At this time of year many people are fascinated as they marvel at the mitzvah to get drunk on Purim. The display of drunkenness in Judaism is never a mitzvah, especially if the purpose is: Ad d’lo yadah bein arur Haman le’baruch MordechaiI – until one can no longer distinguish between cursed be Haman and blessed be Mordechai. Only Jews would have a mitzvah which would require us to start blessing our enemies! Surely this makes no sense.
Recently, I was at the Shiva of a woman who had survived the Blitz in London. Her son told me that she would often reflect upon those years as the best years of her life. When challenged, she told her son, “You have no idea! When those bombs were falling, neighbours, family and even strangers came together as one family in a city so often divided - that was so heart-warming! But it was never repeated in the good times.”
We are told that as bad as the decree was on Purim, the signet ring of Haman did what none of the other Jewish leaders had been able to do. The level of Jewish unity, faith and commitment that was achieved in the backdrop of a decree of total annihilation was unprecedented. On a more personal note, even the Hamans of our lives can be the greatest gifts we ever receive; because the silver lining of the clouds is sometimes the very reason why the clouds were there in the first place.
That is the message of Purim.
We get drunk using wine - the drink that many other religions class as the “drink of the devil”. We as Jews raise a cup of wine on our holiest day of the week, under the wedding canopy and any other holy occasion, recognising that the very “drink of the devil” can be elevated. As we raise our glasses this Purim, as we reflect on the challenges and pain we may face in our lives, we use Purim as a time to reflect. As a nation, in face of adversity, we become stronger and that it is those very challenges themselves that make us the people who we are.