Purim: Drinking “Ad De’lo Yada”
One of the most striking Halachot of Purim is the requirement mentioned in the Gemara that one must become inebriated on Purim “Ad De’lo Yada Ben Arur Haman Le’Baruch Mordechai” – “until he does not know the difference between ‘cursed is Haman’ and ‘blessed is Mordechai’.”
The obvious question arises, is it possible that Halacha truly requires such a state of intoxication? Are we really supposed to be so drunk that we cannot think straight? And what value can there possibly be in the inability to distinguish between Haman and Mordechai? Are we not supposed to tell the difference between evil people like Haman and righteous Sadikim like Mordechai? Undoubtedly, this Talmudic passage requires a deeper explanation.
The answer, perhaps, is that the phrase “Arur Haman” refers to the “cursed” aspects of our lives, our hardships and troubles, while “Baruch Mordechai” refers to the “blessed” aspects, the many blessings that we enjoy. The goal of Purim is to reach the point where we see no difference whatsoever between them.
One of the central lessons of Purim is that everything that happens is brought about by G-d, our loving Father, even when we cannot see Him. G-d’s Name appears nowhere in the Megilla, and the miraculous events of Purim involve nothing supernatural. Purim contrasts sharply in this respect from the next holiday on our calendar – Pesach. The events of the Exodus unfolded through overtly supernatural miracles, and so Hashem’s Name is mentioned countless times over the course of the Haggada. On Pesach, the entire nation saw with absolute clarity that G-d came to rescue them from Egypt. On Purim, however, G-d worked behind the scenes, rescuing the Jewish People through a sequence of perfectly natural events – Vashti’s refusal to appear before Ahashverosh, Ester’s selection as queen, and so on. Purim teaches us of the need to see G-d even when He is concealed, to trust that He is tenderly caring for us at all times even when we do not understand His ways.
The wine and festivity of Purim is intended to blur the distinction that we instinctively draw between “Cursed is Haman” and “Blessed is Mordechai,” between the “good” and “bad” events in our lives and in the world. We celebrate knowing that just as G-d was helping the Jews of Persia even when His presence was concealed, He is constantly helping us, too, even when we cannot see His helping hand. The Purim miracle reminds us that there is no difference at all between our “blessings” and our “curses,” as everything that happens in our lives is, by definition, the very best thing that can happen, lovingly brought about by our Father in heaven.