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Q I know you’ve spoken about the dangers of drinking in the past. Whether or not I agree with your ideas, can we agree that Purim, the one day in the year when it’s a mitzvah to drink, should be judgment-free? My guess is that the ones who spout rhetoric about Purim drinking are the same people who never drink during the year and just don’t like it to begin with. But for the rest of us, can we let the criticism go just for that one day?

A You’re correct that in the recent years around Purim time there have been more and more warnings issued to parents and children about the dangers of drinking and alcohol poisoning. Some yeshivos address these concerns, and organizations like AMUDIM and MASK have always tried to better educate us, especially around this time of year. It sounds like you feel our community has gone overboard. I’m not so sure. Have you ever spoken to a Hatzolah member who takes calls on Purim? Do you know how many people need to be rushed to the hospital as a result? Are you aware of the number of teens getting completely drunk, including those who pass out? Who decides what’s overreacting?

In terms of being commanded to drink, I’m not a halachic authority, so I can’t give you any definitive answers, but from what I’ve come to understand, many people not only do not have an obligation to drink but may actually be forbidden from doing so. But I suppose that each person needs to inquire for himself. As an aside, I wonder why the zealousness of this mitzvah seems unparalleled to any other. A Thought to ponder.

It’s also important to point out that serving alcohol to minors (under age 21) is illegal in New York (the law excludes the minor’s parents if not given excessive amounts) and can lead to criminal charges in some cases.  My intent is not to scare you or anyone else, but rather to show that this goes beyond Purim and being Jewish. 

There’s clearly an increase in addictive behaviors in our communities (including our teens), which has resulted in an uptick of overdoses and deaths. While the vast majority of those resulted from opiate use, there were a number that were related to alcohol. 

Is it fair of me to wonder about your own drinking habits and why this means so much to you? I don’t know if you have any children and what ages they might be, but I wonder if your opinion might change if your child wanted to get drunk on Purim with his or her friends. I think if you were to speak to one family that suffered a loss related to this topic perhaps the “it won’t happen to me or my child” syndrome might not feel as comfortable. 

An important point here (regarding adults) is the amount that’s being consumed. While some people seem to be fully capable of having a few shots and then stopping, others seem more prone to getting completely drunk. Once that happens, judgment is completely impaired and it can lead to severe consequences. One mistake in getting behind the wheel of a car while intoxicated (or even after a few shots) can G-d forbid result in a serious injury or the end of a life. I’m sure nobody wants their Purim to end on a note like that. Am I being morbid? Am I overdoing it? Or am I advocating for a better-safe-than-sorry approach? I’d like to think it’s the latter. I’ll take my risks in other areas of life.

I guess we all get to make that choice for ourselves.

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