Save Purim From Those Who Undermine It

Save Purim from those who undermine it

There will be a time when what we do today will be the history read tomorrow. Just as we try to learn from our yesterdays, the future generations will seek to learn from our present.

How then will we explain that in our time we allowed the holy Yom Tov of Purim to descend into anarchy? Not only this, but that, in fact, much of this chaos was- to put it bluntly- mosdos sponsored.

We are no strangers to the fact that come Purim there are those individuals who may have a bit too much to drink and act in a way that is not at all attractive. Such is the human condition that sometimes people find the opportunity to drink and they can’t handle its after-effects. I well remember Purims spent in the shadow of great tzaddikim. There were young people who weren’t, to say the least, able to hold their liquor and were much the worse for wear. I know as well as the next that drinking on Purim has a sort of license; the halocho of ad delo yoda, to drink until one can no longer know the difference between Haman and Mordechai, has several meanings, but I doubt it means drinking in the streets and becoming violent.

We are facing horrendous scenes of wild unTorah-like behaviour and no one wants to shoulder any responsibility

What has become an unwelcome new minhag is the sponsoring of hordes of young talmidim going in large groups collecting for their mosdos. The boys (many of them under-age) drink with no supervision, a mob mentality kicks in and things turn decidedly ugly. Young people lose control, often egged on by their peers and what is meant to be a celebration of Hashem’s grace for His people becomes an ugly riot of aggressiveness. Where is the responsibility when a mosod allows a group of boys to hire a float that will hold twenty or thirty chevra, all in the name of collecting much-needed funding and sends them off for an entire Purim totally unsupervised. These youths turn aggressive, jumping into traffic, accosting elderly Yieden, all in the name of tzedoko. It’s not quaint, nor funny; it is terrifying and sad. Mob mentality is not confined to the world outside our confines; when many become engaged in binge drinking, the outcome can never be uplifting. Purim is about seeing Hashem’s providence in our daily lives; becoming seriously inebriated with a group of like-minded individuals is far from this.

I believe that much of this aggressive hostility stems from a sense of inner sadness. Some of these youngsters (and some not so young as well) carry resentment within their hearts and this is unleashed when the alcohol hits. Parents and Rebbes should try to examine this closely, because sleeping it off the next day has only replaced the mask of anger left smoldering within.

I would like to propose a few ideas that may be worthy of communal discussion.

No mosod should allow its students to travel in groups of more than five. This will help break down the sense of mob security.

No alcohol should be given to young collectors, especially under-aged ones.

Money should not be donated to mosdos who disregard their responsibilities in this regard.

Mosdos should prepare alternative seudos for their students where a truly Purimdik seudah can be celebrated in safety.

City askonim should propose to support mosdos that don’t send their students out marauding so that they don’t lose out on any funds that are gained through collectors who are far from sober.

In closing, let me reiterate my heartfelt plea for a return to sanity. I have spoken to many Yieden in these last few days and read a lot. I have not found one reasonable voice that supports this chaos and destruction. Nor have I found one head of a mosod that has admitted that his talmidim are involved. This is in itself indicative of a problem; we are facing horrendous scenes of wild unTorah-like behaviour and no one wants to shoulder any responsibility. That some of this comes supported by our children’s mechanchim is just beyond understanding. So let us take note of what we have just seen and start now to put things in place so that next Purim will be celebrated in a positive way, with true joy in Hashem’s Torah.

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