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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Out-Of-Control Alcohol

Mayer Fertig writes a great editorial on a very timely topic (posted in full, because evidently the Jewish Star has not yet moved far enough into the 21st Century to link individual articles):
Baruch Hashem, it’s Purim again.

Is there a happier day on the calendar of yomim tovim than Purim? Even with all the hurrying around to deliver mishloach manot and the rush to get to the seudah on time, is there any day when it’s easier to be cheerful and in a good mood?
And that’s without alcohol.
People who carefully observe the mitzvah of imbibing what David Letterman likes to call “adult beverages” tend to be even happier, of course. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
But the key words are “adult beverages.”
On a Shabbat afternoon about two months ago a boy got so drunk at a bar mitzvah in this area that Hatzalah was called and he was taken to the hospital.
Some time thereafter a family member of the bar mitzvah was overheard discussing the fountains of flavored vodkas that had been available at the simcha. Available to everyone, apparently, including the underage guests.
Rabbi Elozer Kanner, one of the coordinators of Hatzalah, wouldn’t discuss the specifics of that case due to the strict confidentiality rules which Hatzalah observes. However, he was unmistakably clear about the threat to young people he believes is posed by unfettered access to alcohol even — especially — on Purim.
“I’m afraid that young adults and their parents are not aware that getting drunk is a life threatening event,” he said. “When a person is drunk often they cannot protect ... their airway and can die. And do die.” He continued, “There is a line, and it’s a very narrow line, between drinking a little bit, lightening up a little bit — ad d’lo yodah — and it’s very nice but when you step over the line ...”
He pointed out that there is a mitzvah to drink at the seuda, not all day. That there’s a difference between drinking wine and hard liquor. And that a young adult drinking moderately under the supervision of his parents is in a different, safer situation than one left to his own devices, literally spending the day of Purim getting drunk.
“Hatzalah treats people who are drunk as safek pikuach nefesh,” said Rabbi Kanner. “It’s like giving a child a loaded gun or like giving a car to a child who doesn’t know to drive. Alcohol can be a destructive weapon. And people die because of it.
And go to jail because of it, we would add. What difference is there between parents aiding and abetting teens in getting drunk at a party or doing the same on Purim?
Rabbi Yaakov Bender, Rosh HaYeshiva of Yeshiva Darchei Torah, sent us a copy of a letter he recently mailed to the parent body, seventh grade and up. “There is no drinking in our yeshiva and we do not serve alcohol,” he wrote. “Parents are expected to cooperate — allowing your son or any bochur to drink is illegal and you are liable if anything chas v’shalom happens to anyone you allow to drink.”
To David Mandel, the CEO of Ohel Children’s Home and Family Services, two other key words are “assuming responsibility.” “The story is that the story shouldn’t be decreased drinking on Purim,” but all year-round, he said.
It’s been suggested that there be alcohol-free simchas — weddings, bar mitzvahs and shalom zachors; that we have alcohol-free kiddushim. It may not always be practical to accomplish that at every simcha, at every venue.
“But what is practical is for baalei simcha to assume a supervisory role,” Mandel said. “Especially for underage children participating, so that not only are alcoholic beverages not served to them by the bartender, in plain sight, but that alcoholic beverages also are not available to them in a side room or in some other fashion.”
“Ad d’lo yodah” refers to not knowing the difference between Mordechai and Haman — but never to not knowing the difference between our child, or someone else’s child in our care, enjoying Purim in a safe and responsible way or putting their own or someone else’s life in danger.
No one could have intended for Simchat Purim to mean taking on that sort of risk.
A freilechen, and safe, Purim.
This is something that has always distressed me greatly. Last year, I had the Purim Seudah together with friends. Their teenaged son joined us towards the end, having spent the day with classmates, collecting money for their Yeshiva as is the custom on Purim. He spent much of his time at the meal in the bathroom, violently ill from his very evident overindulgence in alcohol. The parents were mortified that their son had obviously drank to such a degree, but didn't seem particularly shocked (it is possible they were shocked, I can't read their minds, but they didn't say anything to indicate that they were as incredulous as I was). The boy was sixteen. Why is this considered normal, or appropriate? Who in the world provided the alcohol to these children - and they most certainly are children, legally, mentally and emotionally. How many Bar Mitzvahs have I attended where the Bar Mitzvah and his friends have easy access to the copious alcohol that is served? Far too many. How many boys need to take the trip to the emergency room in an ambulance before people wake up?

I do give credit to Rabbi Yaakov Bender, of Yeshiva Darchei Torah who spelled out very clearly and in no uncertain terms that for parents allow their son or other minors to drink is illegal, and that those who do allow minors access to alcohol are completely liable for any outcome. That's a very important stance for a Yeshiva to take, and I can only hope that the parent body of that Yeshiva pays attention. I also hope that other Yeshivas have taken or will take a similar stance, and that this terrible problem which seems to receive nothing more than a wink and a nudge by many local parents is eradicated.

These are our children, people. They shouldn't be treated as expendable. And make no mistake, allowing them unfettered access to alcohol - especially in an unsupervised manner as occurs on Purim and at many Bar Mitzvahs - is treating them as expendable.

101 Comments:

Blogger Halfnutcase said...

I really dislike the extent to which anyone drinks on purim. THere are rabbis who said that in order to fulfill "ad d'lo yada" one might only drink I single drink and then go to sleep. Why can't we be machmir about that?

Alchohol on purim ruins the whole holiday for me. Its smelly, disgusting and those who drink usualy do things that they would recoil in terror from if they had been sober. Its distressing to see the way grown adults who are drunk behave.

But especialy children. THe children shouldn't even be near this kind of thing, they should not see it, they should not be exposed to it. A singular solitary cup of wine is one thing, we do it often enough on shabbos, (although still it bothers me) but to be drinking hard liquor or other drinks infront of children is criminal.

9:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I want to thank Rabbi Heshy Billet of the Young Israel of Woodmere for taking a stand against "Kiddush Cubs", and establishing the "dry" shul standards which means absolutely no liqueur or whiskey at all, at the YIW. Not at Kiddushim, Brisim, private parties, na da! He's a visionary and took at the time an unpopular stand. He does not get enough credit for the bold step he took. By the way, since this policy has been in effect, thank G-D there have been no Hatzalah calls pertaining to drinking at our Shul!

9:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

the bar mitzvah scenes are awful. i refused to serve alcohol at my sons bm. people thought i was stingy, but who cares. no one got taken away by hatzalah.

9:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a kid I was completely unsupervised for the summer that I was 16, working at a bungalow colony, and began seriously drinking there. Later, I spent a year in Israel, where there is no enforceable drinking age, and was drunk too many times to count in bars and in the dorm. In the years since, now that I am legal, I have been a heavy drinker to the point that I wonder if I am an alcoholic. Except for an occasional beer I don't drink during the week, but on Shabbos, the ready availability of kiddush clubs in the shuls I have attended -- and the excess of alcholol available there -- have only increased my habit. On many occasions I come home and fall asleep and miss out on valuable time with my family and feel hung over for most of motzei shabbos and Sunday morning. I am worried about the example I am setting for my kids. On my last physical, my doctor told me there was an abnormal liver reading in my blood test. I am now working very hard to stay away from the kiddush club and cut down on drinking.
Needless to say, I would not have this problem had I been better supervised during that summer and the year in Israel. Parents: Take note. Alcohol is a drug and should be treated accordingly. Never assume that teen drinking is harmless fun or a phase.

10:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

R' Horowitz just posted his Jewish Press column on this subject:

http://www.rabbihorowitz.com/PYes/ArticleDetails.cfm?Book_ID=9&ThisGroup_ID=236&Type=Article

11:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Letters from schools are great. But, they need to be reinforced with behavior consistent with those sentiments that is exhibited by Rabbeim. They are the role models who set the tone. Older brothers and upperclassmen are the other role models

Unfortunately, there has been a "tradition" in the Yeshiva world to extrapolate "ad d'lo yadah" from alcohol to smoking (not just cigarettes) and other risky behaviors, often involving motor vehicles. Somehow, I don't think that this is what anyone really had in mind. Perhaps there was a time when a drunk horse and bugy driver did not pose such a communal threat. But that was long before multiple ton SUV's on the road.

To me, Purim has changed from a day of wholesome good-spirited fun into a day of anxiety, for fear of the kids who are going to be tempted to do something really stupid and dangerous.

12:20 PM  
Blogger Charlie Hall said...

'I wonder if I am an alcoholic'

Call Alcoholics Anonymous (it should be in your local phone book, or check http://www.aa.org) and go to their meetings. They can help you determine if you are an alcoholic or not, and if so, can help you. Do NOT wait until after Purim.

'ready availability of kiddush clubs in the shuls I have attended'

I know recovering alcoholics who used to do some of their worst drinking binges in shul.

'"dry" shul'

Rabbis Avi Weiss and Mordechai Willig have banned alcohol from events at their shuls in the Bronx. So has Rabbi Daniel Wasserman in Pittsburgh. My wife and I served no alcohol at our wedding, and we will be hosting an alcohol-free Purim seudah.

1:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

wow, you are really lame, everything in moderation, extremes can turn our kids the other way too, people need to learn to supervise their children and exercise self control we can't ban everything that causes harm in extreme forms.

1:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

let's celebrate and have a LACHAIM

GOURMET GLATT WAS SOLD!!!!!!!!!!

1:41 PM  
Blogger storywatcher said...

1:07, no kid will ever "turn the other way" by the "extreme" of a parent looking after their best interests and being strictly in charge. They may chafe at it outwardly, but deep inside it's what they really want. The world is a scary place if you are left to your own devices too early.

1:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

really? how much experience do you have with kids at risk, i'll admit is a very tough call when to be strict or lax but " parent looking after their best interests and being strictly in charge" has pushed kids away as best interests are very subjective and sometimes you have to give a little to prevent a lot of damage

2:04 PM  
Blogger SephardiLady said...

Great post. This is another area where parents seem to have lost their minds. I have no problem with a teenager of mine enjoying a glass of wine at the seudah, but I do not want him out drinking himself into a stupor. And certainly not at the Yeshiva (!).

3:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think that as individuals we have to know when to exercise self-control, and when certain things are a problem for us. In our shul there is a "kiddush club" that takes place AFTER davening. My husband often invites new faces, and its kind of an ice-breaker. It is a respectful 20 minutes with some tuna fish, cracker, cookies and yes alcohol. Everyone drinks a L'chaim and goes home to their families. It is a little social gathering, and i actually think its a great example of adults acting responsibly. To stop serving alcohol at all events is an option, but to me it smacks of government regulating every aspect of our lives. We need to learn to control ourselves from any time of bad behavior, and to supervise our children who dont understand yet what responsible behavior means.

to bad a few adults spoil it for others who do know how to behave.

3:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe the shuls should start banning trans-fat from the kiddushim too!

3:18 PM  
Blogger MoChassid said...

At the same time the YIW banned liquor, so did we at Aish Kodesh. I was not particularly crazy about the idea because I felt that people should be allowed to act in moderation. In retrospect, I'm glad we did it. At the end of the day it is harmless and it sends a message to the kids that drinking is simply not that important. Anyone who wants to make a l'chayim at home is free to do so.

3:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

or it may send the message to kids that they gotta try it it must be awesome if it's banned. If we exercised self control we may show them that its okay in moderation when enjoyed by adults. Banning should only be used in extreme situations.

4:01 PM  
Blogger Still Wonderin' said...

"Needless to say, I would not have this problem had I been better supervised during that summer and the year in Israel. "

Uh, excuse me, you would not have this problem if you didn't drink in shul on shabbos.

It has nothing to do with Israel, bungalow colonies, or the lax superivion you blame your problems on.

Now, I can empathize with you, having done exactly what you describe several shabbosim a month for several years. But it has to stop sometime.

I stopped because one of my children had a medical issue that might have required a drive to the hospital at any given moment. That was the impetus to stay sober on shabbos and at other times. I still miss it. But that's life.

If you're worried that your drinking will ruin the relationship you have with your family, or the punishment your liver is taking, or even the fact that you feel hungover from saturday afternoon through sunday ... then take a hint and cut back.

But don't wallow in your belief that 'if only ....' It's a load of self-pitying crap.

4:09 PM  
Blogger triLcat said...

Anonymous at the bungalow colony:
According to people who've worked with alcoholics, if twice in your life, you've done something you regretted as a result of alcohol consumption, you have a problem with alcohol.

If you can't have a little l'chayim without it messing up your whole Shabbat, it's time to quit the l'chayim scene. Pick up a nice bottle of sparkling grape juice, and take control of your life. If you can't do it yourself, that's what AA is for.

Funny thing - I'm pregnant. I like wine a lot. I like all kinds of mixed drinks. I haven't had any alcohol since I'm pregnant. It kinda sucks, but you choose if you want to be a responsible adult or not. Sometimes the right decision kinda sucks. No wine, no matter how nice, is worth risking my baby's brain development. What are you risking when you drink?

4:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No alchohol when pregnant! Good for you.

I am BT. Purim is the one time of the year that the non-religious Jews look better than the religious or observant ones.

My whole family is pretty secular or mildly Reform. They out-marry a little. But they are sober on Purim. They ignore Purim. They do not go on Spring breaks either.

1) The "drink until you can't tell mordechai from haman" thing is plain crazy!

2) the use of spirits, whisky, vodka by Jews is the result of too much time spent with the Polish and Russian mujiks or peasants. We picked that disgusting habit up from them. THERE IS NO BRACHA FOR SPIRITS. SHEHAKOL IS A CATCH-ALL AND DOES NOT COUNT. A Jew should drink a reasonable amount of WINE, with the bracha, and that's enough.

ALL SPIRITS AND WHISKEYS SHOULD BE DECLARED TREIF FOODS BY THE RELEVANT VERY SENIOR AUTHORITIES. Because they are hybrid, like having hoofs but not chewing their cud. Like having fins, but no scales.

They are hybrid: they have alcohol like wine, but they are not made from grapes. HYBRID. Not for us.

Work on it. Talk to your Ravs. Something that affects the mind but has no bracha cannot be consumed in a holy way. That would cover the stuff you kids are smoking, too.

5:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Forget global warming, baby seals, fur, energy efficient light bulbs, oppressed masses, women's place on buses, and every other trip you go on, and get your children to act like people instead of animals, OK? People whose children drink have no opinion worth hearing about global warming or anything else.

Look to yourselves. Don't drink anything but one glass of wine, or grape juice.

Get stern if anybody behaves badly. Don't relax your definition of "badly" so you won't have to exert yourself. Anybody who is not called "judgemental" once a week is too liberal. When you are called judgemental, say, "thank you for the compliment. I try."

If you have no friends as a result, say, well, these are our family values. At least we are alive, and we don't smell like vomit.

When a Jew dies, you should weep as if you saw a Torah scroll burning. When a Jew is visibly drunk, you should weep as if you saw a Torah scroll lying on the floor in a pool of alcohol.

Now, how do you like that?

5:37 PM  
Anonymous Fox said...

I am so happy to finally hear people speaking about a zero-tolerance approach to excessive drinking! For a long time, I thought I was the only one bothered by it.

In addition to many of the suggestions and examples offered, I believe parents should insist on an absolute zero-tolerance alcohol policy at the yeshivas to which we send our sons. If Roshei Yeshiva are faced with parents who will literally pick up their sons on Shushan Purim if drinking by teenagers is permitted and/or tacitly encouraged, most will stop turning the proverbial "blind eye" to the danger and the tremendous chilul Hashem caused by excessive drinking.

I realize there will always be teenagers who sneak alcohol on Purim, but that is a secondary problem to the current atmosphere in many yeshivas.

If we don't have sons in yeshiva, we can readily vote with our checkbooks by financially supporting only those yeshivas who attempt to enforce appropriate standards for bochrim. Would we donate willingly to mosdos that violated other halachas? Of course not!

The second thing we can do is exert peer pressure. Now, it's true that most of us do things we shouldn't from time to time. In my right-wingish, yeshivishe community, there are many of us who indulge in a bit of TV watching. We don't go around telling hilarious anecdotes about it, though. It would be pretty embarrassing.

We need to set the same standard for excessive alcohol consumption. In previous years, I've called fellow carpool mommies when their children shared tales of Tattie's drunkenness, I've reacted with stony silence to an employee's similar account, and I've ostentatiously picked up a child early at his rebbe's home.

I've tried to be kind in all cases, but I'm sure there were people who thought I was overreacting. Too bad. I agree with Anon at 5:37: Yeah, I'm judgmental. That's why I get paid the big parent bucks.

7:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

More than 20 years ago, when I was in high school, a fellow student died in an automobile accident on the way back from "collecting tzedaka." He was drunk, and my impression is that he was too impaired to react to an elderly motorist who veered into his lane. The school took this to heart, and made the kids go home to parents for subsequent Purims. Of course, there was no guarantee that their parents would supervise any better. It shouldn't take a tragedy for parents and schools to manage this properly. I guess it starts with educators playing down "odd d'lo yodah," or role models strongly discouraging underage drinking. It's starting to happen, but more needs to be done.

7:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is this underage drinking a new phenomenon? It sounds awful. We should definitely do something about this. Perhaps if we warned teenagers of its danger they will listen. Maybe we can even have some catchy slogan and pay for tv ads. Im sure this will solve this recent unexpected problem. Either way, this “teenage drinking” sounds like some kind of new fad that will pass with time.

8:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

From:
Rabbi Daniel Wasserman
Shaare Torah Congregation
Pittsburgh, PA

Shalom

I was told that my name was mentioned in this blog and after reading the comment I wanted to just clarify. Through Rabbi Twerski I've had the merit of being exposed to the 12 steps of AA and to people in general, and Jews in particular, in rehab. Transition, an in-patient rehab here in the Pittsburgh area run by Michael Pasternak is filled with Jewish young men, many of whom are from a Yeshiva background and who were affected by drinking in the Jewish community on Purim and the rest of the year. I talk about the problem all the time, I teach and offer Drashas on the 12 steps (which is a wonderful Mussar program that we should all take advantage of because we all have tendencies and issues even if, by Hashem's providence we are not addicted to alcohol or drugs ) and how they help us understand the lessons of the Torah and Chazal. I also, truth be told, scream and yell and make wars on the matter also.

My shul, Shaare Torah in Pittsburgh, is only "dry" two days a year - Simchas Torah and Purim. The rest of the year alcohol is discouraged and generally not offered - there is an understanding that it really does not add that much, if anything , to a simcha (or at least that the Rabbi is of that opinion.) There are also no kiddush clubs. If someone wants alcohol at a kiddush it is limited and always with an adult to oversee the distribution at all times and it is in moderation to adults and forbidden to children and those under 21. At home I let my children have a sip of my kiddush and no more.

There is more to say, to yell, to cry and to plead but I just wanted to make sure the blog record was accurate. I'll also add below a letter I asked Rabbi Twerski to write and publish.

Message from Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski, M.D.

To our esteemed rabbis and community leaders:

As you know, I have been alerting the community of the increasing problem of alcohol abuse and marijuana smoking among Jewish adolescents. It is unfortunate that many people still do not accept that some of our own children are involved. This is happening to children from the finest families.

Given the gravity of the problem and the ineffectiveness of prevention programs, the very least we can do is to avoid encouraging intoxication.

Purim is soon upon us, and many people drink to excess because of the mistaken notion that there is a "mitzvah" to get drunk on Purim. Rabbi Shneur Zalman in his Shulchan Aruch (529) says, "It is impossible to serve Hashem either in levity or drunkenness." One of the final authorities on halacha, the Chafetz Chaim in Mishna Berura (695) states clearly that the proper thing to do is not to drink to intoxication, but rather to drink just a bit more than is customary (which would be a glass or two of wine), and go to sleep. This is the proper way to fulfil "not distinguishing between 'cursed be Haman' and 'blessed be Mordechai.' "

There is certainly no justification for drinking anything but wine. Aruch Hashulchan (695) condemns drinking spirits (liquor) in very sharp terms. Alcohol intoxication is an abomination, and overriding the rulings of the Baal Hatanya and the Chafetz Chaim by drinking to intoxication is inexcusable.(*)

Let us use good judgement on Purim. We should set a model for our children by not drinking to excess and by supervising adolescents so that they do not drink. We can all enjoy a safe, respectable Purim.

I invite you to affix your signature below, indicating your agreement and support, and to distribute this letter throughout the community.

Sincerely,
Abraham J. Twerski, M.D.

(*) - The psak of the Aruch Hashulchan is even more direct. "U'lma'aseh Yesh L'hisrachek Min Hashichrus" (Siman 529) How can a Ben Torah take upon himself the reposnsibility of ignoring the psak of the poskim for our generations, the Aruch Hashulchan and Mishna B'rurah, without a clear, written psak from a Posek as per Rabbi Horowitz's statements in the article mentioned above. RDW

8:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

" Anonymous said...

Is this underage drinking a new phenomenon? It sounds awful. We should definitely do something about this. Perhaps if we warned teenagers of its danger they will listen. Maybe we can even have some catchy slogan and pay for tv ads. Im sure this will solve this recent unexpected problem. Either way, this “teenage drinking” sounds like some kind of new fad that will pass with time. "

Your smart-ass sarcasm doesn't make you right. This conversation is about kids drinking with the implicit (or explicit) approval of their parents. That's a far cry from teenagers sneaking off to drink, although both are dangerous.

8:40 PM  
Anonymous 5Town Rumor Mill said...

so are we to assume that the "wild party" story is being kept under wraps? from what we hear, it was a fiasco for many reasons.

9:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

well OM, we know how your Rabbi at Holy Smokes feels about drinking. He doesn;t like it.

10:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know of boys who graduated from good local Yeshivas and instead of Israel they went to great colleges and then left the religion and married priests' daughters. How come we do not ban out of town colleges?

10:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

drinking is now a problem in our community, yet Jews have always been able to have a l'chaim and not become alcoholics. Questions - what are the teens and community selfmedicating for now that wasn't here 20 years ago? school was pressured 20 years ago too? Why do our kids need an escape like this? Is it living in the culture with Britney and paris that makes it normal with us too?

11:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Purim
Time For a Sober Look At Jews and Alcohol

By Moshe Werzberger MD

As I was driving on Shabbos, rushing an intoxicated, unresponsive teenager who was vomiting blood to the ER, the absurdity of the situation was painfully evident to me. Here was a young student who together with some friends at an Oneg Shabbos had, without any second thought, drunk himself to the point of endangering his life. Yet, on Purim we allow our children unrestricted access to alcohol, endangering their lives.

An unresponsive, intoxicated patient requires approximately nine hours to return to sobriety. During this time of stupor, lethargy, and diminished reflexes, the patient is in danger. He may lose control of his airway, vomit, choke, and heaven forbid die. He may have a seizure, or suffer an irregular heartbeat. If someone is used to drinking alcohol on a regular basis it is possible for him to attain much higher alcohol levels, which can cause him to lapse into a coma, or even to die from direct alcohol poisoning.

It is time to reevaluate our community's use of alcohol. Clearly we are drinking much more than our parent's generation, and our children are drinking more than us. This is the age of "At Risk Children". Doesn't anyone see the obvious correlation between the profuse alcohol consumption among our youth and the unprecedented number of children using illegal and dangerous drugs?

In the other communities, addicts of all backgrounds, from the inner city to the affluent suburbs, were studied to find a common cause for their addiction. The common denominator found between these disparate groups was the early introduction to the recreational use of alcohol.

Have you taken an objective look at how much alcohol you drink? How many shots do you have at a kiddush? How many drinks do you have on Friday night? Are you well versed in the differences between the single malts, barrel proof bourbons, and of course the 127 proof Bookers? Have you spoken to your teenage son, asked him about his alcohol consumption? Does he have a few beers at a party or Oneg Shabbos? Does he drink hard liquor at a kiddush on Shabbos, or at a wedding or Bar Mitzvah? How much is he drinking while away at camp? At affairs, our underage youth drink beer and hard liquor in full view of the adults, without any reprimand. It is not uncommon for there to be several of our youth, clearly intoxicated, at a given event.

To be clear; alcohol is a drug, with dangerous and possibly deadly consequences. It is not OK for teenagers to drink liquor or beer. It is unhealthy, illegal, and can lead to Marijuana, Cocaine, or Heroin addiction, not to mention the potential for lifelong alcohol dependency. It is not OK for an adult to have multiple drinks at a kiddush or affair. This is unhealthy for the adult and is incongruent with the behavior we ought to expect from our children.

As Jews, we were given the gift of a Torah way of life. Noach's son Shem was blessed because of his dignified behavior when his father became intoxicated. Cham, however was cursed due to his improper response to the situation. Jews until now had an admirable reputation for sobriety. The Torah teaches us how to elevate the use of alcohol through the commandments; such as kiddush on shabbos, the four cups at the seder, wedding ceremonies, and circumcisions. This is the proper setting for the use of alcohol.

One of the commandments of Purim is to drink. But how much need one drink to fulfill his obligation, is there a limit? How could it be that God requires us to endanger our lives, and the lives of others in order to fulfill our obligation on Purim? According to the Halacha the proper way to celebrate on Purim is as follows. The commandment of drinking is only fulfilled with wine. Therefore, beer and liquor should not be drunk at all on Purim. Furthermore, this commandment only applies at the daytime Purim meal. Any amount of wine, which will cause the person to become intoxicated and behave in an improper manner, should not be drunk on Purim.

Teenagers who make the rounds collecting charity on Purim should not be served alcohol. You are endangering their lives, and the lives of others. Furthermore, you are legally responsible for any harm resulting from their intoxication.

On Purim we celebrate that God saved us from destruction at the hands of an external enemy. Today, the immediate threat to the future of the Jewish people is from our own behavior. In the merit of celebrating Purim properly, may we triumph over the threat of addiction, and may we see our children grow to become good Jews and successful people.

This article by Dr. Moshe Werzberger, practicing internist in Brooklyn, NY and Former Chairman of Emergency Medicine at Brookdale University Hospital is distributed as a public service by The Orthodox Caucus and its task force on Substance Abuse.

This Article, found at www.yerushalayim.net/organizations/oc/projects/rove/werzberger.htm)
was first published in 2000.

12:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Alcohol is part of this world and therefore it is something we are obligated to teach our children about. In this case, that it is something that ought not be abused and when used, should be used in moderation. To outright ban alcohol because it is sometimes abused will result in our children learning about it outside of our supervision and perhaps eventually turn it into a worse issue.

I have one small shot of single malt scotch after kiddush at shul every few weeks on Shabbat morning. At home we use grape juice for kiddush as my wife doesn't like wine and my kids are still young (all 5 of them are 7 or under), but when we have guests, we might open a bottle of wine for kiddush. I also have a bottle of Vodka in the freezer for medicinal purposes (I have a little when I have a sore throat and it helps me sleep) once or twice a year. The bottle has been there for more than 6 years - I sell it every Pesach :-) My father still has some bottles from my bris more than 40 years ago! That's what kind of "big drinkers" we are.

Rather than banning, we need to educate kids about it,

12:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a strange relationship to alcohol you Americans have.

Yellow Boy

2:34 AM  
Anonymous get real said...

Alcohol does not lead to marijuana consumption, let alone addiction (The word "addiction" associated with marijuana is controversial in its own right, but that's besides the point.) There is nothing wrong with a little alcohol once in a while and kids who drink to the point of insanity probably have other issues that are just beneath the surface, dying to be addressed by someone competent to know the difference between a joint and a beer.

3:58 AM  
Blogger Still Wonderin' said...

"What a strange relationship to alcohol you Americans have."

Here, you arrogant Eurotrash, allow me to create a form for you:

What a strange relationship to {fill in the blank] you Americans have.

Euorpoeans always seem to chime in with their tut-tut condescending crap about how odd and maladjusted Americans are. Get over yourself.

9:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Minhag Avosaynue BeYadeynu!!
Drinking on Purim is a Jewish tradition with a very long history. For the opressed Jew this was truly a reason to celebrate. While we do not have the physical oppression, our ruchneyos is constantly under assault.
Tampering with our customs puts you in the same boat with those making other changes to our holy tradition. Let's keep things the way they were.

9:22 AM  
Blogger FR5TJew said...

I have several sons in the one of the local Yeshivas (high school/bais medrash)and they have many friends in others. Yes the Yeshivas are trying - Darchei & YFR both sent out stern letters. YFR changed the Purim Mesiba to Thursday night instead of Saturday night - much to the dimay of the students - since they felt that there would be no drinking Thursday night. As my sons tell me, the Yeshivos are very strict. NO ALCHOHOL at all int the Yeshiva. Students are checked and not allowed in if there is any. The problem is that almost all the times the kids come drunk. Can a rebbe or Rosh Yeshiva patrol the streets? No - This is the parents responsibility. Why are these kids coming drunk - Where are they drinking - Who is giving them drinks? I think it is time for some parental responsibility. When I hear parents say - "well my little Tzadik only drinks once a year - whats the big deal? - I think we have a problem. Yes we have children at risk - but more important - we have PARENTS AT RISK . Its really sad that parents are unable to JUST SAY NO to their children:(

9:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

fr5tjew: I'm glad to hear the local Yeshivas are taking a stand on this. (I understand that HAFTR gave suspensions to some of their students caught at that crazy party last week) As a conservomom, I am a little puzzled though that this seems to be something relatively new. It is illegal for anyone under 21 to consume alcohol or for anyone to give it to anyone underage. End of story. How can it possibly be that any school would allow alcohol, Purim or not?!

There is no way in hell that any little Tzadik only drinks once a year. Alcohol is an acquired taste. A kid who is used to having a sip of malaga on Shabbos is not going to make the leap to hard liquor on Purim.

You are absolutely right, fr5tjew, we have Parents At Risk here.

I was stunned from a comment above that said at Bar Mitzvahs it is not uncommon to see kids drunk. Does that mean older, high school kids or Bar Mitzvah age kids? In either case, I have never seen anything like that at any bar Mitzvah I've ever attended.

10:09 AM  
Blogger Halfnutcase said...

Minhag Avosaynue BeYadeynu!!
Drinking on Purim is a Jewish tradition with a very long history. For the opressed Jew this was truly a reason to celebrate. While we do not have the physical oppression, our ruchneyos is constantly under assault.
Tampering with our customs puts you in the same boat with those making other changes to our holy tradition. Let's keep things the way they were.


Anon it's called a minhag sheker. Its clearly forbiden and anyone who actualy engages in it is a chassid shoteh. As the baal hatanya says one who is intoxicated cannot serve g-d and therefore one may never, ever get intoxicated. Not on purim, not on simchas torah, never ever. Drinking to the point where one would be called a drunk is shear irresponsibility and our rabbis have never, ever condoned it. Not only does the baal hatanya say that but many other poskim as well. The mishna berurah (whom I am lothe to quote anyway, but if he is saying it kal v'chomer everyone else) also gives the pesak that this is just not the way that one should be drinking on purim. A little more than usual, that's all.

Drink if you want, but don't expect you to get any mitzvah points or to not to have to answer before the heavenly court after 120. Anyone who does this to intoxication is a chossid shoteh and needs to be dealth with accordingly. It is a minhag shtus and a minahag sheker and its about time that we erradicated it. If the rabbanim can erradicate boys and girls interacting they can certainly deal with this.

10:35 AM  
Blogger Charlie Hall said...

'The "drink until you can't tell mordechai from haman" thing is plain crazy!'

That statement is attributed to Rava in Megillah 7b. Immediately after that statement is a incident in which an intoxicated rabbi slew another rabbi at a Purim seudah! It is clear that our sages were concerned about this problem otherwise that story would not be there. That, and not drunkenness, is our true mesorah.

10:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

this was always the best part of the YU purim chagigah in the beis medrash the "first" night of purim - stictly sober.
i dunno how it is today, but less than ten years ago it was the norm and anyone who had consumed alcohol was a minority outcast

11:04 AM  
Anonymous Mendel The Mouse said...

All yeshivas have their problems and all communities have their drinkers.
what about the famous "purim incident" at yu a few years ago?

11:45 AM  
Anonymous phillymom1 said...

Does anyone know if HAFTAR, HALB, or HANC, gave any suspensions after Yeshiva Break? Did they follow up on their warnings? I heard the kids were warned prior to break to stay away from that scene.

1:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Along the lines of the previous posters, I think it would be a good idea if we simply banned Alcohol. While we are at it, I think we should ban cancer.

2:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No, we can just ban spirits. There is no bracha for spirits, whiskey or vodka.

Shehakol does not work because it is not a food. It is a pschoactive substance, mind-altering like wine, but we can't say Ha-Gofen because it is not made from grapes.

So, that has to mean it is not kosher at all.

We should stick to wine. Of course wine is not harmless - look what happened to Noah. We still have to be careful.

Purim is about faith. Getting drunk is about having no faith.

When a Jew dies, we weep as if a Torah scroll burned. When a Jew is drunk, we weep as if a Torah scroll lay in a puddle of alcohol on the ground.

4:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i think this whole pre purim fervor of letters and ads urging adults to discourage kids from drinking is a little fruitless in a sense. It has to be a collective effort. Everyone must be involved and it cant just be targeting kids. granted adults are responsible for making their own choices but that doesnt mean people cant be persuade to make proper choices.

This goes for young kids, oler kids, teenagers, post high school, college students, twenty somethings, thirty somethings, middle aged and senior citizens.

a 19 or 20 year old drinks like a fish cuz he/she didnt or couldnt when they were 16/17. a 21 one year old does it cuz now the fake id is obsolete. the 23 year old does it cuz they can...
everything is an example or influence on someone else and everyones behavior has an effect on someone

5:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My mother was killed by a drunk driver. PLEASE don't drink.

8:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

what is the deal with the cops giving out tickets on central Ave today?

9:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gee to Anon @ 4:53 about schnapps being not kosher because she'hakol doesn't work. I so appreciate your torah erudition that I want to go to my Gemerra Brachos and removed and entire mishna in Ketzad Mervrahin and especially that Tosofos on daf lemed ches amud divreie hamskil "V'Hei" because obviously you know so much more about brachos and kasherus then Tosofos, let me see should I follow through and ripped out the Magen Avram which brings a question about other juices from that Tosfos, and now ther goes my Minchas Shlomo and two Iggress Moshe same obviously useless and erroneous (chas V'Shalom). If you do not want to drink then go ahead, but please do not tell me you know torah better then my Rebbes. Drunkeness for teens is stupid and I when I took a plastic cup from a 12 year on Shabbos and threw it in the garbage at a kiddush his idiot father got angry with me.

Unfortunately there was a time and place to be somewhat shiker by my rebbe's tish and seems as if one generation we have lost that talent to serve Hashem this way. Other minhaggie Yisrael have been destroyed in this last generation, like pesach at home and not hotels (yea I have a big family too, but mine and my married children know how to make pesach and not just sell the chametz and shop)like shalach manos and not little cards adn buying $72 gift baskets or staying up late on Shavous and having waiters serve lavish meals. BH YILC has toned this down.

So be it; we all have to change but it is sad. I miss my old rebbes who are dead and I miss the devekisdik Yom Purim, but I read the Kol Koreah from a score of Roshie HaYesahivas and I am maskim to change, but don't tell me you have even a shemetz of torah to speak with any authority: Did you ever lean kezad mevrachin for brachos and what shiekes who are you to say that what ocurred when the Rosh HaYeshiva Rav Hutner or the Rebbe Shlomo Friefeld or Rav Benish Finkel or HaGoan Yoel Tietleboum were alive was a minhag schtues?

9:32 AM  
Blogger MoChassid said...

anon 9:32

You rock! You can guest post on Mochassid any time. As I said earlier on this thread, it saddend me terribly that we felt compelled to ban liquor from AK because it has always been a minhag Yisroel to make a l'chayim to celebrate a simcha or commemorate a yahrtzeit. But, I have no doubt that it was the right thing to do at the time. It is very sad.

12:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

An all-out ban on alchohol? As Modern-Orthodox Jews, banning everything with a possible downside isn't how we do things (case in point, you're currently reading a blog). You can properly safeguard yourself and others from abusing alchohol without banning it - it may be tough, but that's no reason to to take he opposite extreme.

2:33 PM  
Anonymous Suri said...

This was discussed here. Read the post and comments. He writes really well.
Drinking on Purim

3:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

From:
Rabbi Daniel Wasserman
Shaare Torah Congregation
Pittsburgh, PA

Shalom

I was told that my name was mentioned in this blog and after reading the comment I wanted to just clarify. Through Rabbi Twerski I've had the merit of being exposed to the 12 steps of AA and to people in general, and Jews in particular, in rehab. Transition, an in-patient rehab here in the Pittsburgh area run by Michael Pasternak is filled with Jewish young men, many of whom are from a Yeshiva background and who were affected by drinking in the Jewish community on Purim and the rest of the year. I talk about the problem all the time, I teach and offer Drashas on the 12 steps (which is a wonderful Mussar program that we should all take advantage of because we all have tendencies and issues even if, by Hashem's providence we are not addicted to alcohol or drugs ) and how they help us understand the lessons of the Torah and Chazal.

Rabbi Wasserman:

Since you are apparently familiar with 12 Steps and AA and I assume NA as well-since you are also familiar with Mike's Place-I am curious as to how for example step 1
We admitted we were powerless over alcohol (can substitute narcotics for NA)—that our lives had become unmanageable-fits into one personal responsibility for choices that seem to be part of our traditional mesorah-but even not being theological how does that fit in to helping an addictrecover. After all he is told it is not his fault or in his control.
On a technical Orthodox level doesn't twelve steps have its source in other religions eg Christian Evangelical or even Sanskrit for certain parts.
I am curious as to a religious Orthodox response to my queries.

12:13 AM  
Blogger Charlie Hall said...

"On a technical Orthodox level doesn't twelve steps have its source in other religions eg Christian Evangelical or even Sanskrit for certain parts."

The basic principles of the 12 steps appear in classic Jewish mussar texts, all written long before the almost any non-biblical Christian source that the earliest recovering alcoholics used. Examples of the Jewish sources include Chovot ha-Levavot by Rabbi Bachya ibn Pakuda, Shaarei Tshuvah by Rabbeinu Yonah of Gerona, Hilchot Tshuvah by Rambam, Orchot Tzaddikim by an unknown author, and the Mesillat Yesharim by RamChaL.

I thank Rabbi Mordecai Twersky of Flatbush and Rabbi Yehoshua Kaganoff of Pasaic for the information on the Jewish sources above. http://www.dickb.com is the internet site of an author who has done extensive research on the Christian roots of Alcoholics Anonymous in its early years. http://www.dickb.com/bks_read.shtml is a good source for the Christian sources. It is true that the first Alcoholics Anonymous group in Akron, Ohio was indeed a branch of what would today be termed an evangelical Christian group:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oxford_Group

However, Alcoholics Anonymous separated from that group in 1939 and no other 12 step group has ever had any sectarian affiliation.

More information as to how 12 step recovery is compatible with Judaism is available from
http://www.jacsweb.org.

In New York there is currently an off-Broaday production of a play that presents the circumstances surrounding the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous:

http://www.billwanddrbob.com/

10:56 PM  
Anonymous phillymom1 said...

Chag Sameach! I heard from my cousin this evening that last night his son went to his rebbe's house after megillah reading. He is 17 and his rabbi told him to have a drink. The boy said "no thanks," the rabbi kept on, the boy then said "no thanks, I'm driving", the rabbi said "Just have a little" The boy did not back down, thank G-d but what is a parent to do with this information about his son's rebbe?

11:05 PM  
Blogger YMedad said...

I don't think, in my skimming, that I saw a reference here to the Lubliner Chozeh who, most probably, managed to exit himself, miracuously, through a small high window in his house, while not touching any of the glasses, and landing on the cobbled street below managing to break most of all his bones in his body. This was on Simchat Torah - not Purim - so by the time he died on Tisha B'Av, a long time passed. Since he knew that the Maskilim and Misnaggdim were going to suggest that his fall was due to intoxication rather than an evil angel interfering in his attempts to bring Moshiach around, he famously quipped: "On the day of my death not only will those Maskillim not be able to make a l'chayim but not even one drop of water will they be able to imbibe".
The great debate between the Maskillim was whether it was a simple fall or he was urinating at the time.

2:00 AM  
Blogger YMedad said...

Five days have passed since the last OM posting. She isn't shikker is she? ;>)

2:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks Charlie Hall for your repky_ I wish I could get a direct response from Rabbi Wasserman-personally I went through the websites and I believe my questions remain.

5:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I belong to a 12 step program and I am an Orthodox Jew. here is how I deal with step 1:

I am addicted to.....(whatever)and I admit that I am powerless over it. FOR ME: this means that when I face this thing...I almost always always always (!) give in to it. My track record is pretty firm on this point.

MY life being unmanageable: when I practive my addicton, my life becomes unmanageable (I waste time, don't get enough sleep, avoide real responsibilities to practice my addiction etc)

I ask Hashem for help in dealing with all this. The fact that I say I am "powerless" doesn't mean I can just throw up my hands and say "What can I do....I have to give in" NO WAY.

But I needed to see I was powerless...that I really couldn't stop on my own, in order that I could stop.

Maybe this makes some sense to a non-12 stepper.

1:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous from top post said...

Dear "Still Wonderin;"
I don't know who you are or what qualification you have for giving lifestyle advice (other than having a blog) but you are obviously far short of the task.
Obviously, I never intended to suggest that the people in charge fo supervising me 20 years ago are responsible for me drinking today.
The topic of this post was about kids getting hooked on alcohol because of lax supervision or latent encouragement from adults and that's the only reason I raised that perspective from my own experience.
As for "self-pitying crap," thanks for your well-intentioned but lamentably rude (and alas, unwarranted) concern.

12:40 PM  
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u guys r losers purim is not purim without drinking

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