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Purim, and The Search for Yossi - Part 1 -- Published 3/03 -- "A"
by Rabbi Yakov Horowitz

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Grandparents: Here is an idea. In response to my column on drinking and Purim, a woman contacted my wife yesterday and informed her that one week before Purim she mails each of her teenage grandchildren a $100- ‘Purim-gelt’ check made out to their name. Along with the check comes a contract with a code of responsible behavior for Purim. In order to cash the check, they must call her after Purim and inform her that they adhered to the terms of the contract. ……………… Looking to adopt a grandmother for your kids????

Best Wishes for Simchas Purim


"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 (, which 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, 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.


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.


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 while 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 (pun intended) of our Torah.

© 2007 Rabbi Yakov Horowitz, all rights reserved

SOME FACTS ON TEEN DRUG ABUSE (taken from the research of CASA)

  • Alcohol is far and away the top drug of abuse by America's teens.
  • Children under the age of 21 drink 19.7 percent of the alcohol consumed in the U.S.
  • Teenagers who drink are seven times likelier to engage in promiscuous activity
  • Preliminary studies have shown that alcohol damages young minds, limiting mental and social development.
  • High schoolers who drink are five times likelier to drop out of school.
  • Teens who experiment with alcohol are virtually certain to continue using it. Among high school students who have ever tried alcohol--even once--91.3 percent are still drinking in twelfth grade.
  • Teen drinking is the number one source of adult alcoholism. Children who begin drinking before age 21 are more than twice as likely to develop alcohol-related problems. Those who begin drinking before age 15 are four times likelier to become alcoholics than those who do not drink before age 21.
  • Parents tend to see drinking and occasional bingeing as a rite of passage, rather than a deadly round of Russian roulette.
  • Alcohol damages the young brain, interferes with mental and social development and interrupts academic progress.
  • The earlier young people drink and the more they drink, the more likely they are to become alcohol dependent and move on to other drugs.
  • Teens who smoke nicotine cigarettes are 14 times likelier to try marijuana
  • Among teens who are repeat marijuana users, 60 percent tried cigarettes first. The findings indicate that reducing teen smoking can be a singularly effective way to reduce teen marijuana use.

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Related Articles:
Purim, and The Search for Yossi - Part 2 -- Published 3/03 -- "A

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