I love advocating truths that are often assaulted by popular opinion. So, this blog post was waiting to be written by me.
There was a time that it was not known that smoking cigarettes is dangerous for your health. Life is to elevate us and the world and also to enjoy — within limits. So, Jewish Law looked favorably at it. That has changed. It is now completely forbidden to smoke. Though the rabbis acknowledge that those addicted cannot give it up so easily and that makes them less deliberate smokers and less guilty.
Jewish Law prescribes to spread more happiness from the beginning of the Month of Adar. (Not just to be happy but to spread it.) Culminating at Purim.
There was a time that the Sages thought that drinking wine and eating meat would make a person happy. That must still be true at a spiritual level, but health-wise for the consumer and the planet, that’s passé.
Wine doesn’t gladden the heart — it destroys it.
(Alcohol licks the liver and bites our blood pump. It’s a poison that widens the fine blood vessels and so reduces a weak heart’s pain but it’s still poison for which there is better medication. It doesn’t cure social anxiety — it keeps people anxious so that they need to keep drinking. The “healthiness” of red while is also in unfermented red grape juice. People addicted to alcohol often claim that they need it to deal with life’s difficulties. But do they drink because they have problems or do they have problems because they drink? You guessed it.)
Truth is that happiness should not depend on anything external. We should choose to be happy unconditionally, for no good reason, freely (“bechinam“). Babies don’t need a reason to be happy — why should you? And being happy is not even an embellishment — that’s a minimum requirement for a Jewish religious life. And if you’d say “But that is difficult” — where is written that it’s comfortable and easy to be a Jew? It’s supposed to be deeply gratifying but not always simple.
Reb Shlomo (Carlebach): “If you’re not drunk with Shabbat, you’re not doing it.” With, not on.
And what about saintly people who don’t look happy? Well, apparently, they’re still human because if they’re not happy, they’re not doing it.
The Torah tells us that Jewish Law is to live (well) by, not to die from. It tells us to choose life. It tells us to guard our health very very much.
We are even allowed to break Shabbat to try to remove a possible threat to life, even if we are not sure there is such an immediate danger and if we are not sure we would be effective. This is not a violation of Shabbat. Rather, saving human life goes before keeping Shabbat (and almost any other Commandments), overtakes it.
What about the requirement to drink until you don’t know the difference between Mordechai and Haman — between good and evil? (It reads: until!) Well, a known solution is to take a nap. When you sleep and especially when you wake up groggy, sleep-drunk, you also can’t tell the difference.
There are sometimes elderly Jews who don’t want to eat on Yom Kippur although the doctor tells them that now they must. Jewish Law sides with the physician! (Only — the reverse — when a doc says that you could safely fast and you don’t think so, you win!) Then, nonetheless fasting is a sin, not a virtue. So, to hell with those who say “but we’re used to drinking alcohol on Purim.” Medical science says it’s bad — that’s the end of it.
(Elderly people may have to eat today because of the coronavirus danger.)
As far as I’m concerned, drinking alcohol is taking poison and is against Jewish Law. Also on Purim. And it’s so 2019. Happy Purim.
Full disclaimer: I grew up socialist. Real socialists don’t drink because they have rejected the idea that you don’t need to use your brain (or are stupid). Besides that, the Dutch on average drink alcohol like crazy and they think it’s fun. Dutch Jews, in contrast, often drink little or no alcohol. “Just because everyone jumps in the water doesn’t mean that you should too,” my mother used to teach us. I try to avoid people who drank even a little alcohol. Because they often hold that their speech is at the zenith of intelligence but I find that people after one sip of alcohol talk slow, stupid, repetitive, and boring. The above is just my opinion. Not joking.