Insights into Halacha

For the week ending 19 March 2022 / 16 Adar Bet 5782

To Drink or Not to Drink? A Halachic Analysis of Getting Drunk on Purim

by Rabbi Yehuda Spitz
Library Library Library

Who doesn’t love Purim? This annual Yom Tov extravaganza, featuring joyous dancing, Mishloach Manos, colorful costumes, and of course, the Megillah reading, is the favorite time of year for quite a few of us. However, for many, it is the unique Mitzva to get drunk that they relish. Since Purim is described in the Megillah as a day of Mishteh (referring to a wine feast)[1] and the Purim turnabout miracle occurred at such wine feasts, there is a rare dispensation from the norm, and an apparent obligation to drink wine.[2] Hopefully, the wine will enable one to experience a sublime, spiritual Purim.[3]

Yet, as is well known, uninhibited drinking may also unfortunately result in catastrophic consequences. If so, what exactly is the Mitzva of drinking on Purim? This essay proposes to find out.

Chayav Inish Livesumei…

The Gemara Megillah (7b) famously rules that “Meichayav inish livesumei b’Puraya ad d’lo yada bein Arur Haman L’Boruch Mordechai” - a person is obligated to drink and get intoxicated on Purim until he cannot tell the difference between ‘Cursed is Haman’ and ‘Blessed is Mordechai’. The simple meaning is seemingly teaching us that we must get exceedingly drunk on Purim.

Yet, as we will soon see, this assertion is anything but simple.

The very next line in the Gemara tells a fascinating tale of Rabba and Rabbi Zeira who got excessively drunk together on Purim. In his drunken stupor, Rabba proceeded to kill (‘slaughter’) Rabbi Zeira. When he sobered up and realized what he had done, he davened that Rabbi Zeira be brought back to life. His tefillos were answered and Rabbi Zeira rejoined the world of the living. Yet, the next year, Rabbi Zeira refused to join Rabba for his Purim seudah, duly noting that a miracle is not a common occurrence and one may not rely on such miracles.

Although there are different interpretations of this story, with several meforshim explaining that it is not to be understood literally, positing that Rabba did not actually kill Rabbi Zeira,[4] nevertheless, many commentaries are bothered by the Gemara’s choice of phrasing. If the ruling is that one must get drunk on Purim, then why is this story, showcasing the potential drastic and tragic consequences of such drinking, featured immediately following? What message is the Gemara trying to impart to us?

Additionally, what exactly does it mean that one must drink until “ad d’lo yada bein Arur Haman L’Boruch Mordechai”? What does this enigmatic turn of phrase truly mean?

Ad D’ad D’lo Yada…

As with many other issues in halacha, the answers to these questions are not as simple as they may first seem. Several authorities, including the Rif and Tur, when codifying this Mitzva, do indeed use the basic understanding of the Gemara’s ruling, that one is required to get so drunk on Purim that he cannot tell the difference between ‘Cursed is Haman’ and ‘Blessed is Mordechai,’ implying quite drunk.[5]

Yet, Rabbeinu Efraim, cited l’halacha by the Ran and Baal HaMa’or, rules in the exact opposite manner! He maintains that since the Gemara tells the story of Rabba and Rabbi Zeira after the ruling of getting drunk, it is not meant exclusively as a cautionary tale detailing the evils of excessive alcohol imbibement; rather, it is coming to negate the previous ruling! According to this understanding, the Gemara’s conclusion is that it is forbidden to get drunk on Purim![6]

V’lo Ad B’Chlal!

A different explanation of the Gemara is that drinking “ad d’lo yada bein Arur Haman L’Boruch Mordechai” does not actually mean getting stone cold drunk. In fact, most commentaries offer many different rationales as to the Gemara’s intent with this particular turn of phrase.

Some say it means drinking until one can no longer perform the mental acrobatics necessary to be able to add up the Gematria of Arur Haman andBaruch Mordechai (Hint: they both equal 502!).[7] Accordingly, this is a much lesser degree of drunkenness. Others explain it means drinking until one can no longer decide which was a greater miracle: the downfall of Haman or Mordechai’s meteoric rise in prominence.[8] Another interpretation is to drink enough to no longer be able to recite a lengthy Purim themed Alef-Bais acrostic poem in the proper order.[9] An additional understanding is that one must get inebriated just enough to no longer be able to properly thank Hashem for the many miracles of our salvation Purim time.[10] It is clear that many authorities throughout the generations felt uncomfortable with the literal interpretation of the Gemara’s teaching to get drunk on Purim, and each one interprets the instruction as such that it does not imply getting fully drunk.

Rav Manoach Hendel of Prague, a contemporary of the Maharshal’s (mid 1500s), cites many of these explanations to elucidate the Gemara’s intent.[11] Interestingly, what they all have in common is that not a single one of them understands the Gemara to be referring to actually getting drunk! Utilizing any of these aforementioned opinions would mean that one should definitely not be ‘getting plastered.’ Rather, one should only drink a bit, somewhat more than he usually would, until he fulfills one of these understandings of the dictum of ad d’lo yada.[12]

In fact, although the Shulchan Aruch seems to imply that he agrees to the Tur’s interpretation, that one must get drunk, it must be noted that in his Beis Yosef commentary he completely rejects this approach, exclusively citing Rabbeinu Efraim and the Orchos Chaim, who refers to getting drunk on Purim as ‘ain lecha Aveirah gedolah mi’zu’, the worst of transgressions, and concludes that one should merely drink a tad more than he is accustomed to.[13] This apparently means that when he codified the halacha in the Shulchan Aruch as drinking until “ad d’lo yada,” this dictum should be understood in the light of his explanation in the Beis Yosef, and not ‘getting wasted,’ as many mistakenly believe.

Just Sleep It Off

The Rambam offers an alternate approach. He maintains that one must drink until he falls asleep from his drunkenness. Meaning, if one drinks and then falls asleep he has fulfilled his Mitzva of drinking on Purim “ad d’lo yada.” When asleep, one certainly cannot distinguish between Arur Haman and Baruch Mordechai! This approach also fits well with his famous ruling in Hilchos Dei’os about one who gets drunk being a ‘sinner and a disgrace.’[14]

The Rema when codifying the proper amount to drink on Purim, combines both of the latter approaches: drinking somewhat more than one is accustomed to regularly, and then going to sleep, adding that this applies even without actually getting drunk.[15]

So…What’s the Halacha?

It should be noted that several prominent authorities who do rule that one should actually get drunk, including the Yaavetz,Shaarei Teshuva,Chayei Adam,Kitzur Shulchan Aruch,andKaf Hachaim, add an important caveat. If one might come to be lax in the performance of even one other Mitzva, such as Netillas Yadayim, Bentching, or Davening while drunk, they all maintain that it is preferable not to drink at all, to ensure that all of one’s actions remainl’sheim Shamayim.[16]

The Pri Chodosh cites several opinions regarding drinking on Purim and concludes that already in his time several hundred years ago (late 1600s), with society’s decline over the generations, it is proper to follow the opinion of Rabbeinu Efraim, and only drink a small amount more than usual. This way one will be certain not to chas veshalom unwittingly transgress any prohibitions, and result in receiving blessings from Hashem. This is not only his view, but many major Acharonim, including the Pri Megadim, Aruch Hashulchan, and Mishnah Berurah ruled like the Rema and / or Pri Chodosh lemaaseh, adding“v’chein ra’ui la’asos,” that this is the worthwhile approach to follow.[17]

In fact, many contemporary Gedolim, including the Chofetz Chaim, the Steipler Gaon, Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, Rav Moshe Feinstein, and Rav Yisrael Yaakov Fischer, zichronam l’vracha, personally followed the Rema’s shittah of drinking more than usual and going to sleep.[18]

If already several centuries ago, thePri Chodosh complained about the deterioration of social mores, how much more relevant are his prophetic words nowadays, with teen alcoholism on the rise and not a year going by without hearing horror stories about the tragic results of excessive drinking on Purim? Several decades ago, the Gadol Hador, Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l decried the leitzonus and zilzul (unseemly levity and poor mitzvah performance) that unfortunately has replaced Simcha shel Mitzva and become the norm among many, due to extreme intoxication.[19] And, more recently, Rav Shmuel Kamenetzky has publicly stated that “it is an Aveira to get drunk on Purim.”[20]

In the final analysis, whichever opinion one follows, it seems that Hatzolah has gotten it right with their annual Purim message: ‘Don’t get carried away this Purim!’[21] [22]

A Freilichen Purim to all Klal Yisrael!

The author wishes to acknowledge excellent articles on this topic by Rabbi Moshe Brody, Rabbi Yehoshua Pfeffer, and Rabbi Binyomin Radner.

This article was written L’iluy Nishmas this author’s beloved grandmother, Chana Rus (Spitz) bas Rav Yissachar Dov a”h and uncle Yeruchem ben Rav Yisroel Mendel (Kaplan) zt”l, and l’zechus Shira Yaffa bas Rochel Miriam v’chol yotzei chalatzeha for a yeshua sheleimah teikif u’miyad!

For any questions, comments or for the full Mareh Mekomos / sources, please email the author: yspitz@ohr.edu.

Rabbi Spitz’s recent English halacha sefer, “Insights Into Halacha - Food: A Halachic Analysis,” (Mosaica/Feldheim)has more than 500 pages and features over 30 comprehensive chapters, discussing a myriad of halachic issues relating to food. It is now available online and in bookstores everywhere.

Rabbi Yehuda Spitz, author of Mishulchan Yehuda on Inyanei Halacha, serves as the Sho’el U’Meishiv and Rosh Chabura of the Ohr Lagolah Halacha Kollel at Yeshivas Ohr Somayach in Yerushalayim. He also currently writes a contemporary halacha column for the Ohr Somayach website titled “Insights Into Halacha”: http://ohr.edu/this_week/insights_into_halacha/.



[1] Esther (Ch. 9:19 and 22).

[2] See Abudraham (Hilchos Purim), Rokeach (237), Shu”t HaRadbaz (vol. 1: 462), Elyah Rabba (Orach Chaim 695: 1), Chayei Adam (vol. 2, 155: 30), Tzror Hachaim (Haderech Hashmini, Midrash L’Purim pg. 120-121),Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (142: 6), Aruch Hashulchan (Orach Chaim 695: end 6), and Biur Halacha (695 s.v. chayav). This is also the basic understanding of Rashi’s commentary (Megillah 7b), who simply translates livesumei as getting drunk with wine. Similarly, the Rambam (Hilchos Megillah Ch. 2: 15) only mentions drinking wine. However, there are those who maintain that one need not get drunk exclusively with wine. Fore more on this topic, see Gilyonei HaShas (Megillah 7b s.v. meichayav), Shu”t Hisorerus Teshuvah (vol. 3, Orach Chaim 491), and on a more contemporary note, Mikraei Kodesh (Purim, 44, in the footnotes), Orchos Rabbeinu (vol. 3: Purim, 92, pg. 56; new edition, vol. 3, pg. 185: 10), Shu”t Rivevos Efraim (vol. 1, 395: 2; vol. 3, 465: 1; and vol. 7, 360: 1),Shu”t Mishnah Halachos (vol. 5: 83), Shu”t Mishnas Yosef (vol. 4: 50), Shu”t Lehoros Nosson (vol. 9: 22), Shu”t Shevet Hakehasi (vol. 6: 258), Moadim U’Zmanim (vol. 2: 190), Moadei Yeshurun (Ch. 2, footnote 65), Shmaatseh D’Moshe (Shemuos Moshe 695: 4), Darchei Moshe [Feinstein] (vol. 2, pg. 411), Shu”t M’Tzion Teitzei Torah (149), and Moadei HaGra”ch (vol. 1, pg. 336).

[3] As Rav Shlomo Wolbe (Alei Shur vol. 2: pg. 468) wrote about Rav Yisrael Salanter on Purim. See the Maharal M’Prague’s Ohr Chodosh (Hakdamah, pg. 49) for an interesting assessment why we drink on Purim, explaining that by drinking we are completely negating ourselves, which shows that our existence is totally from Hashem, similar to the time of the Purim miracles. A similar explanation is given by the Seder HaYom (Seder Seudas Purim s.v. chayav) that we must recreate what Haman tried to do to us, but this time from a standpoint of Simcha. Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz (Sichos Mussar 5731, Maamar 11) takes this point a step further, explaining that at that point of drinking we are showing that we are entirely ‘Avdei Hashem’, and not ‘Bnei Chorin’ making rationale decisions. The Chasam Sofer (Toras Moshe, Parshas Tetzaveh, L’Purim, s.v. chayav) writes that our drinking Leshaim Shamayim on Purim is meant to negate the drinking that was done at Achashveirosh’s party in order to sin. Another idea is that the wine serves as a catalyst to draw us close to one another, as the Gemara in Sanhedrin (103b) states “Great is drinking…for it brings together those who are distant”. For additional understandings see Rav Chaim Friedlander’s Sifsei Chaim (Moadim vol. 2, pg. 205) and the Birkas Avraham (Megillah ad loc. s.v. ad) at length. See also footnote 10.

[4] For many different interpretations of what Rabba actually did to Rabbi Zeira if not kill him, see Meiri (Megillah 7b), Maharsha (Chiddushei Aggados to Megillah 7b), Yaavetz (in his glosses to Megillah 7b), Chasam Sofer (Chiddushim to Nida 23a), Ben Yehoyada (ad loc.), Imrei Emes (Likutim, Megillah 7b), Halichos Shlomo (Moadim vol. 1, Ch.19: end footnote 77), and Shu”t Teshuvos V’Hanhagos (vol. 4: 173). According to the Margolis HaYam (Sanhedrin 65b; cited in Rabbi Mordechai Zev Trenk’s recent fascinating book Magic, Mysteries, and Mysticism: Illuminating Insights on Esoteric Torah Topics, pg. 207, note 2), the famous story in the Gemara Sanhedrin (65b) about Rabba (according to the Yad Rama’s girsa ad loc.) creating a Golem and sending it to Rabbi Zeira, was meant as an epilogue to the story of the Gemara in Megillah - as if to assuage Rabbi Zeira’s fears, not to worry at future Purim seudos, since he had the ability to bring him back to life at will, ‘bechol shaata v’shaata.’ Rabbi Zeira’s refusal and subsequent returning the Golem to dust after he did not answer his questions, is understandable, as a man-made Golem lacks the ability of speech. In order to be considered having a neshama, a creation needs to have the potential for speech [see, for example the Ramban’s commentary to Parashas Bereishis (Ch. 2:7; based on Targum Onkelus ad loc.)], an attribute a Golem sorely lacks. [For more on this topic, see my recent English halacha sefer Insights Into Halacha - Food: A Halachic Analysis(pg. 102-103).] Hence, the fact that Rabba had the ability to create a Golem would not be sufficient proof that he had the ability to resurrect Rabbi Zeira an additional time, should things get out of hand the next Purim. [The topic of Golems in general, and whether they can count for a minyan, was discussed at length in a previous article titled ‘Elul, L’Dovid, and Golems.’] Rav Menashe Klein (Shu”t Mishnah Halachos vol. 11: 556) gives an alternate interpretation, positing that Rabba, who is known to have been born under the Mazal of Ma’adim (Mars) [see Gemara Shabbos (156a)] and therefore more attuned to bloodshed, got so drunk on Purim that while wanting to fulfill the Mitzva of Mechiyas Amalek, mistook Rabbi Zeira for an Amalekite and killed him. In a later teshuva (Shu”t Mishnah Halachos vol. 18: 388) he adds a supposition that just as there is a chiyuv on Pesach to see one’s self as leaving Mitzrayim, perhaps a similar inyan holds true with every Yom Tov. As such, the related Mitzva on Purim to see one’s self performing, is Mechiyas Amalek. This explains why even after he sobered up and realized the full tragic extent of his actions, Rabba still wanted to have the Purim seudah together the next year, so he could once again accomplish seeing himself performing actions akin to the Mitzva of Mechiyas Amalek.

[5] Rif (Megillah 3b) and Tur (Orach Chaim 695, 2). This is also the basic understanding of Rashi’s pshat (Megillah 7b) who simply translates livesumei as getting drunk with wine. Although the Rosh (ad loc. 8) also uses this choice of words in his ruling, he adds the piyut cited in Tosafos (ad loc. s.v. d’lo; the import of this is explained later in the article; see footnote 9 at length), implying a lower level of drunkenness is required. Other authorities who also maintained that the halacha is to get drunk “ad sheyhei nizkar haneis hagadol b’shtiyas hayayin,” include the Ravyah (end 564; cited by the Haghos Maimoniyos, Hilchos Megillah Ch. 2, 15: 2 and Maharil, Shu”t 56), the Sefer HaMinhagim of Rav Yitzchak Isaac Tyrnau [Tirna] (Hilchos Purim; cited in Darchei Moshe, Orach Chaim 695: 1), Matteh Moshe (812), andElya Rabba (Orach Chaim 695: 1; see also Biur Halac’ha ad loc. s.v. chayav). However, it is important to note that even though the Gemara uses the term “Chiyuv,” these Poskim nonetheless maintain that getting drunk ‘ad d’lo yada’ is “L’Mitzva,v’lo l’akeiv” - a Mitzva and not an outright obligation. Accordingly, even if one drinks and does not get drunk, he has still fulfilled his Purim Mitzva. Astonishingly, the Machzor Vitry (vol. 2: 465; pg. 583) cites a piyut for Maariv of Purim night from R’ Menachem Ben R’ Aharon titled ‘Leil Shikurim Zeh Halaylah’ describing many drunken acts in detail, many of them seeming quite contrary to normative halacha. However, many question the veracity and intent of this piyut, see Rav Yehuda Leib Maimon’s Chagim U’Moadim (pg. 149), Netei Gavriel (Hilchos Purim, Ch. 48: footnote 2, pg. 280; citing the Pupa Rebbe), and the Klausenberger Rebbe’s Shu”t Divrei Yatziv (Orach Chaim vol. 2: 297, 6; who simply writes that this piyut was only written L’Simchas Purim; implying not to take it seriously). The Rema, in his commentary to Megillas Esther, Mechir Yayin (pg. 95) writes several possible explanations to drinking “ad d’lo yada bein Arur Haman L’Boruch Mordechai,” and quite astoundingly, all are polar opposites of how he rules lemaaseh. These possible explanations include that one should start drinking on Purim while very young, before reaching the age of understanding the difference between Haman and Mordechai, but once he gets older and understands, he shouldn’t drink on Purim anymore, as Eliyahu Hanavi stated (see Brachos 29b) ‘don’t drink and you won’t come to sin.’ Alternatively, he posits that “ad d’lo yada” refers to drinking ‘harbeh me’od’ until one gets ‘as drunk as Lot,’ as therefore even if one sins, he will be pattur. [See also Shulchan Aruch and Rema (Yoreh Deah 1: 8) - that one who gets as drunk as Lot has the halachic status of a shoteh.] This is why, he postulates, that the Gemara told the story of Rabba and Rabbi Zeira - to show that if one gets so drunk (lishikruso shel Lot) that he kills someone - he is not held liable! On the other hand, if one drinks and does not get that ‘plastered,’ it is considered that he did not drink at all, and would be held accountable for his actions. However, and quite importantly, it must be strongly stressed that the Rema only wrote these as possible sevaros, but actually rules quite conversely (as will be detailed later on in the article). See also Binah L’Ittim (from Rav Azaryah Figo; mechaber of Gedulei Terumah, early 1600s; Drush 21 s.v. v’zeh) who writes in extremely strong terms that one is required to ‘malei kreiso b’yayin… legamri’. A similar explanation is given by the Seder HaYom (from Rav Moshe ben Machir; Seder Seudas Purim s.v. chayav) that we must recreate what Haman tried to do to us, but this time from a standpoint of Simcha, meaning, “lishtos harbeh ad shenishar k’meisim mushkavim artza, drinking so much that we are like dead people lying on the ground.” An additional rationale to get exceedingly drunk on Purim is cited in Rav Aryeh Leib Pomeranchik’s Emek Bracha (pg. 126, Seudas Purim s.v. shamaati) quoting Rav Yisrael Salanter. He puts forth the notion that the ikar Mitzva is to drink and get drunk; ergo if one was drunk and sobered up, he has not fulfilled the Mitzva, and is required to get drunk again. In other words, the Mitzva is not to get drunk, but rather to be drunk, as a Mitzva Kiyumis, as according to this understanding ‘ad d’lo yada’ is just a shiur to patur the Mitzva, not to actually fulfill it. [As briefly mentioned previously, it is well known that Rav Yisrael Salanter would get exceedingly drunk on Purim, yet he would utilize his drunkenness as a catalyst for a spiritual Purim experience, and not chas v’shalom debase himself in any manner. See also the Aderes’s autobiographical Seder Eliyahu, where he recounts visiting Rav Yisrael Salanter’s residence on Motzai Purim and finding him quite drunk, but nevertheless able to sober up and properly daven Maariv before the Sof Zman. Thanks are due to R’ Yehoshua Pasternak for pointing out this interesting source. A similar account is given by the Seridei Aish (Shu”t, vol. 4, 2003 Mossad Rav Kook edition, Baalei Mussar, pg. 299; cited in Maggid Harakiya, Adar-Purim, pg. 293-294) about Rav Naftali Amsterdam and the incredible spiritual heights he would reach on Purim and instantly sober up for a proper Maariv.] Rav Pomeranchik attempts to fit this understandingin with the Rambam’s choice of words (Hilchos Megillah Ch. 2: 15) ‘v’shoseh yayin’ (to drink wine - using the present tense), but notes that both Rashi and the Tur use the term ‘lehishtaker b’yayin’, meaning to get drunk - not to keep getting drunk. Accordingly, he understands Rashi as maintaining that the Mitzva is drinking to be drunk - that the Mitzva is fulfilled by being drunk and drinking wine is the way to do it (akin to a sort of ‘hechsher Mitzva’), whereas the Rambam would hold that the Mitzva is actually fulfilled by drinking wine to get drunk; once one actually gets drunk and reaches ‘ad d’lo yada’, he is now exempt from further drinking. See also Rav Chaim Turchin’s Kuntress Chanuka U’Megillah (28: 28, Hagahah; quoted in Maggid Harakiya, ibid. Ch. 33:3, pg. 285-286) who, following this train of thought, cites a practical “nafka-mina” between the proposed understandings of Rashi vs. the Rambam’s shittos (Maggid Harakiya ad loc. cites several others as well). However, it must be noted that this is a novel approach to the Rambam’s ruling, as the Rema, among others, decidedly did not understand the Rambam that way (as detailed later in the article). Additionally, it would seemingly create a stirah between the Rambam’s own words in Hilchos Dei’os (Ch. 5: 3; see footnote 14). Rav Pomeranchik concludes with the words of the Brisker Rav that since the pasuk states ‘Mishteh V’Simcha’, it means that ‘Mishteh’in itself is essentially its own Mitzva, even without ‘Simcha’, and it this specific Mitzva of Purim that Chazal established the parameters as ad d’lo yada. [The author wishes to thank his talmid, R’ Moshe Sanders, for pointing out several of these invaluable sources.] On the other hand, this assessment is not so simple, as Rav Betzalel Zolty (Shu”t Mishnas Yaavetz, Orach Chaim 79) explains this pasuk differently. He maintains (in order to answer up the Magen Avrohom’s kushya (Orach Chaim 696: 18) on the Shulchan Aruch regarding getting married on Purim), that ‘Mishteh V’Simcha’ refers to a ‘Mishteh shel Simcha’, meaning the only Simcha mandated on Purim is the Simcha of the Mishteh, but not that they are separate Mitzvos. On the other hand, Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Maadanei Shlomo; 2016 edition on Dalet Chelkei Shulchan Aruch, pg. 235 - 236, 7-8) is quoted as holding that there is a Mitzva Chiyuvis to drink on Purim, [albeit not necessarily getting drunk; as will be explained later on in the article] and not limited to the actual seudah. The Sefas Emes (Megillah 7b) wrote similarly as well, that he understood the Mitzva to be “la’asok b’mishteh”, but not necessarily getting drunk. See also Rav Asher Weiss’s Minchas Asher on Moadim (vol. 2, Purim, 28: 7, Simchas Purim) who also argues on Rav Zolty’s assessment, explaining that the full quote in the pasuk is ‘YemeiMishteh V’Simcha’, implying that that there is a Mitzva on Purim to rejoice in any manner of Simcha, not necessarily bound to the Mitzvos of Purim. He explains that this bears out from the Gemara’s referencing (Megillah 5b) of (and the Shulchan Aruch’s later ruling of - Orach Chaim 696: 1) a Binyan and Netiyah shel Simcha, which are not Purim related, yet are nonetheless permissible to build on Purim as they are still Simcha related.

[6] Rabbeinu Efraim’s shittah is cited l’halacha by the Ran (Megillah 3b in the Rif’s folios s.v. meichayav), Baal HaMa’or (Ma’or HaKattan ad loc. s.v. amar), Shitas Rivav (R’ Yehuda ben Brechya; ad loc.), and Shibolei Leket (201). It is also cited by many later authorities including the Beis Yosef (Orach Chaim 695: 2 s.v. mitzva), Bach (ad loc. s.v. u’lfa”d), Taz (ad loc. 2), and Pri Chodosh (ad loc. 2). See also Korban Nesanel (Megillah Ch. 1: 10) who writes similarly. This especially holds true according to the girsa that the origin of both memros in the Gemara was Rabba. In other words, the same Amora who originally ruled to get drunk, is the very one that the story happened to due to his ruling. Accordingly, its placement immediately following the getting drunk ruling proves that the Gemara’s practical ruling is quite the opposite of the original. In fact, Rav Menashe Klein (Shu”t Mishnah Halachos vol. 11: 554) opines that the machlokes Rishonim whether or not to get on drunk on Purim is based on the different girsa’os. If Rabba was the protagonist of both memros, then it appears that he was chozer from his original position. Yet, if the author of the rule to get drunk was Rava, then it appears we follow his ruling as he was considered Posek Basra, a later authority, than Rabba was. However, not everyone agrees with this interpretation of the Gemara’s juxtaposition of these memros, even if both were referring to Rabba. For example, the Sefer HaEshkol (vol. 2, Hilchos Chanuka U’Purim 8, pg. 27) makes the opposite deduction. He asks why did Rabbi Zeira outright refuse Rabba’s invitation the next year? He could have agreed to attend, stipulating that they will simply not drink nor get drunk. The Sefer HaEshkol infers that from the fact that he didn’t do so implies that Rabbi Zeira essentially agreed that it is mandatory to drink and get drunk at the Purim Seudah. What he did not want to rely upon was a miracle to bring him back to life if things ‘got out of hand’ again. That is why the implication of the Gemara is that Rabbi Zeira still had a (possibly drunken) Purim Seudah the next year; just with different company. On a similar note, the Chasam Sofer (Shu”t, Orach Chaim 185) writes that since the protagonist of the story is Rabba, who is known to have been born under the Mazal of Ma’adim (Mars) [as per Gemara Shabbos (156a); mentioned in a previous footnote] and therefore more attuned to bloodshed, this cautionary tale was meant to teach us a qualification on getting drunk on Purim exclusively to those who exhibit similar tendencies. However, as this is non-applicable to the majority of us, the Chasam Sofer assures us that we can properly fulfill the Mitzva of getting drunk without fail, as “Sheluchei Mitzva ainan nizokin, v’lo seitzei takala u’michshol Mi’simchas Mitzvoseinu.” See also the Chasam Sofer’s Chiddushim to Megillah (7b) citing his Rebbi, the Hafla’ah, who ties in another statement of Rabbi Zeira’s in Chullin (8a) regarding the kashrus status of a heated sharpened Shechita blade, to this example, as it seems he may have been recounting his ‘personal experience’ on the receiving end. On the other hand, others (i.e, see Yad Efraim Orach Chaim 695: 2; see also footnote 12), maintain that the cautionary tale of Rabba and Rabbi Zeira was to tell us how far ‘too far is’. Meaning, the Gemara is teaching us that we should drink to be “B’Simcha”, but only until but not including ‘ad d’lo yada’ (“ad v’lo ad b’chlal”), with the proof of this being the story of Rabba and Rabbi Zeira who superseded the boundaries of acceptable drinking.

[7] This approach is cited by the Agudah (Purim 6), Rabbeinu Yerucham (Toldos Adam, Nesiv 10, vol. 1: pg. 62c), Maharil (Minhagim, Hilchos Purim 10), Chochmas Manoach (Megillah 7b), Darchei Moshe (Orach Chaim 695: 1), Levush (ad loc.), Ba’er Hagolah (ad loc.), Magen Avrohom (ad loc. 3), Ba’er Heitiv (ad loc. 2), Pri Megadim (ad loc. Eshel Avrohom 3), Aruch Hashulchan (ad loc. 3), and Shaar HaTziyun (ad loc. 5). Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach is quoted (Maadanei Shlomo; 2016 edition on Dalet Chelkei Shulchan Aruch, pg. 235 - 236, 7 - 8) as holding that this interpretation is the closest to the true pshat.

[8] See Biur HaGr”a (ad loc. s.v. chayav), Yad Efraim (ad loc. s.v. chayav), Aruch Hashulchan (ad loc. 4), and Mishnah Berurah (ad loc. 4). A similar interpretation is offered by the Levush (ad loc.), as well as the Maharsha (Megillah 7b s.v. meichayav) who writes that the ad d’lo yada is referring to not being able to properly concentrate on the ‘madregah gedolah’ between the absolute wickedness of Haman who lost both worlds (Olam Hazeh and Olam Haba’ah) and the total righteousness of Mordechai who gained both worlds.

[9] The idea that Gemara’s intent was not simply to know the difference between “Arur Haman L’Boruch Mordechai”but rather reciting a lengthier acrostic, implying that a much lesser degree of inebriation is mandated, is brought by Tosafos (Megillah 7b s.v. d’lo), the Rosh (ad loc. 8), citing the Yerushalmi (Megillah, Ch. Bnei Ha’Ir, Halacha 5), and Machzor Vitry (250). A similar assessment is cited by many authorities, including the Sefer HaManhig (vol. 1, pg. 242), Abudraham (Hilchos Purim), Sefer HaEshkol (vol. 2, Hilchos Chanuka U’Purim 8, pg. 27), Sefer HaMinhagim (Purim), Tzror Hachaim (ibid. pg. 118), Chochmas Manoach (in his commentary to Megillah 7b), Darchei Moshe (Orach Chaim 695: 1), Rashash (in his commentary to Megillah 7b), Chasam Sofer (Chiddushim on Megillah 7b; quoting his Rebbi, Rav Nosson Adler), Maharsham (Chiddushim ad loc.), and Aruch Hashulchan (Orach Chaim 695: 3), who explain that there used to be a common lengthy Purim themed Alef-Bais acrostic poem recited on Purim. Accordingly, this understanding of “Arur Haman L’Boruch Mordechai”is to drink enough to no longer be able to recite this piyut in the proper order; a feat that would not entail much drinking at all. See also Kiryas Chana (Orach Chaim 695, s.v. v’yesh omrim) who adds several nuances to this shitta, maintaining that the kavanna is not being able to recite this acrostic in the exact order; additionally, one must both start and end with ‘baruch’ and not ‘arur’, as per the Gemara’s dictum (Gittin 75b) not to start or end with ‘Paraniyos’.

[10] See Taz (Orach Chaim 695: 1) and Mishnah Berurah (ad loc. 4). Several later authorities seem to combine this understanding with that of the Gr”a’s. There is a remarkable explanation given by the Rav Yaakov Loberbaum of Lissa (better known as the Nesivos Hamishpat, Derech Hachaim, or Chavas Daas) in the introduction to his Megillas Sesarim commentary on the Megillah [thanks are due to Rav Yitzchak Breitowitz for pointing this out]: Drinking on Purim ‘until we cannot distinguish between Arur Haman and Baruch Mordechai’ is actually a lesson in Hakaras Hatov, as as a result of Haman’s megalomaniacal and genocidal plot, Klal Yisrael ultimately reached a a higher madreiga in their Avodas Hashem via their eventual ‘Kimu V’Kiblu’. Hence, even in Haman’s accursed wickedness, it is up to us to see that there still was a ‘silver lining’, that at least on some level, he is considered somewhat praiseworthy. For other fascinating hesberim of why we drink on Purim, see Rav Avraham Yitzchok HaKohen Kook’s Olas Reiyah (by the Brachos of the Megillah), Rav Yitzchok Hutner’s Pachad Yitzchok (Purim, Inyan 6), Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz’s Sichos Mussar (5731, Maamar 11), Rav Chaim Friedlander’s Sifsei Chaim (Moadim vol. 2, MaamarAd D’lo Yada’), and Rav Moshe Sternbuch’s Shu”t Teshuvos V’Hanhagos (vol. 4: 173). See also Nesivos Shalom (Purim, pg. 57-58) who offers a completely separate understanding of the Gemara. He notes that the Gemara does not say 'livesumei' with wine, rather 'livesumei BePuria', in Purim, meaning that one should get intoxicated from Purim itself, as in the connotation of Yeshaya (Ch. 51: 21) “drunk, but not from wine”. On Purim a person must become so “drunk” on the elevated revelations of Purim that he cannot tell between the ‘Arur Haman’ and ‘Boruch Mordechai’ of his Avodas Hashem, his interpersonal relationships, and even himself. See also footnote 3. A novel and alternate interpretation is the opinion of Rabbeinu Avigdor, one of the Baalei Tosafos (cited in Netei Gavriel on Hilchos Purim, Ch. 73, footnote 1 s.v. u’kdai)who is medayek from the choice of the word ‘livesumei’ and not ‘l’ei vesumei’ that the obligation is not for one himself to get drunk, but rather that one must get everyone around him drunk as well.

[11] In his Chochmas Manoach commentary to Gemara Megillah (7b).

[12] Many authorities cite this as correct, some stating ‘ad v’lo ad b’chlal’, meaning yes, one should drink more than usual, but one should definitely not actually get drunk. See Meiri (Megillah 7b s.v. chayav), Kol Bo (45), Sefer HaManhag (cited by Abudraham ibid.), Nemukei Yosef (Megillah 7b), Korban Nesanel (ad loc. 10), Rema (Orach Chaim 695: 2), Leket Yosher (vol. 1: pg. 157), Yad Efraim (Orach Chaim 695: 2; exclaiming that this interpretation originally came to him in a dream), Sefas Emes (Megillah 7b; he understands the Mitzva to be “la’asok b’mishteh”, and one fulfills his obligation by doing so, even prior to exempting himself fully by reaching the state of ‘ad d’lo yada’), Biur Halacha (695 s.v. ad and s.v. chayav; that the ikar Mitzva is having a Seudas Yayin, “v’ain hashikrus me’akev kiyuma”), She’arim Metzuyanim B’Halacha (vol. 3, 142: 11), Shu”t Shevet Halevi (vol. 10, 107: 2; he explains that one should drink until the wine makes a “roshem shel hisromemus simcha,” but getting drunk is not necessary for the Mitzva), Orchos Rabbeinu (new edition; vol. 3, pg. 185: 9), and Alei Shur (vol. 2, pg. 468). Interestingly, the Bach (695 s.v. u’lfa”d) concludes that one should still drink ‘harbeh’ but still not get actually drunk. The Chasam Sofer (Toras Moshe, Parshas Tetzaveh, L’Purim, s.v. chayav) writes that “Mitzva lishtos kedei shikrus, aval lo yishtaker; rak yisyasheiv b’yayno.” A similar assessment is given by the Yesod VeShoresh HaAvodah (Shaar 12, Ch. 7) citing the Arizal, that ‘Chalilah to say that the Gemara HaKedoshah would mandate us to get drunk; rather to drink and ivsum (as opposed to shikur) to be able to celebrate properly with Simcha shel Mitzva.’ Likewise, the Orchos Tzaddikim (Shaar Hasimcha; although not necessarily referring to Purim, although he does mention it toward the end of the passage), after citing several seemingly contradictory pesukim regarding the benefits and evils of wine, maintains that the middle ground should be followed and wine should only be drunk in moderation. He explains that even on Moadim v’Raglaim one should not drink so much that it would be ‘mevatel m’Toraso U’tefillaso’… ‘shelo nitzavnu al simcha sheyishkach bah Yotzer Hakol’, and even on Purim ‘shosim yayin k’dai l’smo’ach halev’.

[13] Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 695: 2), Beis Yosef commentary (ad loc. s.v. mitzva), Rabbeinu Efraim (ibid.), and Orchos Chaim (Hilchos Purim 38). Interestingly, the Maharsha, in his Chiddushei Halachos (Megillah 7b) implies this way as well. On the words to explain the chiyuv of “ad d’lo yada,” he simply writes, ‘v’ayin B’Beis Yosef, v’kal lahaveen,’ implying that this is the proper explanation. See also his comments to Bava Metzia 23b, where he alludes to this as well, that one should not actually get drunk on Purim. However, from the Rema’s choice of words (v’yesh omrim) it seems that he understood that the Shulchan Aruch was actually contradicting his own psak in the Beis Yosef, and he therefore felt the need to actually spell out the correct psak - the conclusion in the Beis Yosef, synthesized with the Rambam’s shitta - see footnote 15. The Aruch Hashulchan (ad loc. 6) as well, asks this as a stira on the Shulchan Aruch and even concludes tzarich iyun. Yet, afterwards, in parenthesis, he writes ‘v’ulai yifrshu ad v’lo ad b’chlal,’ meaning there truly is no contradiction, but the Shulchan Aruch’s intent all along was to drink more than usual, but not to get drunk.

[14] Rambam (Hilchos Megillah Ch. 2: 15 and Hilchos Dei’os Ch. 5: 3; see also Hilchos Shevisas Yom Tov, Ch. 6:20). See Aruch Hashulchan (Orach Chaim 695: 2) for hesber. This is also the opinion of the Mahari Brin (quoted in the Darchei Moshe, Orach Chaim 695:1 and Rema ad loc. 2; although some editions mistakenly attribute this quote to the Maharil and not Mahari”b).

[15] Rema (Orach Chaim 695: 2). See Aruch Hashulchan (ad loc. 2) for hesber. The Rema’s approach seems to be a synthesis of the Kol Bo’s shitta (45) and the Rambam’s. For how to optimally fulfill the Mitzva this way see Mikraei Kodesh (Purim 44), Orchos Rabbeinu (vol. 3, pg. 57), Moadim U’Zmanim (vol. 2: 190), Chazon Ovadia (Purim. pg. 175 - 178), and Rav Chaim Kanievsky’s Igeres HaPurim (Ch. 6: 10). On this Rema, the Vilna Gaon (Biur HaGr”a ad loc. s.v. v’yesh omrim) references several Gemaros (Pesachim 113b and Yoma 74b-75a) that refer to the evils of getting drunk, strongly implying that he concurs that this is the proper ruling. The Aruch Hashulchan (ad loc. end 6) as well, after much shakla v’tarya, concludes that this is the correct course of action to take on Purim.

[16] Yaavetz (in his Amudei Shamayim Siddur; cited by the Sha’arei Teshuva 695: 2lemaaseh), Chayei Adam (vol. 2, 155: 30), Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (142: 6), Biur Halacha (695 s.v. ad), and Kaf Hachaim (Orach Chaim 695: 15 and 16). They base this on the Yerushalmi (Shabbos Ch. 8, Halacha 1) that Rav Yehuda bar Ilai only drank wine on Pesach, as it harmed his health, with no mention of Purim. This shows that as one can fulfill his Mitzva of Purim without drinking, if his kavanna is Leshaim Shamayim. The Kaf Kachaim adds that still one should at least drink a small amount of wine to fulfill the words of the Megillah (Esther Ch. 9, verse 19) ‘Yemei Mishteh V’Simcha’. On the other hand, see Rav Avraham Yitzchok HaKohen Kook’s Shu”t Orach Mishpat (Miluim, 7 - LeHilchos Purim) who questions this ruling, as he maintains anyone drunk should be in the category of ‘Osek BeMitzva Patur MiMitzva’ and would be considered an ‘oness’, and can therefore make up his missed davening via tashlumin. In a similar vein, the Klausenberger Rebbe relates (Shu”t Divrei Yatziv, Orach Chaim vol. 2: 237, 3) from the Divrei Chaim and Chacham Tzvi, that any time Chazal use the term ‘Chayav,’ it means that we are truly obligated to follow it, even with Mesiras Nefesh (even though he questions this definition). Accordingly, the obligation livesumei on Purim would be a ‘Chiyuv Gamur’.

[17] Interestingly, the Pri Chodosh (Orach Chaim 695: 2) actually first disagrees entirely with Rabbeinu Efraim’s novel interpretation of the Gemara, similar to the approach of the Sefer HaEshkol (vol. 2, Hilchos Chanuka U’Purim 8, pg. 27), yet concludes that it is nonetheless preferable to follow Rabbeinu Efraim lemaaseh). The Pri Megadim (ad loc. Mishbetzos Zahav 2) and Mishnah Berurah (ad loc. 5) cite this approach, concluding ‘v’chein ra’ui laasos’. The Aruch Hashulchan deals with this topic extensively (ad loc. 1-6), citing several opinions, questions, and possible answers. Yet he concludes ‘u’lmaaseh yeish l’hisrachek min hashichrus…v’rak l’shtos mi’at yoser m’limudo v’lishan ketzas,’ the bottom line is that one should distance himself from intoxication, and should rather drink a bit more than he is accustomed to and then go to sleep. See also footnote 12.

[18] It is known that many Gedolim personally followed the Rema’s shittah, including the Chofetz Chaim (Hanhagos HaChofetz Chaim pg. 181), the Steipler Gaon (Orchos Rabbeinu vol. 3, pg. 57; new edition, vol. 3, pg. 186: 11-12), Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Shalmei Moed pg. 288), and Rav Yisrael Yaakov Fischer (Halichos Even Yisrael, Moadim vol. 2, pg. 447, footnote 2). It is recorded (Darchei Moshe [Feinstein] vol. 2, pg. 410-412); citing several prominent talmidim that Rav Moshe Feinstein never got drunk on Purim, but rather would only drink a small amount (usually whiskey) and sometimes would take a nap afterwards. Regarding the Chofetz Chaim, it seems that his personal hanhagos were lishataso, as aside for his citing of the Meiri (ibid.) in his Biur Halacha in Hilchos Megillah (695 s.v. ad), that one should not get drunk and revel in ‘simcha shel holelus v’shel shtus’, we additionally find in several places throughout his Mishnah Berurah the scorn he reserves for those who engage in ‘sechok,’ ‘kalos rosh,’ and ‘holelus,’ as even regarding Purim he maintains that only the ‘sechok she’osim zeicher l’Achashveirosh’ is permitted [Mishnah Berurah (307: 58); citing the Magen Avraham (ad loc. 22)], and even ‘b’simcha shel Mitzva k’gon b’Chasunah u’Purim lo yamelei piv sechok’ [Mishnah Berurah (560: 20); citing the Perishah (ad loc. 1 s.v. schok) and Taz (ad loc. 7)]. See also Mishnah Berurah (529: 21) for a similar point on how one should properly conduct himself in times of Simcha. This point, the nuanced and marked difference between true ‘simcha’ and the less desirable ‘sechok,’ is discussed at length by the Orchos Tzaddikim in his Shaar Hasimcha. Interestingly, Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv (cited in Hanhagos Rabbeinu, pg. 168: 72, and footnote 79) maintained that one is not required to drink at all to be yotzeiad d’lo yada,’ but rather sleeping is sufficient even without drinking any wine. He held that the Rema, by mentioning drinking prior to sleeping, was only citing an example of how to fulfill this obligation; yet, the minimum amount of drinking was actually none – just going to sleep. This was also Rav Elyashiv’s personal hanhagah – taking a nap in the middle of Purim day and only later having some wine in the middle of the Purim seudah (see Hanhagos Rabbeinu ad loc. pg. 169: 76 and footnote 83). This admittedly seems a novel approach, as several other contemporary authorities point out that as the Rema’s ruling is essentially based on the Rambam’s, sleeping should be sufficient only after first drinking some wine [see for example Mikraei Kodesh (Purim 44) and Orchos Rabbeinu (new edition; vol. 3, pg. 186: 11), who explicitly make this point].

[19] Halichos Shlomo (Moadim vol. 1, Ch.19: end footnote 77).

[20] Seehere: http://www.vosizneias.com/49255/2010/02/12/new-york-rabbi-shmuel-kaminetsky-%E2%80%9Cit-is-an-aveira-to-get-drunk-on-purim%E2%80%9D/. Perhaps a semach to his shitta (that Livesumei is referring to sniffing) can be found in Rabbeinu Gershom’s interpretation of the word (Bava Basra 73b s.v. v’damo). Thanks are due to Rabbi Tzvi Price for pointing out this invaluable source.

[22] Especially as the Mordechai (Megillah Ch. 1: 789; cited in Darchei Moshe ibid.) writes ‘v’adif yomei d’Puraya m’Yom Shenitnah bo Torah’. Additionally, the Shlah (Torah Shebiksav, Parshas Tetzaveh, Drush Sheini L’Parshas Zachor) citing the Arizal, expounds on the incredible spiritual nature of Purim, including that is even considered greater than Yom Kippur, which is a ‘Yom K’Purim’, a day akin to Purim, establishing Purim’s preeminence. Just something worthwhile to think about.


Disclaimer: This is not a comprehensive guide, rather a brief summary to raise awareness of the issues. In any real case one should ask a competent Halachic authority.


L'iluy Nishmas the Rosh HaYeshiva - Rav Chonoh Menachem Mendel ben R' Yechezkel Shraga, Rav Yaakov Yeshaya ben R' Boruch Yehuda, and l'zchus for Shira Yaffa bas Rochel Miriam and her children for a yeshua teikef u'miyad!

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