Monday, March 06, 2006

Purim, Mixed Dancing and Kill Joys

Although the Megilah only lists mishloch monot, matnot l'evyonim, and reading the Megilah as the customs on Purim, many others have become accepted. Most are of the ilk of boofunery or merrymaking. From making noise to drinking in excess, all have become part of the Purim landscape. With these, however, there are some lesser known customs. What is perhaps of interest is that it seems that there are those authorities that permit much if not all of these types of customs, there are others who seem set on shutting down much of the Purim fun.

For instance, the Rabbi Judah of Minz permits cross-dressing on Purim. This is so, even though this runs counter to a law in the Torah prohibiting these actions. What is lesser know, is that R. Minz also permits mixed dancing on Purim as well. In the Taknot of Padua it says "we decree that no one is permitted to dance with a married woman, no man with any married woman, with the exception of Purim." (emphasis added).

Rabbi Yehuda Herzl Henkin in his Beni Banim vol. 1 no. 37 (5), links the two statements of R. Minz. R. Henkin says, just as R. Minz permitted cross-dressing as it was done for the joy of Purim, he permitted the mixed dancing under the same rational. That is, the dancing was just an outgrowth of the joy and not for licetnioius purposes.

Or, in the Customs of Worms, they not only celebrated Purim on the day, on the Shabbat after Purim they celebrated with similar merrymaking. Including, after the Friday night prayers all the people would first go to the Rabbi for a blessing, and then proceed to the women's section where the Rabbi's wife "would place her hands on their heads and bless them." Additionally, R. Hayim Yosef Azulai in his travelogue, Ma'agel Tov, records that the Jews in Amsterdam would party all night long on the Friday night after Purim.

Although R. Minz was a proponent of happiness and its outgrowth on Purim, there were others that did not view Purim in the same vein. Rather, they seem bent on outlawing as much as possible even on Purim.

For instance, R. Samuel Aboab takes issue with at least two such Purim customs. First, he says in his Sefer Zikhronot, an ethical work and published anonymously, that he was befuddled his entire life how R. Minz and in turn R. Moshe Isserles in his Rama could allow for cross dressing on Purim. He spends at least four pages to demonstrating why this is incorrect. He states even if R. Minz is correct he should have kept that to himself. This is not his only negative opinion regarding Purim. In his responsa, Devar Shmuel, he says it is absolutely prohibited to read or even own the parody Mesachat Purim. He says any such copies should be destroyed.

Another person who looked with askance on the merry making was R. David ben Shmuel haLevi (Taz). He first follows the ruling of his father-in-law, R. Joel Sirkas (Bach), that cross-dressing is prohibited. R. Levi then also states in the law of Tisha B'av, that the prohibition of filling ones mouth with joy, is applicable even at at wedding and even on Purim.

So it seems that just as in society at large there are those who dislike the merrymaking on Purim, this is reflected in the Halakhic authorities as well. And conversely, there are those that viewed the merrymaking as a positive thing and therefore permitted many other things in connection with that merrymaking.

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