The mitzvah to drink* till you don’t know the difference between blessed is Mordechai and cursed is Haman seems odd. Besides being a recipe for getting sick, it seems strange that a tradition that places so much emphasis on moral behavior should to want to blur the line between good and evil!
To understand this, we need to recognize that Mordechai and Haman represent something bigger than themselves. They represent two different nations with long histories and diametrically opposite worldviews: The Jewish people and the nation referred to in our Torah as Amalek.
The Jewish contribution to the world was not the notion of a Creator, but rather the notion of a Supervisor; a God who cares about mankind and, over the course of history, guides them towards their destined perfection. Judaism introduced the idea of kedusha, or holiness; the notion that human beings are more than just animals, but rather spiritual beings capable of not only relating to God, but literally representing Him down here on earth by utilizing every aspect of this world to fulfill His will.
Amalek is vehemently opposed to the concept of holiness. Amalek’s God is far removed from the affairs of man, his universe is cold and uncaring and the people that occupy it are just another species of animal. In short, Amalek is the ultimate cynic – the one who finds even the pretext towards holiness to be laughable.
This is why Amalek always attacks the Jewish people just when they’re poised to take possession of their Land (at the time of the Exodus, during King Saul’s conquest, prior to our return from Babylonia/Persia [Haman], and prior to our re-establishing the modern State of Israel [Hitler]). The land of Israel is more than just a piece of real estate: it’s where we fulfill our mission to be a holy people by infusing spiritual values into the most mundane aspects of both our personal and national lives!
When God hid His presence during the Babylonian/Persian exile, he gave us the ultimate opportunity to stand in as His representatives. It became our responsibility to reveal His mastery of the world, which is precisely what we did by taking responsibility for our predicament while steadfastly maintaining our faith in Him (the Fast of Esther), even when our situation appeared hopeless. But what’s even more impressive is that Haman was also used as a pawn to bring about God’s plan. In fact, the ironic twists and turns of the Purim miracle that so clearly revealed His hand would never have taken place without Haman and his genocidal plot.
This is why we drink till we can’t tell the difference between Mordechai and Haman. Purim is far more than just a celebration of our survival as a people. It’s an opportunity to experience the profound sense of joy that comes when we see the ultimate truth, which is that every aspect of this world, both the “good” and the “bad” was created to reveal the benevolence of its creator. From this higher perspective, there really is no difference between Mordechai and Haman, because ultimately, evil itself is nothing more than an integral part of God’s plan to perfect mankind and bring about a world of peace and holiness.
Purim teaches us that no matter how things appear, a happy ending for mankind is inevitable. In fact, if we use the day properly, we may even catch a glimpse of that reality, right here and now, in a world still shrouded in so much darkness.
Wishing you a joyous and meaningful holiday!
*Those who prefer can fulfill this mitzvah by taking a nap instead of drinking, since they won’t know the difference when they’re asleep.