Is It Proper? Is it ever appropriate to get drunk? – The Jewish Press – JewishPress.com

Posted By on January 28, 2021

Is it ever appropriate to get drunk?

The Talmud (Megillah 7b) cites Ravas opinion that one must become drunk on Purim to the point that one is unable to tell the difference between cursed be Haman and blessed be Mordecai.

But the same passage goes on to report that Rabba and Rav Zeira became so drunk on Purim that Rabba slaughtered Rav Zeira with a knife. The latter was revived only by a miracle. When Rabba invited Rav Zeira to a Purim celebration the following year, Rav Zeira wisely declined.

Some people read this passage but stop right after Ravas opinion. Others correctly read the entire passage and recognize that the anecdote is a blatant refutation of this position. The Talmuds lesson is: Dont get drunk. Terrible things can happen if you do.

Drunkenness is a shameful state. Maimonides (Hilchot Deot 5:3) states: One who becomes intoxicated is a sinner and is despicable and loses his wisdom. If [a wise person] becomes drunk in the presence of common folk, he has thereby desecrated the Name.

In his section on the Laws of Holiday Rest (6:20), Maimonides rules: When a person eats, drinks, and celebrates on a festival, he should not allow himself to become overly drawn to drinking wine, amusement, and sillinessfor drunkenness and excessive amusement and silliness are not rejoicing; they are frivolity and foolishness.

Not only does drunkenness impair ones judgment; it demeans a person in the eyes of others and the eyes of G-d.

Rabbi Marc D. Angel, director of theInstitute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals

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Chazal warn us about the dangers of drunkenness. Furthermore, the greatness of man is his self-control and intellect, so anything that undermines these aspects should be avoided. I assume, therefore, that the question strictly concerns getting drunk on Purim.

In answer to that question: If one knows himself and is able to get drunk appropriately without doing damage or saying things that are improper, I would be hard-pressed to say somethings wrong with it. But again, its only okay if the person knows he wont overstep any lines.

Rabbi Ben Zion Shafier, founder of The Shmuz

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Wine is associated with joy and is incorporated in kiddush and kos shel berachah. But the two portrayals in the Torah of people getting drunk regarding Noach and Lot are (to be generous) negative.

As someone who makes kiddush on grape juice and only drinks wine (with low alcoholic content) for the four cups at the Seder, I lack the appreciation for drinking that others bring to this discussion. As far as I can tell, the loss of control and dignity accompanying getting drunk doesnt conform to any notion of human dignity.

Humans are meant to be dignified beings exercising self-control. The classic explanation of the Ramban to the command Be holyplaces getting drunk on the wrong side of this commandment.

Rabbi Yosef Blau, mashgiach ruchani at YUsRabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary

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The Or HaChaim HaKadosh explains that Nadav and Avihu walked into the Mishkan in an inebriated state because of their spiritual aspirations. They had climbed as high as they could within the confines of their own physical limitations, and as a result of drinking wine they were able to remove whatever inhibitions remained in order to experience an ultimate expiration of the soul (kelayos hanefesh) and thereby cleave to the Divine.

The Shelah HaKadosh writes in this same context that many great rabbanim would drink significant quantities of wine on Shabbos for a similar reason.Nichnas yayin yatza sod the drinking would enable them to expand their intellectual horizons and share more Torah with their students.

In a similar vein, the Lubavitcher Rebbe offers a compelling explanation of the famous Talmudic story of Rabba and Reb Zeira drinking copious amounts of wine on Purim to the point where Rabba shechted Reb Zeira.

The Rebbe explains that Reb Zeira endured a spiritual experience, an expiration of the soul akin to the experience of Nadav and Avihu. (Its worthwhile studying this explanation in the original to fully appreciate its profundity and see the various proofs he offers).

The common theme of all of the above is that drinking can get one spiritually high. The term drunk implies loss of intellectual faculties, sometimes to destructive ends. That surely is of no benefit or value and must be frowned upon. But if the physical high releases deeper spiritual yearnings and aspirations, then make mine a double. Lchaim.

Rabbi Yitzchak Schochet, popular Lubavitchlecturer, rabbi of Londons Mill Hill Synagogue

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It depends on the degree of drunkenness. If drunk means slightly inebriated light-headed and happy but fully in control of ones actions then this state is how one achieves simchas yom tov and is comforted during mourning and other difficult times.

If drunk means one cannot think straight and ones level of shame is lessened, then this state is one that reduces ones ability to make sound moral choices and, according to Rav Moshe Feinstein, is forbidden due to a Torah prohibition. In this state one would not be able to talk properly before a person of stature (a king) and would be prohibited from davening.

If drunk means like Lot totally wasted then getting drunk is definitely a Torah prohibition and could lead to all sorts of sins, and merely putting oneself in such a state is a serious sin.

Perhaps the only exception to this rule is getting drunk Purim, and that is only according to some opinions and definitely only for someone who is sure that when drunk he will not transgress even the slightest sin and will act in a manner befitting a Torah personality.

Rabbi Zev Leff, rav of Moshav Matisyahu,popular lecturer and educator

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