Purim: Serious Reflections on the Proper Use of Alcohol

With approbations by George Berkeley and Immanuel Kant

This will come as a great shock to all of you, but I can no longer remain silent. No doubt, it will cause cardiac arrest in several of my readers and severe trauma to others, but how long can one continue to live a lie? Most of my readers believe that I’m a rabbi. Not true. However painful it is, the truth must prevail. I’m sorry to say, I am not a rabbi; I am a committed Purim alcoholic with a long talmudic history. The reason I haven’t spoken about it until now is because, like most men, I love truth. So much so, that I was afraid it would be corrupted by overexposure.

Even as a young child, I had a strong inclination to take a nip, along with my milk and oats, at breakfast. (In fact, it started with my brit milah when the mohel wanted to keep me quiet after removing part of my personality. He compensated with some wine, which he served me immediately after the surgery so as to teach me that a drink can cover up any deficiency.) Over the years, this habit expanded to include the other meals, until I reached a level of intoxication that only few have achieved. In fact, I have a great disdain for camels and other creatures that can go without a drink for weeks.

Last year, I won the International UACA (Ultimate Alcohol Consumption Award), which until now was won only by gentiles, such as Bill Whiskey and Norman Schnapps. But in recent years, when we Jews have been trying to outdo the gentiles, I felt the need to prove that we could drink more than they do, and I started to work at it. The truth is I really don’t like to drink. In fact, I abhor it, as do most of my fellow Jews. But my teachers used to say that if we Jews really want to become part of Western civilization, we must join their ranks. We have no choice but to make this sacrifice and start drinking. This is called emancipation.

Today I work for the police, since I have developed such expertise that I’m able to detect the type of alcohol people drank by the way they walk. In fact, lately, I can even give accurate information about what year the wine was bottled and whether it came from the south or the north of France. But I can only do so when I myself am drunk, which is one of the world’s most famous paradoxes. Most importantly, I am convinced that alcohol consumption is not habit-forming. I should know because I’ve been drinking for years. So you see I’m no lightweight!

Many may wonder why I continue writing “Thoughts to Ponder,” which include my serious observations about Judaism. They ask what an alcoholic of my caliber has to do with the Jewish Tradition. Well, first of all, you can only be a philosopher if you drink. The main reason for this has been well stated by the famous philosopher George Berkeley [Ireland, 1685-1753] who used to say that reality is an illusion created by a lack of alcohol. (Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge, X. 235)

This is no doubt true. Immanuel Kant [Germany, 1724-1804] expanded on this theme when he said that das ding an sich (the thing in itself) is unknowable, and everything is abstinence imposed (Kritik der Reinen Vernunft, ll, 436). Moreover, it cannot be denied that the greatest problem for most people who don’t drink is that they are hopelessly sober. Indeed, philosophy is the art of methodically bewildering oneself.

But there is much more to my “Thoughts.”

While many people take me seriously and read my “Thoughts” very carefully because they presumably see in them profoundly philosophical ideas, my close friends know that these “Thoughts” have actually nothing to do with philosophy, but are in fact coded messages, a new kind of gematria, about the latest discoveries I have made in the field of proper drink. I will give only two examples and no more, since I am afraid that my enemies will try to break the code, which would force me out of business.

Take the following statement:

“Civilization occupies international notions, though rabbinical education advances universality.” This obviously alludes to the increased availability of Cointreau.

Or, take the following:

“What Heisenberg illustrated simultaneously kindled effective yperite” – an allusion to whiskey.

So, my dear friends, you now know the truth: It is not the word that is written but the drink behind it. The next time you read my “Thoughts to Ponder,” take note that there is more to a rabbi than you may think. And remember: Hearing a rabbi’s confession is like being stoned with popcorn.

May you have a great Purim!

P.S. Reproduction of this essay is permitted only when totally inebriated.

**********

Questions to Ponder

 

We in the Think Tank were shocked by Rabbi Cardozo’s… er… shocking revelations. But we consoled ourselves with the fact that in divulging the (long suspected by us) gematria secrets hidden in past Thoughts to Ponder, Rabbi Cardozo has opened up shining new vistas for Jewish scholarship. Indeed, his hint has allowed us to finally crack the code, which involves the Fibonacci sequence, Planck ’s constant, and an architectural schematic of the Tel-Aviv Central Bus Station—and we have already said too much, ve’idach zil gmor.

Purimic whimsy and humor aside, we present the following ponderous, sober questions for your serious consideration:

  1. The medieval Spanish commentator Al-Kohol ruled that wine on Purim may be served in any kind of bottle. He based this on the Talmudic dictum, “Al tistakel b’kankan, elah b’ma sheyesh bo” (Don’t look at the bottle, but rather at what’s inside it). However, his rival, the Marbe beShtiya took issue with him on the basis of Rabban Gamliel’s rejection of inconsistencies between outer appearance and inner makeup (Ein tocho k’baro).

In your opinion, would requiring that wine only be served in Klein Bottles help in reconciling these two opinions?

Figure 1: A Klein Bottle

  1. “A person should drink on Purim until he does not know…”   However, this seems to contradict the well-known saying: “In vino veritas” (In wine is truth). How would you reconcile these two statements?  (Note also that Rabbi Mastoul used to say: “‘Sof ma’a’seh b’machshavah techilla’— do not read ‘techilla’, but rather ‘tequila’.”)
  2. Levity is required on Purim, but this can present serious difficulties in small, demographically challenged Jewish communities. For example, what does one do if there are no Levites present?
  3. The Glenfiddicher Rebbe was known for his quirky and roundabout stories, which to this day are told and retold as people try to figure out what the point of them is. The following question is attributed to him: Does drinking on Purim turn us into someone else, or does it just makes us forget who we are? 
  4. Charles Baudelaire wrote: “Be always drunken. … If you would not feel the horrible burden of Time weighing on your shoulders and crushing you to the earth, be drunken continually.  Drunken with what? With wine, with poetry, or with virtue, as you will. But be drunken.”

Ben Shikora explained:  “Always” refers to the days; ‘continually’ refers to the nights.” However, could we interpret it thusly: “‘Always’ refers to this world; ‘continually’ indicates the time of the Messiah”? (See also: Purim: The Call for Eternity)

 

About the Author
Rabbi Dr. Nathan Lopes Cardozo is the Founder and Dean of the David Cardozo Academy and the Bet Midrash of Avraham Avinu in Jerusalem. A sought-after lecturer on the international stage for both Jewish and non-Jewish audiences, Rabbi Cardozo is the author of 13 books and numerous articles in both English and Hebrew. Rabbi Cardozo heads a Think Tank focused on finding new Halachic and philosophical approaches to dealing with the crisis of religion and identity amongst Jews and the Jewish State of Israel. Hailing from the Netherlands, Rabbi Cardozo is known for his original and often fearlessly controversial insights into Judaism. His ideas are widely debated on an international level on social media, blogs, books and other forums.
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