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The Spirit - and Danger - of Purim
by Rabbi Yakov Horowitz

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The Spirit – and Danger – of Purim

By: Rabbi Yakov Horowitz

“The more often and earlier a child smokes, drinks and
uses marijuana, the likelier that child is to use harder
drugs like cocaine and heroin.”

“It’s all about children. A child who gets through age 21 without smoking, using illegal drugs or abusing alcohol is virtually certain never to do so.”

“Teens who smoke cigarettes are 12 times likelier to use marijuana and more than 19 times likelier to use cocaine”.

- Joseph A. Califano, Jr., CASA Chairman and President

I like Joseph Califano – although I never met him. I admire his dedication, his courage, and his brutal confrontation of the facts on the ground.

He heads The Center for Alcohol and Substance Abuse ( The Center, now celebrating its 10th year, has dedicated itself to the prevention of substance abuse and its horrific consequences. The ubiquitous, “Parents; the Anti-Drug” ads are a direct result of the research and public advocacy of CASA, under the leadership of Joseph Califano.

Please take a moment and read the mission statement of The Center. Then read it again. And again. Then carefully study some selected quotes from a speech given by Mr. Califano.

And, during this Purim season, as hundreds, perhaps thousands, of our precious children are being introduced for the first time – under the guise of one of our most joyous yomim tovim, and under the direction of adults who should be modeling more responsible behavior – to the deadly scourge of cigarettes and alcohol that bring addiction and death to our children; ask yourself, “Where is Yossi Califano???” Where is the Jewish leader who will step forward, call a spade a spade and address this issue? Who will break through the denial and apathy and stop this insanity of the exponential growth of smoking and drinking among our dear children?

Mission Statement of The Center for Alcohol and Substance Abuse

Inform Americans of the economic and social costs of substance abuse and its impact on their lives.

Assess what works in prevention, treatment, and law enforcement.

Encourage every individual and institution to take responsibility to combat substance abuse and addiction.

Provide those on the front lines with the tools they need to succeed.

Remove the stigma of abuse and replace shame and despair with hope.

Quotes from a speech given by Joseph Califano.

“This year, The NationalCenter on Addiction and Substance Abuse at ColumbiaUniversity (CASA) marked its Tenth Anniversary. For CASA, 10 years of helping children grow up drug free and of fueling Parent Power, the most effective and underutilized weapon in the battle against substance abuse, is cause for celebration. But we at CASA will not celebrate until every American child can grow up in a drug-free environment. For we have learned a very important lesson in our decade of hard work, research and demonstration programs dealing with substance abuse…”

“We are proud of our accomplishments. But we know that there are many mountains to climb before we can rid our nation of this scourge that has cost so many billions of dollars in health care, social problems and criminal conduct and that has imposed so much private anguish on families and children.”


Microsoft Word has some pretty amazing features, many of which we now take for granted. One of them is ‘find and replace’. You select a word in a document, and order the computer to replace all of those words with a different word that you select.

I think that the time has come for us to write our own mission statement – or hire our Yossi Califano to write it for us.

We can, however, get started on our own, thanks to Bill Gates and Microsoft. Let’s replace Americans with Jews, and institutions with shuls and yeshivos, then add a few words. Here is a rough draft.

Mission Statement of The Jewish Center for Alcohol and Substance Abuse

Inform Jews of the economic and social costs of substance abuse and its impact on their lives.

Assess what works in prevention, treatment, and law enforcement.

Encourage every individual, ba’al simcha, shul and yeshiva to take responsibility to combat substance abuse and addiction.

Provide those on the front lines with the tools they need to succeed.

Remove the stigma of abuse and fear of ruined shidduchim

Replace denial, shame and despair with hope.


Truth be told, we do have Yossi Califanos in our Orthodox world. They have been speaking to us. We just have not been listening.

Their names are Rabbi Abraham Twersky, s’hlita, one of the most visionary and courageous people of our times, David Mandel, CEO of Ohel, Dr. Bentzion Twerski, among others. For years, (and in the case of Rabbi Abraham Twerski, decades), they have been acting as the prophets of our times – standing in the village squares and begging us to listen to them. It is high time that we do.

We all need to follow the actions of Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb of the OU, and their recent stand on ‘Kiddush Clubs.’ We need to get serious about curbing alcohol and cigarette use and abuse in our schools.


As for the ramifications of Purim and the concept ‘ad d’lo yoda’:

From a standpoint of halacha and minhagim, there is absolutely no basis for smoking of any kind as it relates to Purim.

As far as alcohol consumption is concerned; I am not a posek, so I will not offer my thoughts as to the mitzvas hayom of ad d’lo yoda. I am also aware of the various minhagim among our diverse klal, and the importance of maintaining our minhagim.

I would however, encourage each of my readers to ask their Rov for guidance and direction on this matter – just as they would ask any other halachic question. And when we do ask the question, let us ask:

• Should we be drinking?

• How much?

• How about our children? At what age should they be drinking?

• Is there another way to fulfill the obligation of ad d’lo yada

Regardless of your thoughts on the ‘Indian shaitel’ issue that surfaced a number of months ago, it was inspiring to see thousands of women humbly following the Da’as Torah of their Rabbonim. Now it is time for the men to step forward and ask our rabbonim and gedolim how Purim should be conducted according to the letter – and spirit (no pun intended) of our Torah.

© 2003 Rabbi Yakov Horowitz, all rights reserved

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