) It’s about humans being empowered to take initiative, with Mordechai’s stirring call to Queen Esther and her dangerous, inspiring response. 3) It’s about re-accepting the Torah with love and excitement, as opposed to being forced to accept it begrudgingly. 4) It reminds us to maintain boundaries between ourselves and the negative aspects of our surrounding cultures, while being involved enough to impact them positively. 5) It encourages our nation to come together, giving the lie to the accusation that we’re a splintered and disconnected nation. And there’s more.
But you know what it’s not about? Drinking. Purim needs to be more than a day to get drunk with a Hechsher. And if the first song that comes to mind when you think about Purim is the quintessential Jewish drinking ditty, if the lion’s share of the Purim hock you’re having with your friends is whether or how much you’ll be drinking, if your Hachanos for Purim consist of buying bottles and reading labels instead of buying Sefarim and learning up Sugyas, that’s a problem. Don’t let drinking hijack the real significance Purim is supposed to have.
This is not to opine that there’s no place for drinking. You’re doubtless familiar with the Sugya already, those who say you should and those who say you shouldn’t. In the right environment, with the right people, drinking can be a very powerful tool that can help a person open up, peer past the masks and lies he usually tells himself, and get a glimpse of who he really is inside (although sometimes those insides try to make things too easy and come outside on their own…). The point is much more about your attitude than whether or not you end up drinking.
Personally, I feel that the Rema’s presentation contains the most important piece of the entire discussion: whatever you end up doing, it should be done L’Shem Shamayim. What you drink (wine), when you drink (Purim day, not before or after and not at night), where you drink (at a Seuda), how you drink (from a cup, not a bottle), and who you drink with (Bnei Aliya and Rebbeim) all stem from that one question: are you drinking because it’s an excuse for some fun, or because you believe that this is how Hashem wants you to do Purim?
That’s a test much more difficult than the one we started with, and only you can give yourself the answer.
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