New York, NY - Staying Sober on Purim Has the OU’s Seal of Approval
New York, NY - As part of the OU’s “Safe Schools, Safe Shuls, Safe Homes Initiative,” the organization’s executive vice-president Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb has issued the OU’s annual call for parents to alert their children to the dangers of drinking on Purim, which this year falls on the evening of Monday, March 9, and lasts through Tuesday, March 10.
Rabbi Weinreb’s warning was not directed solely at young people. Pointing to a variety of halachic sources which warn against drunkenness, even on Purim, he urged all members of the Jewish community to be cautious about alcohol consumption on this most joyous Jewish holiday.
“In our time, when alcohol abuse in our community, especially among our youth, has reached troublesome proportions, and when we hear so many stories of the tragic results of Purim drinking, it is important to reiterate strong words of caution. Although the message is out, there are still many who resist hearing it. Purim is a time for fun and celebration, not for drunkenness and its tragic consequences,” said Rabbi Weinreb.
Breaking the Law
While all members of the Jewish community should beware of the consequences of becoming inebriated, especially the danger of drunk driving, Rabbi Weinreb pointed out that, when teenagers consume alcohol, they are not only disobeying laws concerning underage drinking, they are also risking serious medical consequences.
Adults who knowingly provide alcohol to those under age are also breaking the law, a serious infraction of the Jewish principle of dina d’malchuta dina, the law of the land is law. Jews recognize that secular laws that are not contrary to any laws of Judaism are binding on Jewish citizens.
“These considerations of health and pikuach Nefesh—the saving of lives—easily transcend whatever mitzvah might be involved in drinking on Purim,” said Rabbi Weinreb.
The OU has made sure this warning is not just a paper caveat. The organization’s youth group, National Council of Synagogue Youth, has repeatedly made clear that while some people—especially teenagers—believe Purim, like Simchat Torah, grants license to drink alcohol with abandon, the fact is it cannot be tolerated.
NCSY has been firm and unrelenting in its commitment to end teenage drinking on Purim.
“Teenage drinking inevitably yields tragedy and must, therefore, come to an end,” said Josh Halpern, an NCSY member from Philadelphia who attends the Stern Hebrew High School in Bala Cynwyd, PA.
Rabbi Steven Burg, International Director of NCSY, is aware that “too many youngsters still remain either unaware or unconvinced of the great risk alcohol intake on Purim poses.”
Nevertheless, he said he was thankful that so many NCSY members, as well as other teenagers, have heeded the warnings against the dangers of drinking alcohol.
“They agree with us that zero tolerance will still permit an enjoyable Purim,” he said.
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