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The Shulchan Aruch (OC 695:2) writes:

One must become drunk on Purim until he doesn't know the difference between "arur Haman" and "baruch Mord'chay".

The Rama (ad loc.) adds:

But some say that he need not get so drunk: rather, he should drink more than his custom and sleep; because he's sleeping, he doesn't know the difference between "arur Haman" and "baruch Mord'chay".

One who does much or little — so long as he directs his heart to heaven!

On the Rama's words "and sleep; because he's sleeping, etc.", Mishna B'rura comments:

That's what's seemly to do.

(All translations are my own.) If one follows this ruling, that sleep is a way — the appropriate way! — to fulfill the "not know the difference" rule, why does one need to drink at all? Is it simply to increase the likelihood he'll fall asleep? If so, can a tired person just lie down without drinking?


EDIT to clarify my question, since I am dissatisfied with the answers thus far given:

There is certainly an idea of drinking wine on Purim to commemorate the miracles that took place through the medium of drinking wine. There is, on the other hand, an idea of la yada, of not knowing the difference between "arur Haman" and "baruch Mord'chay". The Rama explicitly severs the strong connection between these implied by the g'mara's statement "must get drunk on Purim until he doesn't know...": the Rama says that one need not get so drunk as to satisfy "la yada"! (This seems to directly contradict the g'mara.) It is sufficient, he writes, to drink a bit and fall asleep and, by sleeping, satisfy "la yada". There's thus a domino effect, according to the Rama: one drinks sufficiently to sleep, and sleeps sufficiently to "la yada". Yet drunkenness (which is what the g'mara speaks of) needn't lead to "la yada": in fact, one needn't get drunk at all! So the g'mara's requirement "to get drunk until he doesn't know..." is gone. Rama doesn't hold of it. Why, then, does he require drinking to lead to sleep? If the "to get drunk until he doesn't know..." is gone, why isn't it sufficient to simply "doesn't know" (e.g., by sleeping without drinking) (and drink as a separate thing, perhaps after sleeping, to commemorate the miracles)?

  • Inspired by judaism.stackexchange.com/a/12032. – msh210 Dec 6 '11 at 16:52
  • That is the Maharil. Lulei mistafina, I would say that the Rambam doesn't pasken ad d'lo yada -like the Ran- and the phrase v'nirdam b'shikruso (he should fall asleep in his inebriated state) is not a measurement of how drunk, but how long one must drink for. Don't a little drink and sober up, but keep on drinking whatever amount until you fall asleep drunk. – YDK Dec 7 '11 at 19:21
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    The issue is whether the עד דלא ידע is a shiur to be yotzei, or is it a g'vul on an ongoing obligation. In other words, if you drink all day but never get that drunk, have you still fufilled your obligation? Yes, according to the latter view, as long as you are drinking all day. And if you actually got drunk, according to that view, then you are now potur from the mitzvah. But according to the shiur view, you are not yotzei until you actually get drunk to that point. So the Ramo comes out on the side of g'vul and explains that the p'tur kicks in when you sleep also, not just when you are drunk – Curiouser Feb 19 '12 at 19:41
  • @Curiouser, "a g'vul on an ongoing obligation": do you mean a maximum one's allowed to drink? It doesn't seem so, but otherwise, how is "a g'vul on an ongoing obligation" different from "a shiur to be yotzei"? Could you explain, please? – msh210 Feb 19 '12 at 19:50
  • @msh210: If there is an obligation of mishteh (i.e. an ongoing obligation to drink all day on Purim) then the g'vul on the obligation is when you reach the point of ad d'lo yada. i.e. when you reach that point, you are potur from the mitzvah. But all day long as you drink you are being yotzei. Of course, if you sober up, you would be obligated again. OTOH, if it is a shiur, then until you reach that particular state of drunkenness, you are not yotzei; once you reach it, you are yotzei, and you don't have to drink any more even if you sober up. – Curiouser Feb 20 '12 at 1:48
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Maybe the reason to fall asleep specifically through the process of drinking wine is to remember the miracle which was done through wine at the different wine parties in the Book of Esther as outlined here: Can you use Liquor to fulfill Ad Dlo Yoda?

EDIT: I challenge your assumption that the two rules are separated. The Rambam writes in Megillah 2:15:

`כיצד חובת סעודה זו--שיאכל בשר ויתקן סעודה נאה, כפי אשר תמצא ידו; ושותה יין, עד שישתכר ויירדם בשכרות.
What is the nature of the obligation of this meal? One should eat meat and fix up a nice meal, as much as his means allow. And he should drink wine until he gets drunk and falls asleep in his drunkardness. (my translation)

The Rambam clearly connects the two rules. Note that the Rambam does not mention the classic rule of differentiating between Haman and Mordechai. Likely he holds a similar line of reasoning as the Rama (that the way one is supposed to accomplish Lo Yada is through a drunken sleep) or else he views that rule as aggadic in nature. Either way, we see that the two rules are not split. Why would that be? See my answer above and comments below.

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    Woudln't it then be sufficient to drink and sleep, without one causing the other? Perhaps sleep after shacharis (or, heck, at night!) and drink at the s'uda? – msh210 Dec 6 '11 at 17:21
  • @msh210 It could be our way of formalizing the sleep ie sleep is not inherently a reminder of the miracle so we formalize the obligation either by making it a 'sleep' that clearly derives from a mitzva or by integrating it within the context of another mitzva, which way i'm not sure. – Double AA Dec 6 '11 at 17:40
  • @msh210 see my edits – Double AA Feb 20 '12 at 2:52
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I'll go you one better - if the purpose is to not know the difference between "arur Haman" and *"baruch Mordechai", why bother drinking or sleeping at all?

Of course, I'm not referring to the highly intelligent community that patronizes this site, but do you really think that most of the rest of us really know the difference while we're sober?

This is a very subtle difference - it's not about getting confused between "which is the good guy and which is the bad guy", it's about realizing that Haman being cursed is not equivalent to Mordechai being blessed, and sometimes it's hard to tell which is which.

Or, in a more general phraseology, the downfall of your enemy is not sufficient for your own success.

I think it really comes back to:

Al tismach b'nfol oyvecha (and the continuation...)

Does the average Jew really know the difference, and remember this throughout his daily life, even without getting drunk / sleeping? (Or am I just being too cynical again?)

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    I like this, because in my experience, no matter how drunk I get, I always remember that Haman is the bad guy. – jake Dec 7 '11 at 17:01
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    This is what the Mishnah Brurah (695:4) says in the name of the Taz and the Gra. – b a Feb 19 '13 at 2:49
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The Mitzvah isn't to pass out or even to space out. The Mitzvah is one of Simhah. The Gemara, in my opinion, is simply saying that the revelry ought to be great. Asked to quantify it, it just went for the most extreme. I think it is, essentially, a license to get totally hammered. Not as a Mitzvah in and of itself, but rather as a function, or a measure, of how celebratory one's party atmosphere should be. We get dragged into so much ritual on other holidays, and here, I think, the Gemara is just saying to let it all hang loose. I would equate it to the dancing at a wedding. I always tell people, "You haven't been to a fun wedding until you've been to an Orthodox Jewish wedding." I explain that we are so conservative the rest of the time, that this is our rare opportunity to just let loose, so we go all out. Similarly, I think, the Gemara wants us to go all out and have a good time on Purim.

I do not think, however, that this contradicts the attempts, going back centuries now, to get people to dial it back a little (or even a lot). Some of the same people who might make Frum weddings awesome make Purim an embarrassment. People seem to know how to really rock a wedding hall without puking on the bride (and, yes, they do get drunk at weddings). Yet, for some reason, on Purim, they drink to the point that not only can't they tell between Baruch Mordechai and Arur Haman, but they can't tell between the toilet bowl and the Rebbitzen's lap, and they drink not to the point of confusion, but well beyond that to the point of illness and even alcohol poisoning. That, I think, is where Gedolim throughout the ages have been trying to set limits, and if only people celebrating knew how to properly direct their Simhah, then oddly Halahic-sounding, letter-of-the-law type of solutions, like taking a nap, which are themselves analyzed to a ridiculous degree, would be unnecessary.

I'm not trying to negate sleeping as a solution, and I have employed it myself on occasion. But I'm trying to refocus the discussion where I think it needs to be. Forgive me if I sound a bit presumptuous.

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We drink wine on Purim because that is what got Acheshvarush drunk and caused him to Execute Vashti, thus starting the whole chain of events which saved the Jewish people.

Can't remember the source, but I'm guessing it was my chabad rabbi in 5th grade.

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    Good timing! :) – Double AA Dec 6 '11 at 17:20
  • Woudln't it then be sufficient to drink and sleep, without one causing the other? Perhaps sleep after shacharis (or, heck, at night!) and drink at the s'uda? – msh210 Dec 6 '11 at 17:21
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    Umm, whats the purpose of sleeping if it has no connection to the drunkedness that pervades the story? – avi Dec 6 '11 at 17:27
  • @avi, so as not to know the difference between "arur Haman" and "baruch Mord'chay". – msh210 Dec 6 '11 at 18:03
  • But one does that every day of their life... your hava mina doesn't make sense. – avi Dec 6 '11 at 18:43
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The Rambam and Rama apparently hold that sleep is not a replacement to the gemara's directions, but rather the Gemara's actual intent. THis can be infered from the fact the Rambam almost never states laws from outside the Gemara. Where did he get this bit about sleep from? He evidently read it into the Gemara. The Rama in DM connects his ruling to Rambam's writing "so is implied by the Rambam" The question that these two things; drinking and sleeping seem independent becomes a question the Gemara (acc. to Rambam and Rama's conception) rather than a question on them. According to this reading of the Gemara however the ad in ad dlo yada indicates that the sleep does need to follow the drinking. One possible reason why perhaps they want us to sleep is to keep us out of truble (see maaseh rokeach to Rambam hil. megillah 2:15). Noteworthy is that the Maharam of Rothenberg writes the same thing as Rambam in a responsum (MHK Responsa).

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