Tag Archives: provence

(Not) Drinking on Purim: A Test Case on the Role of Narrative and History in Psak (Halachic Methodology 20)

My last shiur was both a pre-Purim shiur and a test case in two methodological issues in psak.  It is available here.  We discussed the issue of drinking on Purim.

Without rehashing the entire sugya, as any basic summary will provide the range of positions, I want to make two points.

First, this sugya is a great example of the role that narrative in the Gemara can have in psak (an issue also touched on in a recent shiur by Rabbi J. J. Schachter available.)  As is well known, after the ruling of Rava in the Gemara that מיחייב איניש לבסומי בפוריא עד דלא ידע בין ארור המן לברוך מרדכי, the Gemara then tells the story of when Rava/Rabbah killed R. Zeira in his drunkenness and subsequently resurrected him.  The next year, when he invited R. Zeira to his meal, he was turned down.  R. Zeira declared that “not every year a miracle occurs.” A three way dispute then follows in poskim what the role of this story is on the psak.  Rabbenu Efraim is cited by many Rishonim as ruling that this story shows that we reject the obligation to get drunk on Purim as it can lead to horrible things.  The Eshkol in the questionable Aurbach edition, as well as the Pri Chadash note that one can derive the opposite – if the halacha was indeed rejected, then R. Zeira would not have had reason to fear the following year.  The fact that he did fear meant they were going to get drunk again.  Of course, one could simply respond that Rava never changed his halachic position but R. Zeira indicates that the consensus view opposed him.  [Note that while the Pri Chadash believes that the story supports the position that one should get drunk, because of the terrible things that happen when people get drunk, he rules in accordance with R. Efraim anyways.]  The third possibility is that the story modifies the original ruling – that one should drink but not get that drunk.  Continue reading (Not) Drinking on Purim: A Test Case on the Role of Narrative and History in Psak (Halachic Methodology 20)

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