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Points of View
My Point of View--Feb 26, 2001
© Rabbi Jack Moline

Purim is a time for sacred confusion. Among the traditions of the day is to feast and imbibe to the point of befuddlement. But why?

In our day and age, living in a society saturated with pleasures both sensual and chemical, Judaism promotes an unpopular message. Moderation in all things is commended, and restraint in the face of indulgence is required. We cannot eat whatever we choose, we cannot work whenever we please, and we cannot be intimate with just any person. To be a Jew of integrity is to redefine that unalienable right of American philosophy – the pursuit of happiness.

The righteous and pious among us (and you know who you are better than I) have never tasted sin. But the rest of us have – and it tastes pretty good. What is so terrible about a shrimp shrimp here and a shrimp shrimp there? Think of what could be done with that extra day’s income! And if you can’t be with the one you love, honey, love the one you’re with.

The few among us who have become prisoners of those pursuits through substance abuse or compulsive behaviors know what dangers lie ahead when the driver forgets to use the brakes. However, each one of them will tell you how long it took them to discover they were out of control.

So our tradition sets aside one day a year to teach us to recognize the sensation of being out of control. It is called “adloyada ” – a jumble of Hebrew words meaning “until he didn’t know” – the custom of slight overindulgence on Purim. Its context is giddiness and a certain amount of abandon. By losing focus and restraint, we come to recognize their importance. Our confusion is sacred.

I do not encourage you to break the law or common sense in your observance of Purim, merely to take the lessons of the day. But remember what is unique about Purim is not just its emphasis on otherwise forbidden pleasures. It is also the holiday on which we read the only book in the Bible in which God does not appear.

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