Ethics

For the week ending 15 March 2003 / 11 Adar II 5763

Playing With Fire (Crackers)

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
The Color of HeavenArtscroll

QUESTION: Around Purim time my son and many of his friends get into the "holiday spirit" by purchasing little firecrackers and exploding them. I have heard that many rabbis have come out very strongly against this and I would like to know if I have to take action to discourage this sort of fun which the kids think is a big mitzvah?

ANSWER: You should definitely prohibit your son from any contract with firecrackers. The "holiday spirit" you describe is a perversion of a nice Jewish custom to make noise on Purim when Hamans name is mentioned in the reading of the Megillah. (This custom also evolved from the original idea of children writing Hamans name or drawing his picture on a pieces of wood or stones and banging them together to literally wipe out his name in symbolic fulfillment of the Divine command to "wipe out the name of Amalek.")

It is bad enough that some parents fail to control their children during the Megillah reading and allow them to disturb the congregation with various kinds of non-stop noisemakers. But what purpose is there in allowing them to go wild with pyrotechnics before Purim, which is not only meaningless but dangerous as well, to others and to themselves.

Our Sages prohibited a Jew to raise a menacing dog except for security purposes because of the threat it posed to a pregnant woman who might suffer a miscarriage as the result of fright from the dogs barking. There are older people with heart conditions in the vicinity of these young firecracker fans, and the sudden noise they hear can severely affect them. This is virtually true for nearly everyone nowadays in a time when even a mini-explosion is feared to be a terrorist act!

The danger to the youngsters from playing with firecrackers may not be as dramatic as the tragedy that pyrotechnics caused the other week in a West Warwick, Rhode Island nightclub. But there have been relatively minor tragedies of children suffering severe burns or even losing fingers as a result of careless handling of these dangerous toys. There are laws against selling these things to kids but they somehow manage to get them. So it is up to you and other parents to guide your children in how to enjoy the "holiday spirit" in a safe and meaningful way.

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