Most people think they know the Purim story. And everyone thinks they are supposed to get drunk on Purim, regardless of the Rabbis teaching that you are not to get really drunk, but to drink a little more than usual and go to sleep so that you don’t know the difference between “Blessed is Mordecai and Cursed is Haman”.
To back this up idea, every year Rabbis teach the story of Rava and Rabbi Zeira from the Talmud:
Rava said: A person is obligated to become intoxicated with wine on Purim until one does not know how to distinguish between cursed is Haman and blessed is Mordecai. The Gemara relates that Rava and Rabbi Zeira prepared a Purim feast with each other, and they became intoxicated to the point that Rava arose and slaughtered Rabbi Zeira.
The next day, when Rava became sober and realized what he had done, Rava asked God for mercy, and revived Rabbi Zeira. The next year, Rava said to Rabbi Zeira: Let the Master come and let us prepare the Purim feast with each other. He said to him: Miracles do not happen each and every hour, and I do not want to undergo that experience again.
If you will say, how can the sages require inebriation on Purim? We know several places in the Torah that the perils of inebriation are enumerated, like the stories of Noach, or Lot. The standard answer the Rabbis give is that all of the miracles that happen for the Jews in the days of Ahashverosh happened during wine-feasts: Vashti resisted coming out….Esther emerged as queen…. and Haman’s downfall also happened through a wine-fest. Therefore we are obligated to drink on Purim because the miracle happened through wine, and so we too remember the miracle through drinking wine
Shulchan Arukh, Orach Chayyim 695:2
One is obligated to be intoxicated on Purim to the point where he does not know [the difference] between “accursed is Haman” and “blessed is Mordechai”. Rama: Some say it is not necessary to become drunk so much, but rather to drink more than he is used to (Kol Bo), and to fall asleep, and while he sleeps he does not know [the difference] between “accursed is Haman” and “blessed is Mordechai” (Maharil). [There is no difference] between one who has more and one who has less, as long as his heart is directed to heaven.
The basis for this idea is, gematria. How do we know? Because the numerical value (the gematria) of “cursed is Haman” (אָרוּר הָמָן) is the same as the numerical value of “blessed is Mordechai” (בָּרוּךְ מָרְדָּכַי), they both equal 502. When we reveal their numerical values, we can’t tell the difference between them.
Purim is a dressing-up festival and gematrias (the numerical values of Hebrew words) reveal that all the words in the world are just numbers in disguise.
Different words and expressions that have no apparent connection, are revealed as symbolic masks for the same number. Take the words “light” (אוֹר), “mystery” (רָז), “infinity” (אֵין סוֹף) and “Master of the Universe” (אֲדוֹן עוֹלָם) as examples. They all have the same gematria of 207. Once we know that, the relationship between the words becomes far more profound. Someone who has a penchant for gematria is constantly on a matchmaking spree at a masquerade, where numbers dress-up in ever-changing disguises, and words are exposed as mathematical calculations.
Words with the same numerical value either express a related idea, or they reflect each other as direct opposites. “Love” (אַהֲבָה), for example, has the same numerical value as “one” (אֶחָד), both are 13. Mashiach (מָשִׁיחַ) and “snake” (נַחָשׁ) also share their numerical value of 358. They contrast each other.
Gematria takes us to a realm that is beyond good and evil that is not self-explanatory. So gematria doesn’t prove or disprove anything. All that numerical equality between words does is to calmly point at the symbolic camouflage that disguises the same number. It’s a fact that can’t be changed.
Torah it says has 70 faces. Many of the above ideas are given for the reason we drink wine on Purim and get almost drunk. I however learned the most logical reason we do the wine drinking (and maybe get drunk).
Ahashverosh, the wicked King was a real lowlife. He is whitewashed in the story because as the King, he had to approve the story of the Megillah while he was still alive. If the Megillah had shown how bad he truly was, it would have never made it to print.
The Rabbis teach us that Ahashverosh hated the Jews as much as Haman did, but he didn’t have the strong personality to kill the Jews until Haman came along.
He was drunk all the time with wine, and mostly confused. He was an easy target for Haman to convince, because he was soused from wine most of the time.
In the final showdown when Esther comes to him to change his mind on killing the Jews, it was this drunken confused stupor that allowed Esther to convince him to save the Jews.
He still had tremendous hate for the Jews in this drunken state, but he was confused who was his enemy and who was his friend?
Mordechai the Jew? Haman my minister who is trying to rape my queen?
Haman, Mordechai; Mordechai, Haman. Who is who and which is which. Blessed is Mordechai and Cursed is Haman. I am so confused.
And this is the real reason we drink and until we are confused. We are remembering this prime event of Purim as a Zachar (a remembrance) . This was the biggest thing that G-d did behind the scenes. He allowed this drunken low life to mix up his hate for the Jews with his jealously for Haman with the result being Haman Hanging on the 50 feet Gallows.
This is the true reason for the drinking (and almost drunk state) of Purim