Wednesday, March 12, 2014

PURIM: Cross-dressing and Alcohol drinking

לא יהיה כלי גבר על האשה ולא ילבש גבר שמלת אשה כי תועבת ה' כל עושה אלה

In our days, many people wear customs in Purim. Obviously there is no Mitsva or Minhag to do this. It is just a popular practice that became accepted in Jewish communities all over the world, especially for children. However we must know, and inform others who might not know, about the prohibition of cross-dressing.  Wearing clothes designed for the opposite sex is an explicit prohibition of the Tora, Deut. 22:5: "A woman must not wear men's clothing, nor a man shall wear women's clothing, for haShem your God abhors anyone who does this". The rabbis explained that when a man dresses to look like a woman, wearing a skirt or a wig, or using make up, etc.,  or when a girl dresses to look like a man, they are transgressing a Biblical Law. This serious prohibition applies also during Purim.  Rab Obadia Yosef z"l was very strict about this point and he explained that cross-dressing applies even when one dresses to look like the other gender 'just for fun'.

לא שישתכר, שהשכרות איסור גמור ואין לך עבירה גדולה מזו, שהוא גורם לגילוי עריות ושפיכות דמים וכמה עבירות זולתן
אורחות חיים
"[Although alcohol is served during the Purim meal] we should never get intoxicated with alcohol, because getting drunk is a serious prohibition, and actually there is no transgression bigger than it, because drunkenness brings a person to act with promiscuity and it could provoke a person to kill someone else, or to perform other [serious] transgressions".
From the book "Orhot Hayim" by the Rosh (1250-1320).
In Purim, Sunday March 16th in the afternoon, we participate of a festival meal or Se'udat Purim. In this banquet we sing songs and express our happiness and gratitude to Bore 'Olam for our deliverance. It is customary to serve alcohol in this banquet (MT Megila 2:15), but it is NOT permitted to drink in excess. Purim should not be used as an excuse for drunkenness. "In these days", declares Rabbi Weinreb, a leading Orthodox Rabbi in America "when so many of our young people are prone to experimentation with dangerous substances, it behooves us to warn against the dangers of alcohol, especially on Purim... We are not commanded to become drunk, to look foolish and to lose self-control...rather we are commanded to become joyous in a manner that results in love of God and thankfulness for God's miracles."

Rabbi Avraham Nissanian wrote a very important letter about this delicate issue.  See here.


Tomorrow we will commemorate Ta'anit Esther, the fast of Esther. Normally, this fast-day takes place on the 13th of Adar. However, when the 13th of Adar falls on Shabbat, like this year, we fast the previous Thursday, the 11th of Adar: tomorrow. 
In NY the fast will begin at  6:02 am and ends at 7:20 pm. (In some communities they would finish the fast a few minutes later. See your community's calendar).