For Purim: A Stone-Cold Purim


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[From the YWN 2008 archives]

Dear Friend,

Last Purim started off like all others from years past, but it was almost the last Purim of my life. Beginning two weeks before Purim, Hatzoloh started putting up signs saying, “This year don’t get carried away,” with a picture of some poor kid being carried away on a stretcher. To me, these signs blended right into the background with the other signs hanging up all around my hometown of Brooklyn, New York.

You see, this year I decided I would make Purim even more “geshmak” than in years past, because this Purim I would drink anyway. Don’t get me wrong. I wasn’t planning on getting drunk, just enough to make me high. I started out collecting like the last year, going from house to house. I had the most “geshmak” group, I thought, but there was something missing. So when I was offered a drink at the next house, I took it. As I recall, it was Johnny Walker Black Label, which is 40% alcohol. I figured that if I took a cup, 8 oz, it would be better than taking eight individual shots, because I could drink the whole thing in just one shot.

After a few minutes, it starting hitting me, but I was able to continue collecting. About 15 minutes later I had another “shot” of 8 oz. And was already getting “high.” The next few houses passed in a blur. I remember sitting in the houses and just singing. I couldn’t really dance too much anymore, so I just sat down and sang.

I was starting to get a little headache, but I kept on going… after all this was “geshmak”. No longer sober, and without my proper judgment skills, I took a cup and a bottle of Absolute Vodka. I remember my friends telling me not to take it, but I told them that I could handle it. “Just a little,” I thought, and this year would be most “geshmak”. I took one cup and, surprisingly, it didn’t burn when it went down. “Maybe I’m immune,” I thought. “This is great, I can drink and drink and I won’t feel it going down.” I took another cup and another, and then, another. Then I poured half of another cup and I couldn’t pour straight anymore, so I just drank what I had in my cup. I sat for about a minute without feeling anything. The alcohol didn’t have any effect on me.

“Why do they even put up posters telling people not to drink? Its not even so dangerous!” The people of the house didn’t realize that I had drunk anything, because there were four or five groups bothering them for money. I suddenly started falling over. My head was attached to my shoulders as if on a rubber band. My head flew back, then front, then to the right, then back again. The whole room was turning upside down. People were screaming my name. Then I blacked out! They called Hatzoloh and they were there in an instant. My eyes weren’t dilating and when they touched me, I didn’t feel it. I was staring straight ahead at the wall and didn’t even feel the Hatzoloh man pinching me. They put me on a stretcher but my body kept slipping off as though I was made of “jello”.

They strapped me down and off I was to the hospital. On the way out, Hatzoloh took my picture and later asked my mother for permission to use it. That’s right, the next year I would be the poor kid on the stretcher.

I woke up eight hours later tied down to a bed. The last thing I remember was my head hitting the table as I fell to the floor. I looked around and saw a white room. Then I saw my mother crying with a Tehillim in her hand and my father at her side. Then I heard beeping. I couldn’t get up because I was tied to the bed. So I just lifted my head. My mother asked me if I knew where I was. I thought, maybe I was in my room at home, but my room isn’t in white. Then I started thinking, maybe we went away on a trip somewhere, but why was my mother crying? Then I remembered the table coming at my head and then it hit me: I was in a hospital. The beeping? That was my heart rate being monitored on a screen next to the bed.

A doctor came in to make sure I was O.K. and to tell me how lucky I was to be alive. They told me that since I came in “early” I was able to get a bed in a room as opposed to sleeping in the hallway. I still felt a little dizzy, but I was able to go home right away. The doctors told me my Blood Alcohol Content and told me that the IV that they gave me lowered my BAC, so I would have nothing more than a bad hangover. And again, he called me lucky. On the way out of the hospital the halls were lined with bachurim, unconscious on stretchers and beds. Parents and rebbeim were crying and saying Tehillim. It looked more like a funeral than Purim.

On a visit to my pediatrician, I realized why that doctor kept telling me I was lucky. My doctor calculated my weight with how much I drank (approximately 50 oz.) of 40% alcohol and told me that, according to the charts, I should have been dead a long time ago. The fact that I was still alive was a miracle in itself. Most people with that BAC are usually, at the very least, brain damaged. I asked him why I was not dead if his calculations and his charts were right. He looked me straight in the eye and said, “Someone up there is watching over you.” I really am lucky.

Almost dead! Not a cold, not the flu, dead, because I wanted Purim to be more “geshmak”. The people in the hospital and of Hatzoloh know that every year this happens to too many bachurim. Too many! Even one is too many! That’s why they put up signs telling you not to drink. No, don’t get carried away. What else do they have to do?

Written by Reuven Epstein, 18-years-old

NOTE: The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of YWN.


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  1. There is nothing “geshmak” about the idiots who each year keep insisting there is some valid basis in daas torah to drink in even slight excess in the name of ‘ad shelo yadah’….Those who make such claims, regardless of their stature in the kehillah, are mamash accessories to murder or manslaughter…thank you YWN for reminding the klal, and especially the bochurim, that there is NO mitvah to drink beyond a minimal amount and even then, only if you are in a safe place, not driving or even going from house to house.

  2. My son got “geschmach” a few years ago. I calculated his BAC at .41! I told him that he was lucky to be alive. He was slightly dizzy for a few days and I noticed that his judgement was delayed and impaired. He is now 21 and I hope after that incident, not so stupid. I look forward to the 1st person that will take up legal action for a minor getting drunk. At the point that one of the askanim or rabbanim looses his house, we will see change. Till then, we can talk till we’re blue in the face. However, many of these bachurim think that they are immortal. Hag Purim to all!

  3. Anybody who has ever had more than a shot of alcohol in their lives knows that to drink 5 or more cups of booze is bordering on suicidal. The problem here isn’t the drinking itself, it’s the complete lack of education as to how one should go about performing this mitzva. And yes, drinking on Purim is a mitzva, brought down by the Gemora and the Shulchan Oruch. No story, no matter how horrific, can change that fact.

    #1, what you write is simply not true. There is a very real Gemora, brought down by an equally real Shulchan Oruch, that one should get drunk on Purim. Just because you don’t like it doesn’t make it any less real.

    “Those who make such claims, regardless of their stature in the kehillah, are mamash accessories to murder or manslaughter”

    Those who claim that there is no mitzva to drink on Purim are literally trying to rip a sif out of the Shulchan Oruch, completely deluded, and are arguably migaleh panim ba’Torah shelo ki’halacha.

    There is a chiyuv to drink on Prim (although obviously, it must be done appropriately) – deal with it.

  4. Agree with #3. We want people to act in a reasonable and responsible manner, but that does not justify unilateral declarations that drinking on Purim is Assur. There is a Gemara and a halach in the Tur/Shulchan Aruch stating that there is a chiyuv to drink.

  5. #3 The Kanoi….. It’s not that we “don’t like it” its about saving lives. Minors should not drunk. Period. Having a few shots of wine with parents or rabbeim guideance is OK. We are allowed to break shabbos to save someone’s life, then I think it’s ok to skip out on the alcohol to save someone’s life, and prevent tragedy.

  6. Don’t just quote a gemora and Shulchan Aruch. If you believe in daas Torah then ask a shayla to your rav before EVERY cup you drink (how much in a cup, what kind of drink, etc).

    Remember there are other mitzvas such as protecting your life, learning Torah, bentching and davening after Purim….being machmir on drinking may cause you to be maikel on those other mitzvas and who says that is OK?

  7. #5:
    First of all, I have never yet heard of case where somebody actually dies from overindulging in alcohol on Purim.

    Secondly, would you suggest banning lighting the Menorah on Chanuka because it could (and often does) lead to houses catching fire, thereby endangering lives?

    There is a chiyuv to drink on Purim. Period.

  8. To No. 5

    Either you deliberately misread what many have said or you really have a drinking issue. No one said not to drink on Purim. What we are saying is that there is no chiyuv to drink in excess and if you don’t believe that than you are putting yourself and others a risk of a tragedy.

  9. The Kanoi Next Door – I have. And for his high-school age classmates, instead of spending the day after Purim reveling in the experience of the holiday, they were attending a funeral.

  10. To Number 8, who answered Number 5.
    Yes, there are cases where people do die from overindulgence in alcohol on Purim.

    Jews who drink to excess very rarely are clueless how to handle their alcohol.

    By the way, I heard this morning on Nachum Segal’s show that the penalty in NJ and NY for failing the breathalyzer test in a car is to have the care IMPOUNDED. As in, taken away. For a long time, or permanently.

  11. To #8: I have PERSONALLY. I’m a Hatzoloh member and I WAS THERE. If you still think you know it all, YOU DON’T. Don’t be oiver on Lifnei Iveir.

    How dare you suggest that minors get drunk????

  12. To #3- the ultimate bigshot “lamdan”. There is a machlokes haposkim as to whether there is a chiyuv to get “drunk”, or does “livsumei” just mean happy or slightly high. Most poskim agree that to get drunk is not the Torah way, and chazal never meant anything like that! The Rama paskens to drink until you fall asleep. This is not a very drunk situation. You can drink two or three cups of wine and get groggy. If you want to run around while drinking and drink yourself into a drunken state of stupidity, do not quote chazal. You are not only an Am Ha’aretz, but also a Rodef. for your own sake, I hope no youngsters are somech on your “psak” to cause chilul Hashem, injury or worse.

  13. And btw, there is NO din to drink at night. ONLY at the Seuda, and ONLY within the guidelines of Halacha. And if after learning the Shelah and others who hold there’s a difference between “livsumei” and “shikrus” you still are not sure how much your Chiyuv is- safek derabanan lekulah. To be machmir for yourself is wrong al pi halacha, but to advertise it is irresponsible and evil.

  14. #9:
    The Shulchan Oruch says one should drink until he cannot differentiate between baruch Mordechai and arur Haman. All the insults and accusations in the world will not change that fact. There are more makil shitos, but to claim there is no “valid basis in daas torah to drink in even slight excess” is just not true.

    I stand corrected.

    Nowhere did I suggest minors get drunk; kindly do not put words in my mouth. I said they must fulfil ad di’lo yadah. (And I didn’t make that up, the Shulchan Oruch did. If you have a problem, take it up with him.) They can, and should, do it according to the Rema; but they still must drink at least some alcohol according to all shitos.

  15. Kanoi – the level of drinking required “ad dlo yada” is referring to a piyut they used to sing where the response was either Baruch Mordechai or Arur Haman. So you are supposed to drink until you reach the level where you don’t know if the right response is Baruch Mordechai or Arur Haman. Not to reach a level of drunkenness where you don’t even know the difference between those words.

  16. Kanoi – Your response disgusts me. So it takes a person getting killed R”L to lend some credence to the view that minors should not be given (excess, or even any) alcohol which is dangerous and illegal to begin with…