Every year our kids go to visit their friends on Purim and come home with glowing reports of what a great experience it was. "So-and-so got really drunk, threw up and passed out!”
I have to confess that I have a hard time understanding why they think that was a great experience. I don't know why they enjoyed it but I do know that person did not have a proper Purim experience. He completely missed the point.
Our tradition is very clear. You're supposed to drink until you don't know the difference between “Blessed is Mordechai and Cursed is Haman.” Now what does that mean? You're probably still uncertain how much to drink.
We are taught that everything that happens is good; it's all a reflection of the Almighty's love and kindness. We have a hard time understanding this and an even more difficult time experiencing it.
We live in a world of pain and challenges. The Almighty's face is hidden from us and we are overwhelmed by our struggles. We have a hard time seeing that the obvious good and the seemingly bad are both actually good, are both reflections of the goodness and oneness of our Creator.
We are guarded and unwilling to make ourselves open and vulnerable and receptive to this experience.
But on Purim, with assistance from a little alcohol, we relax our vigilance. We stop guarding ourselves from the world. We stop trying (futilely I might add) to protect our children from all pain. The Almighty's presence in our lives becomes more visible. We get glimpses of His kindness to us, of the way He operates in the world.
We make ourselves vulnerable and receptive and the Almighty walks right in the door.
If we get very drunk and totally lose ourselves, we will not be conscious enough to have this experience. We will miss the essence of Purim.
The point is to drink enough alcohol that allows us to let go and give ourselves over to the opportunity to see and to connect.
These small glimpses of the Almighty that we get on Purim are meant to sustain us throughout the year. They give us the strength and courage we need to endure, and perhaps even rise above life's challenges. They give us perspective and understanding and wisdom. And, most of all, the recognition that everything we have is good.
Isn't that worth staying sober for?