Is Halitah Required? – A Mekori Perspective


Halitah - Raw MeatHalitah (חליטה), which means “searing” or “blanching,” refers to the submersion of raw meat into either boiling water or vinegar prior to cooking it. The stated purpose of this process is to sear the outer surface of the meat, thereby sealing any remaining blood inside, preventing it from exiting the meat while being cooked in a pot. Since the halakhah only prohibits blood that exits the meat, and not that which remains within the meat, halitah is presented by its proponents as an assurance that no forbidden blood will be consumed.

This custom, mentioned only by the Rambam, is virtually unknown in most of the orthodox Jewish world and was generally confined to various communities in Yemen. Yet for many mekori Jews, halitah is viewed as an indispensable part of kashering meat, without which such meat may not be consumed. Their contention is that the regular process of salting and rinsing does not remove all the blood, and therefore it must be sealed inside through searing the surface of the meat, unless one plans to roast it over an open fire in which case no such precaution is necessary.

Despite the vigor with which many defend the unique injunction of the Rambam, no Talmudic source exists which requires halitah for all regular cuts of meat. As we shall see, it was only practiced specifically with regard to the liver (kabed – כבד), because of its particularly high concentration of blood and its peculiar character as opposed to other portions of meat derived from muscle tissue. However, since the common practice since medieval times has been to only eat liver which has been roasted, halitah fell largely into disuse among the majority of world Jewry over the course of the last 700 years… 

Click HERE to read the entire article.

Following the Rulings of the Rambam: A Recent Discussion of Consistency in Deciding Halakhah


Rambam SignatureIn response to a recent article on the topic of taharat ha-mishpahah published on the website, a certain rav objected to my use of the Mishneh Torah in coming to halakhic conclusions. Among other things, relying on the Rambam obviates the need for either invasive internal bedikot or the use of a mokh. Citing the common Haredi claims that “we don’t pasken like the Rambam” and “we follow the Shulchan Aruch,” this rav attempts to invalidate my conclusions for anyone but those who happen to be traditional Yemenites, a conclusion which I vigorously oppose. 

The discussion of these particular issues is central to understanding the gap that divides Mekoriut (and the classical Sefardic approach) from the Haredi world, and clearly displays the halakhic double-standards inherent in their position.

A PDF our exchange is available for download here: A Recent Exchange

Coming Soon: “Is Halitah Required? – A Mekori Perspective”


Halitah - Raw Meat

Perhaps one of the first practices that people encounter when they are initially exposed to Mekori ideas is a practice known as halitah (חליטה). Halitah, or “blanching,” involves submersing raw meat in boiling water prior to cooking it.

This mysterious practice, required only by the Rambam, is virtually unknown in most of the orthodox Jewish world and was not historically practiced outside of various communities in Yemen – yet for many mekori’im it is considered an indispensable part of kashering meat, without which such meat may not be consumed.

But what are the sources behind this practice? And why is it not practiced by any within the religious Jewish world outside a few small mekori groups? And what is the source for the Rambam’s express prescription of it?

All of these questions are more will be discussed in an upcoming article entitled “Is Halitah Required? – A Mekori Perspective.”

Hefsek Taharah and Bedikot – Important Mekori Information for Women

[Note: The below is for information purposes only, as is everything on this site. The decision to act upon any of it or not is the personal decision of the reader and any details regarding the observance of any halakhah – especially those laws which are intricate, complicated, and/or severe – should be discussed with a competent rav.]

[Further Note: The information and halakhot that are discussed below are of a sensitive nature and the post includes some graphic language related to both male and female anatomy, menstruation, and sexuality. It is perhaps not appropriate reading for children or youths.]

The following is a public service for the sake of the health of religious Jewish women and the increase of sexual health, enjoyment, and a general improvement of shalom bayit.

I would advise anyone who has not done so already to read my post about when to properly begin counting the seven clean days (shivah nekiyim – שבעה נקיים). That post, when combined with this one, fundamentally transforms taharat ha-mishpahah from a burden into something normal, reasonable, and manageable.

Painful Bedikot and Taharat HaMishpahah

Perhaps the most painful, irritating, invasive, and frustrating component of practical taharat ha-mishpahah is the frequent internal vaginal inspections with a cloth. The standard method that is prescribed by rabbis, kallah teachers, and yoatzot comes from the instructions for performing bedikot as found in the Shulhan Arukh (Yoreh De’ah 196:6), which states as follows:


כָּל בְּדִיקוֹת אֵלּוּ בֵּין בְּדִיקַת הֶפְסֵק טָהֳרָה בֵּין בְּדִיקַת כָּל הַשִּׁבְעָה צְרִיכוֹת לִהְיוֹת בְּבֶגֶד פִּשְׁתָּן לָבָן יָשָׁן אוֹ בְּצֶמֶר גֶּפֶן אוֹ בְּצֶמֶר לָבָן נָקִי וְרַךְ וְתַכְנִיסֶנּוּ בְּאוֹתוֹ מָקוֹם בָּעֹמֶק לַחוֹרִים וְלַסְדָקִים עַד מָקוֹם שֶׁהַשַּׁמָּשׁ דָּשׁ וְתִרְאֶה אִם יֵשׁ בּוֹ שׁוּם מַרְאֵה אַדְמוּמִית וְלֹא שֶׁתַּכְנִיסֵהוּ מְעַט לְקַנֵּחַ עַצְמָהּ


“All of these various bedikot, whether it is a bedikah for the purpose of a hefsek taharah or whether it is a bedikah for one of the seven clean days, it needs to be done with an old white linen cloth, or cotton, or clean white wool that is soft. This cloth is inserted deeply into ‘that place’ [i.e. the vagina] into all the folds and crevices until the place where the ‘member threshes’ [i.e. the opening of the cervix; where ejaculate enters], and she then looks to see if there is any reddish appearance. She does not simply insert it slightly, merely wiping herself.”

These inspections are not only difficult to do, but often lead to irritation of the vaginal canal and, in many cases, further bleeding. There have also been instances of infections or injury resulting from them, especially if the woman is the least bit obsessive and repeats them often. As a result of the discomfort, some women secretly neglect to do them, while others simply refuse to participate in taharat ha-mishpahah at all.

As will be seen below, the such intrusive “bedikot” need never be done, but only a simple wiping (of the type mentioned and rejected by the Shulhan Arukh itself).

Mokh” Trial

In the Shulhan Arukh (Yoreh De’ah 196:1), Rav Yosef Karo prescribes a practice known as a mokh dahuk (מוך דחוק) wherein a woman, after having performed the bedikah just prior to sunset for a hefsek taharah, packs her vagina with clean wadded cloth for the duration of bein ha-shemashot until sundown. After tzeit ha-kokhavim (i.e. halakhic nightfall) the wadding is removed and inspected for spots of possible blood.

This practice was first recommended by the Rashba (Rav Shelomoh ben Aderet, 1235-1310) and was later adopted by other scholars in practice. Although a mokh is mentioned in the Talmud as form of birth control, it is never mentioned or prescribed by either Hazal or other Rishonim in connection with taharat ha-mishpahah. As such, it is not required at all by halakhah.

Many women find the use of a mokh to be not only uncomfortable, but also self-defeating since on the basis of it many women are told to delay an extra day or two in beginning their count of seven clean days. This very trying and unnecessary contrivance should be abandoned by Jewish women in favor of the relatively simple prescriptions of the Talmud, as codified -in this case – by the Rambam.

The Latest Mekori Manual on Taharat HaMishpahah

Translation of selections from Sefer Taharat Mosheh by Rav Tzefanyah Arusi, printed Makhon Mishnat HaRambam (Makhon Moshe”hמכון מש”ה), pp. 103-104:

“Chapter 13: Hefsek Taharah (הפסק טהרה) and Counting Seven Clean Days (ספירת שבעה נקיים)

The Bedikah for a Hefsek Taharah

In the era of the sages of the Talmud, Jewish women were strict upon themselves and every amount of blood which they saw – which was accompanied by a hargashah [1] – even if it was only a drop the size of a mustard seed, and then counted seven clean days from the time that the blood stopped and then they immersed (Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot Isurei Bi’ah 11:4).

The widespread practice today (in accordance with the instruction of the aharonim [2]) is that just prior to the time of shekiah (which in their view refers to the concealment of the sun [היסתרות החמה] which is advertised in the calendars [3]), which is before she begins counting seven clean days, she is mafsikah taharah [i.e. she interrupts her unclean days by producing a ‘proof’ that her bleeding has stopped], that is she checks ‘that place’ [4] with a clean white cloth. Preferably (לכתחילה) she performs a bedikah that inspects the folds and crevices [i.e. of the inner walls of the vagina] reaching to the place which the ‘member threshes’ [i.e. where the penis is inserted and ejaculates during intercourse, which is considered the entire depth of the vagina until the opening of the cervix], as mentioned in the Shulhan Arukh, Yoreh De’ah 196:6. However, after the fact (בדיעבד), just the depth to which her hand reaches is sufficient, as per the Rema there. If the cloth comes out clean, it is then recommended that she place a mokh [5] within ‘that place’ for the duration of time between bein ha-shemashot and tzeit ha-kokhavim [6], and if the mokh then comes out clean she may begin to count seven clean days from that night (as regards the color of the cloth after the bedikah, see chapter 2 above that deals with the laws of ketemim).

However, our teacher the Rambam [7] did not mention these practices and recorded only the law of the Talmud [8] alone, which is: On the day that the blood stops, she checks herself by only wiping (בקינוח בלבד) ‘that place,’ and if it emerges clean then she begins to count the seven clean days. [9] Such was the practice of the Jewish women of Yemen once upon a time, but it seems that currently they conduct themselves according to the more intensive practice. [10]

The women of the Sefardic tradition, in accordance with the Shulhan Arukh, inspect themselves until the point that the ‘member threshes,’ and the women of the Ashkenazic tradition, in accordance with view of the Rema, inspect themselves only to the point that their fingers naturally reach.”


[1] A hargashah refers to a bodily feeling experienced by a woman that usually accompanies uterine bleeding, including – and most usually – menstruation.

[2] The aharonim refers to rabbinic scholars who wrote after the publication of the Shulhan Arukh (ca. 1500 CE to the present).

[3] The “calendars” being referred to here are the commonly published tables of zemanim (halakhic times) throughout the year. The “shekiah” designated in the majority of such calendars refers to the setting of the sun behind the visible horizon.

[4] The phrase “that place” (אותו מקום) is lashon naki for the vagina as it is viewed from without. Lashon naki refers to “erudite language,” i.e. delicate pseudonyms used by scholars when discussing subjects related to sex and sexuality in an effort to imbue the discussion with proper honor and to avoid overly graphic depictions.

[5] As explained above, a mokh refers to a mokh dahuk (מוך דחוק), which is mentioned in the Talmud only in connection to its use as a form of birth control (akin to idea behind the modern contraceptive sponge), but is never mentioned with regard to the laws of family purity. It’s use in this way is a contrivance and a humrah instituted first by the Rashba in his Taharat HaBayit, and later prescribed in the Shulhan Arukh (Yoreh De’ah 196:1).

[6] The terms bein ha-shemashot and tzeit ha-kokhavim refer, in general, to a period of time that takes place at some point after the setting of the sun behind the visible horizon and the appearance of three “medium-sized” stars in the night sky, respectively. Their exact timing is a subject of lengthy and ongoing halakhic debate, but the position espoused by the Rambam, and thus adopted by Rav Tzefanyah Arusi, will be explained below.

[7] The phrase רבנו הרמב”ם is used in Yemenite writings in much the same way that מרן is used in Sefardic communities.

[8] The phrases דין התלמוד and דין התלמודי refer to the bare ruling of the Talmud as stated in the Talmud itself, without a view to later additions and [usually] strictures that were created or contrived by later writings. These mekori expressions are used intensively in the writings of both Rav Ratzon Arusi and his son, Rav Tzefanyah.

[9] The “wiping” referred to here is no different than is commonly used by women when cleaning themselves after urination. It certainly moves the outer labia aside, but there is no inward direct penetration by the fingers, as is usually required by those who instruct women in taharat ha-mishpahah. As Rav Tzefanyah writes explicitly later on in the chapter (p. 107):

“Every bedikah that a woman is obligated to perform, whether she is in a state of purity or uncleanness, she must do it using a cloth made of well-worn white linen, or cotton, or clean soft wool – all of these materials are considered reliable witnesses to her bedikah (cf. Hilkhot Isurei Bi’ah 4:14). According to the opinion of our teacher the Rambam, the manner of performing a bedikah is the same for every instance that one must be performed, whether she is in a state of purity or uncleanness, which is an external wiping between the lips [i.e. of the vagina].”

And as is explained in the note there, the explicit language of the Rambam in Hilkhot Isurei Bi’ah 4:13-15 is that of “wiping” (קינוח, מקנח) only and not of some sort of invasive examination. The point of this check, as stated by the Rambam, is to ascertain that the flow of blood has stopped, not to determine if there is a stray bit of blood in the vagina.

[10] The “more intensive practice” is actually the word mahmirim (מחמירים) and is usually translated or understood as referring someone or something that is “strict.” However, I chose the render it as “more intensive” to remove the idea that while the practitioners of the Shulhan Arukh are serious in their observance, the Rambam and those who rely on him are somehow lax, which is certainly not the case.

pp. 105-106

The Proper Time for Performing a Bedikah of a Hefsek Taharah

According to the opinion of our teacher the Rambam, the bedikah has to be performed before the day becomes dark [ג]. And this was the custom of the Jewish women of Yemen (as well as some among the women of Ashkenaz). However, most of the women from all the ethnic sub-groups (edot; עדות) are very careful to perform a bedikah specifically at the time just prior to the time of shekiah which is printed in the calendars (and this was also the practice of many women of the Sefardic and Ashkenazic traditions, and the practice of many among the Yemenite women living in Eretz Yisrael closely resembled this).

If she forgot to perform the bedikah before sunset (shekiah), but did the bedikah after sunset and before tzeit ha-kokhavim – it still counts for her as a hefsek taharah that was performed during daylight hours, and she may begin counting the first of her seven clean days from that night. [ד]

However, if she performed the bedikah after tzeit ha-kokhavim, her counting is thereby delayed and she may only begin counting her seven clean days on the night of the following day.

If a woman is unable to perform a bedikah just prior to sunset due to either work, travel, an event, or other similar reasons, she is able to perform a bedikah in the morning or the afternoon. If it is clean, this bedikah counts for her as a valid hefsek taharah, and she begins counting seven clean days from that night.

[ג] According to the opinion of our teacher the Rambam, ‘shekiat ha-hamah’ refers to the appearance of 2 stars and ‘tzeit ha-kokhavim’ refers to the appearance of 3 stars.  There is a span of approximately 20 minutes between them (one third of an hour), that is between the appearance of 1 star to the appearance of 3 stars. The mere setting of the sun behind the visible horizon is considered to be prior to ‘shekiat ha-hamah’ and is not the same as the time of ‘shekiat ha-hamah’ that is advertised in the calendars. The entire time that the sun is set behind the visible horizon and there is 1 star, it is still completely day [yom gamur hu] according to halakhah because that one star is considered a daytime star. When the second star appears, it is split between day and night since it is considered to be the appearance of 1 daytime star and 1 nighttime star, without the possibility of deciding between them – and it this time that is referred to as ‘bein ha-shemashot’ (i.e. doubtfully day and doubtfully night). Once the third star appears, it is decisively nighttime since there are 2 night stars against 1 day star. Shekiat ha-hamah‘ is a description of when these 2 stars appear, which is also known as ‘tzeit hakokhavim’ (i.e. ‘stars’ indicates at least two).  From the Torah [מדאורייתא] we suspect that it is likely too late after the appearance of the second star, because we think that perhaps the third star appeared and we didn’t see it … In the opinion of Rav Yosef Qafih z”l, from the time that the sun drops just below the visible horizon until the appearance of the first star takes about 15 minutes, and between the appearance of 1 star and 3 stars is about 20 minutes, making it [i.e. halakhic nightfall] a total of 35 minutes after the setting of the sun behind  the visible horizon … 

[ד] See the previous comment. In the Pithei Teshuvot (196, p. 378) it says, ‘There are those who wrote to be lenient until 13 minutes after shekiah (cf. Taharat HaBayit there), and others who wrote to be lenient until 20 minutes after shekiah (cf. Birurei Halakhah, in the name of the Satmar Rebbe; the Nit’ai Gavriel in the name of the Tzanzer Rebbe.’ And he writes in the FAQ there, ‘Those who conduct themselves according to Rabbenu Tam, if they checked after shekiah they ask a competent rav.’

The Wonderful News for Jewish Women

  1. NO MORE internal examinations that injure and irritate the delicate walls of the vagina. It is not halakhically necessary for any bedikah, for any purpose. Those who maintain that it is necessary are relying on post-Talmudic inventions that derive from mainly ascetic concerns.
  2. NO MORE using a mokh. Ever. It is simply not required.
  3. NO MORE waiting until just prior to shekiah or delaying the counting of seven clean days due to the bedikah being done a few minutes late. A hefsek taharah can be performed either earlier in the day or, not ideally, up to 15-20 minutes after sunset. Ladies, don’t wait so long into the day to make your bedikah when you can do it before you leave for work in the morning!

My sincere hope is that this was helpful and cleared up confusion on the subject. Once again, mekoriut wins the day of practical observances of the halakhah.

Kol tuv,


Passover Podcast Series!


Week #1: Hametz – Not Jewish Voodoo

  • Take back your holiday! – Restoring Zeman Simhatenu
  • Hametz – What is it? 
  • Hametz – Not Jewish Voodoo
  • Matzah – What is it?
  • Kitniyot: Please Pass the Rice!
  • Bitul on Pesah
  • TRA Mailbag – Answering your questions!

Week #2: Kashrut in the Pesah Kitchen

  • Kashrut in the Pesah Kitchen – Dishes, Pots, Pans, Appliances, and More!
  • Shopping for Pesah – To the Grocery Store!
  • Ingredients
  • Cleaning and Kashering for Pesah
  • TRA Mailbag – Answering your questions!

Week #3: Olives and Quarter-Logs

  • Olives and Quarter-Logs – The true measure of a kezayit and a revi’it
  • “Shemurah” Matzah and the Rambam
  • Four Cups: Grape Juice or Wine?
  • Chew On This: The Seder IS the Meal
  • The Haggadah
  • TRA Mailbag – Answering your questions!

Be sure to join us as we travel together down the road to an easier, more joyful Pesah!

Kol tuv,


Next Week’s Podcast



Join us next week, Thursday March 16th, when we will discuss the question: “How will Judaism survive?” Tackling questions that arise from history, science, philosophy, and some of the functional aspects of Jewish law, we will try to determine a way forward to brighter present and a brighter Jewish future.

Tentative program:

  • Must Judaism change or die?
  • Positive identity Judaism
  • The power is with the people, not institutions
  • What kind of book is the Torah?
  • Truth and information in an era of accessibility and education

Be sure to send in your questions and comments for the TRA Mailbag!

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Happiness, Mazal, and Eating Sweets – Solving the Mystery of Drinking on Purim


The Dictum of Rava

אמר רבא מיחייב איניש לבסומי בפוריא עד דלא ידע בין ארור המן לברוך מרדכי

“Rava says, A person is obligated livsumei on Purim until he doesn’t know the difference between ‘Cursed be Haman’ and ‘Blessed be Mordekhai.’” (b.Megillah 7b)

Many people, adopting a widespread view, interpret Rava here to be communicating some sort of obligation to excessively consume alcohol on Purim until one either loses some or all of their senses.

What many do not know – or choose to ignore – is that there were those among the Geonim and the Rishonim who understood this statement, as it appears within the context of the Gemara, as being nidheh (“pushed out,” “set-aside,” “excluded”) from the halakhah. These posekim maintain that there is, in reality, no obligation to drink at all other than the inclusion of wine at one’s Purim seudah, and much less to get drunk.

The Rishonim most notably of this position are the Ran and the Rabbenu Efraim (see Arokh HaShulhan, Hilkhot Megillah 695:1-5 for a full discussion). In his siddur, Rav Saadia Gaon lists and explains the laws of Purim, but makes no mention whatsoever of drinking or becoming drunk. He merely instructs that a seudah be eaten during the day that includes meat and wine, both which usually accompany any festive meal in the halakhah.(cf. b.Pesahim 109a, Hilkhot Shevitat Yom Tov 6:1). He also nowhere mentions falling asleep from drunkenness (cf. Siddur Rasag pp. 256-257).

However, it is likely that we are missing the entire point that Rava intended to make in his famous statement. The entire enterprise of drinking on Purim in the first place is suggested based on reading the word livsumei as “to make [oneself] drunk.” In full context of the Gemara and the Geonic codes, the basis for such an interpretation is in actuality fairly weak, and is even forced. As was asked above, what if livsumei doesn’t refer to drinking alcohol at all?

Happiness, Not Drunkenness

The so-called “minor tractates” (masekhtot ketanot) of the Talmud include textual material which dates to the time of the Mishnah which was arranged, expounded upon, and then formally redacted during the Geonic era into fourteen separate discussions. In printed editions, these smaller tractates usually appear just after Seder Nezikin. One of them, Masekhet Soferim, appears just after Avot De-Rabbi Natan and discusses various laws related to the public Torah readings and various sacred books.

In Masekhet Soferim 20:1 (19:1 in some editions), it says:

“And we do not make the blessing on the new moon except for on motza’ei shabbat when a person is happy (mevusam) and in nice clothing…”

The word “happy” (mevusam) is the adjective describing someone who has performed the action of livsumei, used in Rava’s statement on b.Megillah 7b. If we understand livsumei to mean “getting drunk” then we have to reasonably conclude that Masekhet Soferim is instructing one to do kiddush levanah while intoxicated. Such a reading is not only incorrect, but absurd.

The word livsumei means “to make [something] pleasant or sweet” (from the Hebrew word bosem, referring to spices) not “to become drunk,” and it is being used here to metaphorically indicate “happiness,” i.e. the happy mood resulting from the proper observance of the weekly Sabbath was considered – at least by this opinion – to be the best time to recite the blessing upon the new moon.

The Ra’avyah (Rabbi Eliezer ben Yoel HaLevi, 1140-1225) also appears to confirm such a meaning for livsumei. His text of the Gemara was apparently at slight variance from our printed editions. He quotes Rava as saying:

מיחייב איניש לבסומי נפשיה עד דלא ידע בין ארור המן לברוך מרדכי

This reading appears to make even more sense (especially in immediate context, as will be explained below) and very likely means:

“A person must make himself happy (lit., pleasant) to the point that he doesn’t know the difference between ‘Cursed be Haman’ and ‘Blessed be Mordekhai.’”

In his commentary, the Ra’avyah makes no mention of drinking or drunkenness on Purim, but only cites his unique version of the Gemara (cf. Sefer Ra’avyah, Megillah, Siman 564) which he apparently views as being enough of a straightforward instruction regarding the nature of celebration of Purim.

The Sheiltot De-Rav Ahai Gaon: From Pretext to Context

Probably the greatest and most cohesive proof that the meaning of livsumei is “to makes oneself pleasant” comes from the Sheiltot De-Rav Ahai Gaon (8th century). Divided into sections according to the weekly parashah, each section in the Sheiltot contains both halakhic and hashkafic Q&A that is arranged topically. The answers to the questions asked are selected from the Gemara and the Midrash and often contain readings that do not match our printed editions of the Talmud. More often than not, Geonic works such as the Sheiltot and the Halakhot Gedolot hold more accurate versions of Talmudic passages and are regularly used by Talmudic scholars to solve textual difficulties – and it appears the statement of Rava in b.Megillah 7b is no exception.

In Parashat Vayakhel (Sheilta 67), Rav Ahai Gaon relates the dictum of Rava as follows:

ואמר רבא מיחייב איניש למיכל ולמישתי ולאיבסומי בפורייא עד דלא ידע בין ארור המן לברוך מרדכי

“Rava says, ‘A person is obligated to eat, to drink, and to be happy (le-ivsumei) on Purim until he doesn’t know the difference between ‘Cursed be Haman’ and ‘Blessed be Mordekhai.’”

It seems that Rav Ahai’s version of the Gemara (or, perhaps his elucidation of it) is meant to mirror the pasuk in Kohelet 8:15 which says, “And so I praised happiness (simhah), that there is no good for a man under the sun except to eat, drink, and to be happy…”

The Netziv (Rabbi Naftali Tzvi Yehudah of Berlin, 1816-1893), in his Emek HaSheilah to this passage, has a lengthy comment which features his very thorough his assessment of this citation of the Sheiltot:

[1] He begins by noting that the Gemara in the Talmud Bavli does not include a mention of eating and drinking, but only says livsumei.

[2] He notes that Rav Ahai Gaon, by first mentioning eating and drinking, is reminding the reader that the main point of the seudah is to “thank and praise” HaShem, as it states in the beginning of the sheilta. A state of thankfulness and praise, says the Netziv, cannot be attained while drunk (cf. Hilkhot Shevitat Yom Tov 6:20).

[3] He also notes that the only “drunkenness” (shikhrut) that should result from this seudah is the normal “intoxication” that happens in the course of a hearty meal of meat and wine. He makes reference to b.Ta’anit 26b where a kohen does not lift his hands at either Minhah or Neilah of Yom Tov for the reason that “intoxication” is common on those days. Rashi there explains that the reference is to a “kohen shatui” and being a shatui means only that one has had a minimal amount of wine (approximately 3 oz.) – he is not “drunk” in the forbidden conception of drunkenness (cf. Hilkhot Tefillah 4:17). Although still in his right mind, a kohen shatui is nevertheless forbidden from performing his priestly duties after having recently consumed even a single serving of alcohol.

[4] He cites the opinion of Rabbi David Luria (Radal) who notes that the meaning of livsumei – as it is used in the Gemara directly in the discussion that directly precedes Rava’s famous statement – is to eat sweet delicacies at the seudah (“revaha livsima shekhiha – room for sweets can always be found” – see b.Megillah 7b). The Radal goes on to say that “It has been established for us that any drinking is supposed to be during the seudah, and wine which is taken with a meal does not get one quickly intoxicated,” a reference to Maimonides in Hilkhot De’ot 5:3.

[5] He then brings the Ba’al HaMaor who, citing Rabbenu Efraim, is of the opinion that, due to the violent narrative involving Ravah and Rabbi Zeira at the Purim seudah, the statement of Rava is nidheh from the halakhah.

[6] To counter the Ba’al HaMaor, the Netziv brings a teshuvah from the Hatam Sofer (OH, Siman 196) where it is explained that the narrative of Ravah harming Rabbi Zeira cannot be applied broadly because Ravah was a special case (i.e. shani – see there). His special circumstances were due to him having been born under the planet Mars, as it explicitly says in b.Shabbat 156a:

האי מאן דבמאדים יהי גבר אשיד דמא א״ר אשי אי אומנא אי גנבא אי טבחא אי מוהלא אמר רבה אנא במאדים הואי אמר אביי מר נמי עניש וקטיל

“One who is born under Mars will be one who sheds blood, as Rav Ashi observed such a one will either be a surgeon, a thief, a slaughterer, or one who circumcises. Ravah said, ‘I was born under Mars.’ Abaye responded, ‘You also inflict punishment and kill.’”

After hearing the pronouncement about those born under Mars and what their professions will be, Ravah notes that he too was born under Mars and yet he engages in none of these professions. Abaye responds to Ravah that he is nevertheless a violent person. According to the Hatam Sofer, Abaye made this statement in reference to the very incident of Ravah and Rabbi Zeira at the Purim seudah!

That there is in reality no such thing as astrology or astrological influences is the topic for another discussion. However, within the general Persian worldview of the hakhmei Bavel in the Gemara it seems that what took place during their Purim seudah was not due to drinking at all, but was instead attributed to the predisposition of Ravah to violence. The Gemara also states that specifically during the month of Adar is when a person’s individual mazal is very strong (b.Ta’anit 29b), which may – in the view of the Amoraim – have pushed Ravah over the edge toward being actively violent. In fact, when this story is related in the Sheiltot, it entirely lacks the word ivsum (intended as “became drunk” – a word present in the Gemara’s version) before kam Ravah (“Ravah arose [and slaughtered Rabbi Zeira]”) and does not seem to attribute Ravah’s violent episode to drinking at all.

Instead, the Hatam Sofer explains that Rabbi Zeira refused to make a seudah with Ravah the following Purim because there was a clear and present danger (i.e. shekhiah hezika – see there) that needed to be avoided, as it is forbidden to rely on miraculous intervention for safety in the face of practical realities. This is perhaps instructive for us today when choosing what company to keep for the Purim festivities. There are those who will undoubtedly be violent and inappropriate on Purim, but such people should be avoided out of a concern for our personal safety and the safety of our children.


The version of the Sheiltot supports the reading of the Ra’avyah, Rav Sa’adia Gaon, and others who never viewed Rava’s statement as being a reference to becoming drunk, and therefore saw no need to exclude it from the halakhah, as did the Ran and Rabbenu Efraim. Instead, Rav Ahai Gaon in his Sheiltot understands Rava to be referencing a normal, Biblical rejoicing where the Jewish people eat, drink, and are happy (Kohelet 8:15). The word livsumei is either a reference to rejoicing or to the eating of delicacies, as mentioned in the direct context of the Gemara just before the statement of Rava. The narrative of Ravah slaughtering Rabbi Zeira was not due to drinking at all, but was instead due to Ravah’s supposed astrological inclination toward violence, caused by the supposed strengthening of his mazal during the month of Adar. Rabbi Zeira’s refusal to make another seudah with Ravah is also not due to his prior excessive drinking, but due to the prohibition of relying on miracles in the face of practical safety concerns. On that page of the Gemara, the story should be seen as a related tangent – something that is highly common in the flow of the Talmudic discussion – being apropos because of the context of the incident having taken place at a Purim seudah.

It should now be abundantly clear that there is simply no way to justify the drunken and intensely shameful behavior that is perpetrated year after year on Purim in the name of Torah and Judaism.

Purim Sameah,

Kol tuv,