According to the Jewish tradition (Halacha), A person is obligated to drink on Purim,” says the Talmud, “until he does not know the difference between ‘Cursed be Haman’ and ‘Blessed be Mordechai'”
There are different types of joy. There is “the joy of mitzvah,” for a Jew is commanded to “Serve G‑d with Joy” Psalms 100:2.
A mitzvah performed joyously is greater, deeper, more alive, than a mitzvah performed mechanically. This joy, however, is not an end in itself, but for the sake of enhancing a mitzvah.
Another type of Jewish joy is the mitzvah to “Rejoice in your festivals” Deuteronomy 16:1. Here, joy is not an accessory to another aim. The mitzvah itself is to rejoice.
But the fact that one needs to be commanded to rejoice indicates that this is still not the ultimate in joy.
A greater joy is one King Solomon speaks of when he says, “The good-hearted is festive always.” Proverbs 15:15, describing joy as a state of being rather than an activity. This is the joy experienced in the month of Adar—in the words of the Talmud, “When Adar commences, joy increases.” One who is attuned to the spiritual essence of Jewish time spontaneously rejoices when entering the month of joy.
The world’s religions have had differing relationships with alcohol. Many religions forbid alcoholic consumption or see it as sinful or negative. Others have allocated a specific place for it.
Judaism relates to the consumption of alcohol, particularly of wine, in a complex manner. Wine is viewed as a substance of import and it is incorporated in religious ceremonies, and the general consumption of alcoholic beverages is permitted, however, inebriation (drunkenness) is discouraged.
This compound approach to wine can be viewed in the verse in Psalms 104:15, “Wine gladdens human hearts,” countered by the verses in Proverbs 20:1, “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is riotous; and whoever stumbles in it is not wise,” and Proverbs 23:20, “Be not among drunkards or among gluttonous eaters of meat”
The Rambam, replaces the “can’t tell the difference between Haman and Mordecai” standard with one that is more easily appraised:
How does one fulfill the obligation of the Purim Seudah? One should eat meat and prepare as nice a meal as one can afford and drink wine until one becomes drunk and falls asleep from drunkenness. (Laws of Megillah)
Maimonides’ reading finds substantial support in the comments of the 16th-century Talmud commentator R. Samuel Eliezer ben Judah haLevi Edels, better known as the Maharsha.
More recent commentators have been somewhat more limited. The 18th-century codifier, R. Abraham ben Yehiel Michal Danzig wrote:
Since the entire miracle of Purim came about through wine, our sages obligated us to get drunk, or at least to drink more than what we are used to, in order to remember the great miracle. However, if one knows oneself, and is likely to neglect the performance of a
[commandment], such as washing one’s hands before eating bread or making a blessing over food before and after eating or that one might forget to pray or might act in a light-headed way, it is better not to get drunk. (Quoted in Be’ur Halakhah 694, s.v. “Ad”)
Don’t get so drunk that you forget to perform any mitzvot. And count among those mitzvot the contemporary obligation to have a designated driver. Cars can be like Rabbah’s sword, and one cannot count on a miracle.
Or if you drunk you could have a “Big Pain” like this couple:
A Big Pain
“Oy!” groaned old Marvin Himmelfarb. “I must have appendicitis,” he said as he clutched his left side.
“It can’t be appendicitis,” said his wife Myra confidently.
“How do you know?” asked Marvin. “You are a doctor all of a sudden?”
“I’m not a doctor but I do know that your appendix is on the right side of your body.”
“Aha!” said Marvin. “THAT’s why it hurts so much. My appendix is on the wrong side!”