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Sunday, January 1, 2017

Drunken New Year's Celebrations- What's The Point?

After over half a century living as a Torah observant aka Orthodox Jew, I'm having real problems understanding the way most of the world, meaning the Christian world/culture/societies all over "celebrates" its New Year.

What's the point of getting drunk?

photo of shofrot taken in Moriah Judaica store
 in the Old City, Jerusalem
The Jewish New Year aka Rosh Hashanah takes place at the very end of the summer and is a process that lasts forty days, from the Jewish Month of Elul until the 10th of Tishrei, Yom Kippur. During Ellul we're supposed to repent, reflect on our actions during that year and try to change our way of living to do it all much better according to Jewish Law. Then we have a two day holiday, Rosh Hashanah, 1st and 2nd of Tishrei, during which we pray and feast and let the sound of the Shofar, horn of the ram, shake us to our very soul.

As in all Jewish festive meals, there can be wine, but we're never supposed to drink enough to get out of control, ok except Purim when drinking is supposed to put us to sleep. And then on the 10th of Tishrei is Yom Kippur, when we don't eat or drink. We fast for twenty-five hours and spend most of the day in prayer beseeching Gd for forgiveness. And we don't just pray for ourselves; we pray for the entire Jewish People. Our prayers are in the plural. There's no such thing as saying:
"I don't need Yom Kippur prayers and fasting. I was just perfect this past year."
We can't be forgiven unless we pray for the entire Jewish People, because we're all in this together. We are one.

Our enjoyment and celebrations do not need liquor.
עבדו את ה' בשמחה
Ivdu et Hashem b'SimchaWorship Gd with Joy

ושמחת בחגך
Vi'Samachta b'ChagechaBe Joyful in Your Holiday

Our joy and celebrations come from worshipping Gd and keeping His Commandments, not drinking hard liquor and losing control.

Drinking too much causes more tragedy than joy. So, I hope you celebrated the New Year in a good healthy way.

Since it is forbidden to photograph on Rosh Hashanah, here's a shofar blast from Israeli Independence Day.


Shtrudel said...

Frankly, I'm not sure I'm getting the point of this post... Some people will use any opportunity to drink themselves into oblivion... There's nothing anywhere I'm aware of that says that getting drunk on New Year is recommended let alone required...

Sure, many revelers will intentionally drink themselves into a stupor, some others will misjudge their capacity for alcohol and will get drunk... The vast majority will have a few social drinks and won't even get as much as a buzz...

Batya Medad said...

I'm comparing it to the Jewish New Year.

Shtrudel said...

Alcoholism isn't unknown in the Jewish community... Granted, more so among the secular Jewish community and certainly far below other communities... Sorry but I still don't get the "drunken" part... What does the fact that some people get drunk have to do with anything?!...

My point is that you seem to imply that the non-Jewish New Year is nothing more then mass debauchery when, in fact, it's no more then just another a reason to party... More often then not, to party within reason...

sheldan said...

There was an article in the Jerusalem Post that gives an interesting perspective. Of course, the article is not about drinking to excess.

The issue was the idea of whether the secular New Year has any significance for Jews, given that our real New Year is Rosh Hashanah. I can understand, but I don't agree, with those who focus exclusively on the Jewish calendar and completely ignore the secular one, since that seems to say that since the latter is non-Jewish in origin, we must automatically discount it. Since we live in both a Jewish and a modern world, we cannot completely ignore the modern world, but neither can we forget that we are in the Jewish world for a reason.

The article made a good point that Rosh Hashanah is the time to concentrate on spiritual matters (i.e., teshuva, which is the main concern with the Days of Awe--and most of us make the "resolutions" for the new year at that time rather than January 1). The secular New Year (January 1) could be considered the time to concentrate on physical matters (the kinds of resolutions that are typically associated with the New Year--taking better care of our health, improving our relationships, etc.).

What do your readers think? This makes sense to me. This seems to suggest that we can reconcile any ambivalence regarding the secular New Year and our Jewish lives.

Mr. Cohen said...

Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski, MD:
Each day that a person abstains from alcohol increases his strength and makes him more capable of resisting alcohol.

SOURCE: Wisdom Each Day (reading for Shevat 10)
by Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski MD, year 2000 CE, Mesorah Publications.


Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski, MD:
In my work with alcoholics, I have seen how alcohol is used in an effort to escape. Escape what? Escape themselves! They continue this futile effort until it brings them down. They finally reach a point where they realize that the escape does not and cannot work.

SOURCE: Prayerfully Yours (page 378)
by Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski MD, year 2001 CE, Shaar Press, ISBN 1-57819-488-1.

Batya Medad said...

There's a lot more social drinking in Israel than there used to be, and as a result more problems with "over-drinking."