Halachas of Drinking on Purim
Excerpt of a shiur given about the halachas of Purim, by Rav Eliezer Berland, shlita
It’s known that when a person is a baal daat, (a spiritually-aware person), he doesn’t get drunk.
This is known. The only people who get drunk are the ones who don’t have daat (spiritual knowledge / awareness). He drinks some wine, and he’s ready to drop, he’s already falling over. And he could be an ‘important person’, but if he falls over, this is a sign that he doesn’t have daat.
Rav Natan says that he could drink the whole of Purim, and he’d still never fall over. Rav Avraham Sternhartz used to drink all of Purim, and he never, ever fell over.
If a person falls over, this is a sign that he doesn’t have daat, this is clear. The Ari says, that it’s forbidden to fall, it’s out of the question. The Ari says that a person can drink as much as he wants, and every second, he’s truly receiving a new moach, a new intellect. So with this renewed intellect, he can drink yet more.
Every drink contains some of that ‘wine of preservation’, if he merits to drink this in holiness and purity, and with the correct intentions.
Every Purim, the light of the ‘Foundation of Abba’ shines on us, which otherwise never shines to us.
[This spiritual light] is always covered over, it’s always hidden. Now, it’s Megillat Esther, now it’s revealing [this spiritual light] – such a big light, that every person can make true teshuva and return.
The whole of Purim is about making teshuva, it’s not about messing around, and it’s not about breaking things, and it’s not about damaging property. It’s mamash just about making real teshuva, teshuva amitit, real teshuva, amitit, amitit.
This is what we used to see by ANSH (‘Anshei Shelanu’ – literally our people, a reference to Breslov chassidim) throughout all the generations. They used to sit and cry rivers of tears. They used to cry rivers of tears, at the time when they were dancing.
And no-one really got totally drunk, it was always le’basuma. Le’basuma is not ‘getting drunk’. It’s talking about having a red face, about feeling enthusiastic, about feeling dvekut, (closeness to Hashem)….
Let’s learn from the Shulchan Aruch, because lots of people simply don’t know the halacha, they don’t know what le’basuma really means, they just don’t know the halacha.
Now, let’s learn the halach: what does it mean to be le’basuma on Purim? We are obligated to be le’basuma – how le’basuma are we meant to be? For 10 hours, for 20 hours, for 24 hours? Purim could be 36 hours, from now six o’clock at night, until 5-6 am the morning after.
A person could be drunk, and not knowing what he’s really saying, and not knowing what he’s really praying. The kitzur Shulchan Aruch says that [a person should become drunk] only on condition that he doesn’t degrade even a single blessing, that he doesn’t slight even a single minhag (custom), that he doesn’t overlook even a single detail of the Shulchan Aruch. On page 142 Section 6, it says chas v’shalom that a person should think that it’s ok not to say the Birkat HaMazon (blessing after the meal) because of the drink! Or, that he should miss mincha, or that he should miss out on reciting the evening prayers, chas v’shalom. Or, that he shouldn’t pray with the correct intention.
So now, I’m asking, how much is ‘le’basuma’? How much time should we be ‘le’basuma’? Two hours? Three? One hour? Half an hour? Five minutes?
The Shulchan Aruch doesn’t say how long a person should be le’basuma.
But the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch brings on page 142, Section 6, the halachot for Purim. The Shulchan Aruch says that because the whole miracle came about by way of the wine…(that Queen Esther held a wine feast on two occasions, and by way of this Haman had his downfall)…, that this is why we are obliged to remember this by getting drunk on wine.
(And we are obliged to drink le’basuma on Purim, until we don’t know the difference between ‘cursed is Haman’ and ‘blessed is Mordechai’.)
So, at the least we should drink more than we usually do, more than we’re used to doing, in order to remember this big miracle, and then to go to sleep, and by way of being asleep, we won’t know the difference between ‘cursed is Haman’ and ‘blessed is Mordechai’.
But, a person who has a weak nature, and definitely a person who knows himself, that (by drinking wine) he’ll come to slight some mitzvah, chas v’shalom… If a person knows that he’d going to degrade a mitzvah, either one of the blessings or one of the prayers, or even if he’s just going to become light-headed – it’s even forbidden to become light-headed!
People think it’s permitted for them to become light-headed, but absolutely no light-headedness is permitted, on Purim.
Purim is like Yom Kippur, and we need to ‘strengthen’ our heads, our minds, say Rav Natan, even more than on Yom Kippur! He brings how we need to strengthen our minds even more than we do on Yom Kippur. We spend Yom Kippur in the synagogue, but on Purim, we need to pray to Hashem via our dancing and singing, and through drinking wine, to get closer to Hashem.
All the drinking of wine, it’s just so that we’ll get closer to Hashem, dveikut with Hashem. So we’ll see Hashem face-to-face. The point is not to get drunk, but that our every action should only be done for the sake of Heaven.
Translated from the Shivivei Or Newsletter, #81.
 A reference to the kabbalistic worlds of yesod and Abba.
 A Talmudic expression denoting the level of drunkenness required on Purim.