by Yochanon Bogart, Sharon, MA
The Talmud teaches (Megillah 7b) that on Purim a Jew is required to drink until he does not know the difference between Arur Haman (Cursed be Haman) and Boruch Mordechai (Blessed be Mordechai). At first glance this would seem to be quite a high level of intoxication. It is not, however!
Yes, there is a huge difference between the evil of Haman and the righteousness of Mordechai. It must be pointed out, however, that “Cursed be Haman” is clearly and unquestionably a double negative. And two negatives make a positive. For example, negative two times negative two equals positive 4. “May you not have sorrow” is quite the positive blessing. In sports, enhancing either one’s defense or one’s offense is a path to victory.
Say Haman and Mordechai are fighting to the finish. A holy Yid is nearby and can take action with his speech. If he yells out “Boruch Mordechai!”, Mordechai wins and good triumphs over evil. If, instead, he yells out “Arur Haman!”, what happens? Haman loses and also good triumphs over evil. In outcome there is no difference!
It seems, therefore, that the chachomim wanted Yiden to drink only a minute amount – merely enough to make indistinguishable two forms of action with equal effects. Can that really be the case? Can our historically high levels of enhanced Purim merriment possibly been ill-advised all these years?
Fortunately there is indeed a difference, a subtle but important one that in fact might require some to drink considerably in order to minimize. It is the following and has to do with one’s ego, one’s “yesh”. It speaks to the person who says, “I myself wish to say only blessings. I don’t want my lips to ever curse anyone. I agree that in some situations cursing evil is helpful but I don’t want to dirty myself or my mouth with words of arur”. The chachomim with their Purim advice are telling that individual, and us, that that is a luxury we do not always have.
Ad delo yadah means forget about your personal preference for the type of words you wish to say. Focus on the outcome, what is best for our people. If you need to curse, i.e. foil an evil plan, and you have the capability, do it!
A sports analogy, especially when not forced, helps make it clear. One can not win a competitive sport if one has only a good offense or only a good defense. Both are required.
If you are a team player, it is ultimately selfish to insist and say, “I will play only offense”. If your team needs good defense and you are able, you set aside your personal preference and do what is required.
We are being advised that on Purim we should put aside our personal considerations and focus instead on doing what our people need, regardless of whether it involves blessing the good or cursing the evil.
We Yidden are a rather refined people. As a whole we all would much rather play offense, speak mainly brochos, and in that way increase good in the world. This is all well and good. On Purim specifically, however, we are instructed to put aside this preference. We are instructed to drink until this ego-driven preference is nullified and we no longer have such strong preference to say Boruch Mordechai over Arur Haman.
May we all [safely] follow this directive and take one for the team!