Halacha for Monday 11 Adar 5778 February 26 2018

Joy on Purim Day-The Behavior of Maran zt”l on Purim

There is a Mitzvah to partake of an abundant Purim feast; one should preferably eat bread during this meal.

The Rambam (Chapter 2 of Hilchot Megillah, Halacha 15) writes: “What is the obligation of this meal? One should eat meat and prepare a nice feast according to one’s means. One should drink wine, become intoxicated, and subsequently fall asleep through one’s intoxication.” There is a Mitzvah to eat meat during this meal (as opposed to just chicken or other poultry). The Meiri (Megillah 7b) writes: “One is obligated to indulge in the festivities of Purim through eating and drinking; however, we are not commanded to drink so much that we become intoxicated to a degree where our self-respect is diminished through our joy, for we have not been commanded to partake in a happiness of debauchery and foolishness, rather, a joy of pleasure through which we will be able to reach a level of loving Hashem and thanking Him for the miracles He has performed for us.”

Based on this, we can infer that even if one feels that it is completely uncharacteristic for him to start speaking words of Torah or singing holy songs by the Purim feast, one should nevertheless put forth an effort to do so at least during this meal on Purim day, for this meal has the potential to become a feast of joy, Mitzvot, and love of Hashem. However, if care is not taken, this feast can, G-d-forbid, turn into a meal devoid of any meaning and full of foolishness and frivolity. By taking charge of this meal in a spiritual fashion, one can become respected by all those present and may indeed merit turning one’s household into one of love of Torah and fear of Heaven.

The Sefer Orchot Chaim (Hilchot Purim, Chapter 38) writes that when the Gemara (Megillah 7b) states that one must become drunk on Purim until one can no longer discern between “Cursed is Haman” and “Blessed is Mordechai” (which is subsequently quoted by Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch, Chapter 695, Section 2 as Halacha), this does not mean that one should actually become drunk, for intoxication is an absolute prohibition; rather, this means that one should drink slightly more than one is accustomed to.

The Rama and many other Poskim rule likewise. Hagaon Rabbeinu Eliyahu of Vilna (one of the greatest Ashkenazi Acharonim) writes (Chapter 695) that when one drinks slightly more than usual and falls asleep as a result, one will subsequently not know the difference between “Cursed is Haman” and “Blessed is Mordechai” and by doing so, one has fulfilled his obligation in this manner. The Rashash (Hagaon Rabbi Shmuel Shtrashun, one of the greatest commentators on the Talmud, who lived approximately 150 years ago) in his commentary on Megillah 7b as well as other great Poskim write that in the olden times, there was a special song sung at the Purim feast and at the end of every other stanza “Cursed is Haman” and “Blessed is Mordechai” were recited respectively; therefore, if one is slightly inebriated and unfocused, one can easily become confused between the two. This is what is meant by not being able to tell the difference between “Cursed is Haman” and “Blessed is Mordechai”. The Sefer Rov Dagan writes that what is meant by not being able to discern between “Cursed is Haman” and “Blessed is Mordechai” is not that a person will say the opposite, G-d forbid; rather, this just means that one will not be able to tell over the miracle of Purim in a coherent manner.

Indeed, Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l would customarily not become intoxicated on Purim; rather, he would drink slightly more than usual (one cup of wine) and following this he would take an afternoon nap (as he rules in his Chazon Ovadia-Purim, page 175). Indeed, this is delineated by the Nimukei Yosef in his commentary on Masechet Megillah (page 7b) and he explains that when the Gemara states that “one must become drunk on Purim to the extent that one cannot differentiate between ‘Cursed is Haman’ and ‘Blessed is Mordechai’,” this means that one should speak words of jesting and acting joyfully in performance of the Mitzvot. However, one must not become wild and uncontrollable in one’s drunkenness and behave frivolously and speak vulgarity, for this represents foolishness and levity and not actual happiness.

Even on Purim day he would not allow himself to be distracted from Torah learning and he would continue to study diligently, night and day. Maran zt”l would study Torah on the night of Purim for many long hours (and sometimes all night long), for not many guests would come visit him on Purim night such that his Torah learning would not be disturbed. On Purim day he would accept guests for one hour after which he would sit down to learn and rest for approximately two hours. He would then awaken, pray Mincha, and then joyfully partake of the Purim feast along with his family. Some years though, Maran zt”l would partake of the Purim feast in the morning, as was his custom to eat the Shabbat day meal earlier on every Shabbat morning.

The merit of Torah study on Purim day is greater than the other days of the year, for on this day, only few toil in Torah as everyone is busy with the Purim feast and the other Mitzvot of the day. Thus, whoever merits studying Torah during these hours when there are not too many individuals studying anyways shall come and collect everyone else’s prospective reward.

Maran zt”l would likewise make an effort to gladden all of his young children on Purim day. Indeed, Maran zt”l’s daughter (who is the mother of the author and founder of the Hebrew “Halacha Yomit”, Hagaon Harav Yaakov Sasson Shlit”a) recounts that on Purim, Maran zt”l would place his hands on his mouth in the form of a trumpet and blow on it so that a delicate sound resembling a flute emerged. The only time of year he would ever do this was on Purim day. His children and grandchildren recount these sweet memories until this very day.

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