Baltimore, MD - Mar. 14, 2019 - Reposting upon request:
The below was sent this evening (Feb. 27, 2018) to the members of Bnai Jacob Shaarei Zion:
I hope this letter finds you all well and looking forward to the beautiful Yom Tov of Purim. I address this letter to all of you, and especially to parents of teenagers.
One of the unusual aspects of Purim is the celebration of the day through drinking at the Seudah. Many – including the Rema and the Chafetz Chaim (see OC 695:2, Mishneh Berurah and Biur Halacha), as well as many contemporary Gedolim – have discouraged the literal and liberal fulfillment of this practice.
The mixed feelings about this practice go back generations, to the time of Talmud and its earliest commentaries (TB Megillah 7b; Ran there). Today, the concerns are compounded, as we are clearly experiencing a year-round uptick in the consumption of alcohol by our community members, both young and older. These patterns have created deep concern for parents, for good reason, and should be moving all responsible adults to reevaluate their own consumption of alcohol and to model good behavior. Today, more than in the past, it would seem appropriate to consider the suggestion of the Pri Chadash (OC 695:2), who wrote more than three hundred years ago, “now that our generations behave improperly, it is appropriate for us to limit this practice to drinking slightly more than usual.” Each of us should be considering whether we should continue with the Purim conduct of years past.
Despite all this, it is expected that many will celebrate the day by continuing the practice in its more literal form. For those making that choice, I would strongly suggest the following:
It is essential that those who choose to drink on Purim do so in the safest and most Halachically appropriate manner: they should drink wine and not whiskey; they should have someone looking out for them; and they must have a designated, alcohol-free driver. And when drinking on Purim one is to demonstrate how when the Jews get together to feast and drink what emerges is not lewd or rude behavior, but a free flow of songs of praise to Hashem and words of Torah (see TB Megillah 12b).
Many people – old and young – are attracted to the opportunity to “let loose” without being prepared for the practice’s higher purpose. Young people need to be especially cautious, however, as they are especially prone to the dangers that can result from drinking. In this, as in all matters, I strongly encourage all parents to open the lines of communication with their children. Discuss their plans for Purim in terms of where they will be and when, and discuss what they plan to do with regard to drinking any kind of alcoholic beverages. While “prohibition” may not be effective, you should develop a shared understanding of what kind of drinking is safe and acceptable on Purim. You should know where your child is at all times on Purim, and ensure that responsible adults are present. And you should not hesitate to be in touch with those adults regarding any concerns you have with regard to how your child will spend the day.
Both adults and young people should take full advantage of the tremendous opportunities offered by this beautiful Yom Tov. So many aspects of the day bring out such special feelings of joy and connection. But please be mindful of the proper handling of any kind of alcoholic beverages on this – and on every day. And please, please speak with your children.
I wish you all a truly Freilichen Purim.
Rabbi Moshe Hauer