On Purim we have an obligation to drink wine until we no
longer recognize the difference between Homon who is cursed
and Mordechai who is blessed. When considering this
halachah, it is difficult to understand. It is so unusual
and so out of character -- a need to become drunk, and
drunken to the state of not knowing the difference between
Mordechai who is blessed and Homon who is cursed. It does
not fit into the normal spirit of Jewish life and
How are we to understand logically this mitzvah of becoming
drunk? Furthermore, we must know clearly -- before the "not
knowing," before the confusion of who is who -- what in fact
is the difference between Mordechai who is blessed and Homon
who is cursed.
@Big Let Body=The miracle of Purim was accomplished through
wine. In order to commemorate the miracle, there is a
requirement to drink wine until drunkenness. In this stupor,
the mind ceases to function.
In life, there are two forces, construction and destruction.
Many times these forces are mixed together and life becomes
confusing. Both are teachers; the evil and the good. There
are aspects of our lives that build and aspects of our lives
that destroy. Out of success can come failure and from ruins
can spring renewal and redemption.
The grandchildren of Homon learned Torah in Bnei Brak! Homon
was the one who sought to destroy all the Jews. It is
amazing, how his own offspring would convert and cleave to
Torah. How does such a thing happen?
Chazal teach us that when Achashverosh removed his ring and
gave it to Homon, this act was more effective than all the
prophecies and warnings of our 48 Prophets. All 48 Prophets
could not, and did not, accomplish what Homon accomplished.
The transferral of the king's ring to Homon indicated that
Homon now had the absolute power to do as he pleased --
particularly to the Jews. Homon was then, the epitome of
wealth, glory and power. A rich man coupled with fame and
power, he had everything in the world. Yet, this was the
cause of his downfall.
In spite of all Homon's plans, all his resources and all of
his hatred -- he failed. More than that, his offspring made
an about-face, a full teshuvah.
Chazal teach us that in the generation that the Moshiach
comes, governments will be swayed to heresy. They will be
completely secular and devoid of all faith in G-d. At that
time, will come the Redemption.
There is a halachah (Vayikra 13:12,13), that if a
person is afflicted with tzora'as completely from
head to toe, he is deemed to be tohor -- pure.
However, if a person has an affliction of tzora'as
that is the size of a gris, the size of a dime,
he is judged to be tomei -- impure. How are we to
understand this? When totally affected he is pure, whereas a
trace amount creates impurity! Common sense can not
understand this. Yet this is Torah and it is true.
Do we understand how the grandsons of Homon, coming from the
stock of Amolek, reversed their natures?
Yet we are living through this today and we see it with our
own eyes. The baalei teshuvah are making such a
wonderful comeback, in many cases, rising out of the pits of
worldly pleasures -- cleaning themselves from the dregs of
the earth. They reach levels of excellence and expertise in
Torah, middos and mitzvos. Levels of greatness that
no one could have known or predicted. The reason is that a
thoughtful individual, even in the midst of all the
pleasures of the world, must come to realize that a
lifestyle of hedonism is not a lifestyle. It is not living.
It took a long, long time to learn this lesson.
The effect of drugs and the Aids disease on the individual,
and on the society, have taught many people this lesson --
the hard way. One can not live a wild life, a life of
hefkeirus. It will take its toll. Homosexuals, they
thought they could get away with it. Now they are faced with
Aids. It is only a matter of time. Seeking unbridled
pleasure for its own sake, this is a path of destruction.
Depravity, evil has taught the world a lesson. Many years
had to pass before the lesson became clear, but now we see
it with our eyes. Such a lifestyle leads to destruction. The
discovery took years, but now it is out in the open.
Destruction is also a rebbe.
Purim is the confrontation of two personalities, both great
individuals. Homon was a mastermind! His plot to destroy
stemmed from great intelligence. His downfall was a result
of his arrogance and pride. This is destruction. The
opposite extreme is Mordechai: wisdom and a life of Torah,
construction. We learn from both, what to emulate --
Boruch Mordechai -- and what to hate -- Orur
Homon -- the demise of Homon and the renown of
Mordechai. Wine was the catalyst that Hashem chose to teach
us this lesson.
@Big Let Body=Wine has remarkable dual properties. Wine can
induce euphoria. Wine can bring misery. It can raise and it
Wine is given to someone who is sad. It will cheer him up,
as we know from the wisdom of Shlomo Hamelech, for he wrote
in Mishlei (31:6), "Give liquor to the forlorn and wine for
the embittered soul." A person who is sentenced to death is
given wine to lift his spirits so he can cope with the pain
Simcha -- joy -- is also achieved through wine. The
gemora Pesochim (109a) teaches us that today, when we
do not have the Beis Hamikdash and therefore no meat
of korbonos with which to rejoice on Yom Tov, wine is
the substitute for giving us simcha. Wine is used for
shirah, song, as the gemora (Brochos 35a)
says, "There is no song except over wine." When we had the
Beis Hamikdash, the Leviim sang their songs of praise
in the presence of wine. The wine will intensify joy.
It all depends on how much of the wine you take. If taken in
moderation it is wonderful. It gives you a lift. If you take
it, Heaven forbid, freely and unchecked it causes
drunkenness and ruin.
Chazal tell us that the Eitz Hadaas was, according to some
opinions, grapes. The Medrash Rabba (Bereishis 19:5)
states that Chava squeezed grapes and gave Odom Horishon the
wine to drink. Wine was the cause of Odom Horishon's
downfall. The wine brought on a drunkenness that overpowered
even Odom Horishon's profound intellect, his seichel.
There are both tremendous assets and liabilities
contained in wine. If taken in moderation, wine can produce
joy. If not, it can produce grief. Too much will bring on
shame and injury. Through wine, the curse of death came to
the world, while during the miracle of Purim it saved our
The miracle within wine is that it depicts life in its
reality; the essence of life -- drunkenness. A person can
become drunk from life in this world. A whole lifetime can
be spent walking around in a stupor, in love with Olom
Hazeh. He loses his seichel, his sense purpose
and direction. Around and around, circling from one sip of
this world's pleasures to the next. Spiraling down and
around and again, further down. One sensation after the
The whole sense of construction, that life has a noble
purpose, is lost. People turn to drugs just to deaden their
seichel. Unshackled from their sense of
responsibility, their common sense and rational thinking
become suspended. Then they feel they can do whatever they
wish. They would never allow themselves to do such things
without the influence of the drugs. They would be left with
guilt feelings. Their excuse for doing it is the drugs.
@Big Let Body=This is the miracle of Purim: that wine
produced life and simcha and it also caused
intoxication, confusion and death. This is exactly the life
of Homon and lehavdil of Mordechai. We must drink and
feel bewildered; no longer able to know the difference
between Boruch Mordechai and Orur Homon --
that is life in its essence.
The influence of the world, like wine, will prevail over the
mind and create a state of confusion from what was once a
state of clarity. The purpose of life will be lost. When one
is drunk, there is no telling what is up or what is down;
which is death and which is life. Seichel does not
function; it has no influence on the person -- that is
This is the lesson of Purim, and it is to be learned
especially with and through wine. We can experience the
virtue of wine, when it is used in moderation, as the Torah
prescribes, together with seichel. Alternatively, we
can sink into chaos if it is not used properly.
@Big Let Body=In the words of the Megillah (8:16),
"For the Jews had light and gladness, and joy and honor,"
Chazal teach us, that "light" is referring to Torah.
Seemingly, a reference to Torah should be more appropriately
mentioned concerning Shavuos. This was the time when we
accepted the Torah from Hashem and were privileged to
receive the joy and radiance of clarity that comes from
Torah. Where does Torah fit into Purim?
The Bach zt"l explains that there is a difference
between Purim and Chanukah. The days of Purim are for
feasting and festivity, a time to partake of the enjoyments
of this world.
The days of Chanukah are for avodoh, spiritual
devotion to Hashem. Since at the time of Chanukah there was
a negligence in worship and dedication to Hashem, there were
edicts directed against Torah and mitzvos. In turn, there
had to be self- sacrifice to rededicate the Beis
Hamikdash and the performance of mitzvos.
Purim was a decree against the physical existence of our
people. This was in response to our participation in the
Feast of Achashverosh. Homon came to exterminate the
physical body, which received improper pleasure from this
world. After repentance and prayer we were saved, and so
Purim is a time for the body to celebrate its redemption
from the hands of death. But how does Torah fit into all
The gemora Pesochim (68b) teaches that according to
all opinions, since the days of Purim are for festivity and
joy, one cannot fast on Purim. The cause of the adversity,
the ordeal of Purim, was the enticement of all the pomp and
splendor of Achashverosh. Royalty steeped in gold and riches
-- all the pleasures of the world, for one hundred and
eighty days straight! Then, another seven days of
festivities just for the capital city of Shushan!
Chazal discuss if we actually participated in the whole
party, but without a doubt, the whole atmosphere in Shushan
was charged with mirth. Such a celebration, combined with
the drinking of wine, was too much. Any kind and any amount
of drink that they wanted -- in fact, any gratification they
desired -- it was all there. This tempted them to partake of
his feast and to delve into the enticements of this world.
"Living it up" in this world caused the decrees of
destruction and the darkness of hester ponim. We lost
Hashem's favor, because we strayed from His Torah's way of
The light of Torah had dimmed. Instead of getting the
benefits of a life of Torah, they turned to the pleasures of
this world. The Ohr HaChaim Hakodosh zt"l, comments
on the posuk (Devorim 26:11), "You shall rejoice with
all the goodness that Hashem, your G-d has given you . . ."
First and foremost this is speaking about Hashem, Who is the
ultimate good and bestows goodness without limit. In
addition, this goodness, which is all encompassing, refers
to Hashem's Torah. He writes that if people would experience
the sweetness and pleasantness of Torah, they would run and
chase after it. Gold and silver would be as nothing before
their eyes -- for the Torah contains all the goodness in the
world. All it takes is to feel and understand the pleasure
of Torah. Then, all other worldly pleasures are reduced to
Torah includes everything that is good in the world. Is
there anything like it? The posuk uses the expression
all -- everything. Is everything that is good included in a
chocolate bar, a dinner or a vacation? It cannot be. A
moment's pleasure -- or an hour or a week -- and then what?
A craving for the next time! Fool's gold. Fooled, time after
time. The lifestyle, the frame of mind, of finding pleasure
in Torah, was lacking. The world could now influence
@Big Let Body=The feast of Achashverosh enticed the people,
day after day. It became a lifestyle and so its influence
went undetected. It was so devastating that the situation
required a new Kabolas Hatorah, a kiyemu
vekiblu, as it is written in Megillas Esther
(9:27), The Jews affirmed and accepted upon themselves .
. ." This means, as the gemora (Shabbos 88a) teaches,
"They affirmed what they had already accepted."
Beyond the original acceptance of Hashem's Torah, there was
now an additional element in our relationship with Hashem
and His Torah. There was a realization of what Torah really
was, what it really means to us.
Up until the miracle of Purim, Kabolas Hatorah had
been through persuasion, as this gemora explains,
that Har Sinai was held above Klal Yisroel in order
to convince us to accept the Torah. The original acceptance
of the Torah was not with a full heart and thus there was
room for worldly interests to creep into our hearts and lure
us away from the life of Torah.
After the miracle of Purim, it all became clear: what Torah
means for us and how much we are lacking without it. We
accepted the Torah on our own, willingly and with full
hearts. Tosafos, on this gemora, explains that it was
possible because of our "love over the miracle of Purim."
The miracle caused such gratitude and devotion to Hashem
that our hearts could clearly see the light of Torah. It
radiated clearly and it was obvious that the Torah is the
essence and the purpose of our lives -- and nothing else!
The yetzer hora, along with the glitter of this
world, confuses a person into mistakes. The Seforno zt"l
(Bereishis 3:1) explains that when the snake, the
Nochosh, tricked Chava it relied on the imagination
as its weapon to fool her. The yetzer hora takes
something which in reality has very little benefit and in
essence is meaningless, and exaggerates it by means of the
imagination. A picture is described of something that is
wonderful, delicious -- everything that a person could want.
The superficial illusion is seen clearly, since the yearning
for physical desires magnifies it, while the poisonous venom
is hidden amidst the fantasies of the imagination. The
dangers of this world's pleasures are neither recognized nor
The material lifestyle is very appealing -- a delicious
steak -- but there is indigestion and in the end it can
bring on an ulcer. Indulgence will lead to sickness and if
not checked by reason, there will be abuse and ruination.
The thought of immediate pleasure entices the mind to ignore
all the harmful consequences that will follow. The
satisfaction is only temporary, while the damage remains.
This is life.
Purim pitted the forces of this world, Achashverosh and his
royal feast, against the Torah and its way of life. Torah
emerged supreme. Chazal teach that all the Yomim Tovim will
become nullified except for Purim. This new Kabolas
Hatorah is forever. There was light for the Jews, the
light of Torah, Torah in its full reality.
One can not have a kiyemu vekiblu, if one still has a
craving for this world. As long as one lusts after
pleasures, one will never reach excellence in Torah. It is
either this or that. The Vilna Gaon in the sefer Even
Sheleimoh (2:9) is quoted as saying, "It is not possible
to serve Hashem except after the elimination of worldly
desires and pleasure . . . and it is impossible to sense the
sweetness of Torah except through hardships and self-
control." One can not have both.
The expression we say in Bircas HaTorah; that we are
"commanded to engross ourselves in the words of Torah,"
means that the mitzvah is not simply to learn, but to be
engrossed and preoccupied with the learning, to such an
extent that it becomes a joy. To delve into it so completely
-- with such scrutiny and analysis -- that the truth of the
issue emerges. Then, the words of Torah become sweet and a
delight to learn.
This is also what we ask from Hashem, in our morning prayers
before reciting the Shema: "Instill in our hearts to
understand and to expound upon, to listen, to learn, to
teach, to safeguard, to perform and to fulfill all the words
of Your Torah's teaching with love."
Then, after all this, there is a higher request for an even
greater spiritual attainment, as our prayers continue,
"Enlighten our eyes in Your Torah." We beseech that the
Torah shall illuminate our eyes, and then that "our hearts
shall cleave to Your commandments," and then finally, that
"our hearts be unified to love and fear Your Name." There is
a fusion, an affinity to our Creator -- a deveikus
that shuts out all worldly concerns.
The nature of the person is changed and there is a different
feeling towards the pleasures of this world. They are seen
for what they are -- false and silly distractions. The
stupidity of it all is revealed and the world's trivial
distractions disappear. This is what Purim did for us --
then and forever.
@Big Let Body=Torah has the power to supersede all worldly
interests and desires -- it must be this way. For if not,
how are we to understand what we are taught in Pirkei
Ovos (6:4), "This is the way of Torah: Eat bread with
salt, drink water in small measure, sleep on the ground and
live a life of hardship -- and exert yourself in Torah!"
This is not just learning, but sacrifice and strenuous
efforts. This is something that Hashem expects of us.
Further, we are taught that the person who does this is
called "Fortunate in this world!" How can it be?
It can happen only through Torah, for the Torah detaches the
mind from the lure of this world. Then the pleasure of
learning can dispel all longings for material, fleeting
enjoyments. Existence becomes life, real living. Freedom
from the pursuit of pleasure.
This was Purim, Olam Hazeh against the Torah. We
also, face this battle. Today's world, especially, confronts
us with many challenges, for the greater the advancements so
too are the greater chances of ruin.
The Chovos Halevovos wrote many years ago that whatever
increases progress in the world will also increase
destruction. The construction there is in this world is in
fact destruction -- the destruction of ruchniyus. The
demands of a materialistic lifestyle take a big toll on a
person's ruchniyus. Previously, there was not such an
abundance of products and services. Today we are swamped by
One hundred years ago, how much did the average working man
have? Did he have the conveniences and luxuries, the
restaurants, amusements and vacations that we have today?
Not at all. They had nothing of what we have now.
Nevertheless, they did have something, for even the most
common people had regard for Torah. There was no affluence
to prevent them from recognizing the importance of Torah.
Very often, a yungerman will leave the kollel
because luxuries appeal to him and his wife. It is a
different style of living, having all sorts of foods,
furnishings and gratifications. People think that it is an
insufficiency not to have these things. They become
necessities, and if a person is not affluent enough to have
them -- there is something wrong with him. On the contrary,
it is the greatest advantage not to be surrounded by all
these things -- the joy of Torah and its life is not dimmed
by the false glitter of this world.
Olom Hazeh with all its splendor can not give true
life, true simcha. Purim is for us to enjoy, but one
can become drunk, intoxicated from Olom Hazeh. Wine
has the power to build and to destroy.
Living a life that is steeped in Olom Hazeh is only
destruction -- nothing is created. In the end, with old age,
this will be realized, but then it is too late. There is no
longer the time nor energy to build.
Chazal teach us that the older talmidei chachomim get
the more stability of mind they acquire. There is peace of
mind from knowing that they have done what they should have
done. There are no guilt feelings, and there is no
confusion. They are happy with their lives.
Others, who are drunk from this world, when they get older
and the physical cravings fade -- their previous excitements
no longer thrill them and their bodies are no longer capable
. . . then their minds become more and more confused. They
realize that they lived a life of emptiness, triviality and
foolishness. Sadly, it is too late.
On Purim, we drink wine . . . but to become drunk? We must
be very careful. Purim becomes wild. The mitzvah is not to
become crazy and out of control. Some fulfill the mitzvah by
becoming intoxicated and staying in the house to go to bed
and sleep it off. Others just have a sip or two of wine and
sleep, because sleeping also accomplishes the "not knowing"
of the difference between Mordechai and Homon.
Wine is a wonderful thing. It can make a person happy, and
at the same time drunk -- and all that one ate comes spewing
out. Likewise, one can partake of the life of Olom
Hazeh, without limit, but in the later years, it will
all be vomited out. There will be nothing left from it.
Nothing will remain.
Homon had all the powers of Olom Hazeh at his
disposal and he was cursed. Lehavdil, Mordechai had
Torah and Hashem blessed him.
May we too, be privileged to be blessed by HaKodosh
Boruch Hu, and may our mitzvos of Purim and all our
Torah and mitzvos always find favor with Him. May we too be
able to see the light of Torah and to rejoice with it in its
full brilliance, with the Beis Hamikdash rebuilt
speedily in our days.
This lecture of HaRav HaGaon Rabbenu Chaim Pinchas
Scheinberg, shlita, was given motzei Shabbos Parshas
Ki Siso (in the middle of Purim Meshulosh) 5754, to Yeshivas
Torah Ohr, Jerusalem.