By Zvi Gluck

Here we are again, in the home stretch of what has been a wonderful yom tov season, an inspirational and emotional period where we have taken a break from everyday life and re-connected with Hakadosh Baruch Hu and those around us. As we stand poised to bid farewell to the yomim tovim, it is important to take a moment and remind ourselves what Simchas Torah is all about.

Sadly, a holiday that is meant to celebrate the Torah, for some is a great excuse to drink excessively. While there is nothing wrong with having a drink, getting wasted is hardly in the spirit of Shabbos or Yom Tov, in fact it is quite irresponsible. Simchas Torah is about celebrating the ultimate gift given to klal yisroel, something that should spark true joy in our hearts and an opportunity to celebrate with our community. Turning to alcohol to get to your “happy place” is a far cry from what this meaningful yom tov is all about. Those who cannot enjoy themselves without getting drunk face a greater issue. It is far from simcha and often close to home.

As the clock ticks down towards sunset, I must remind you to keep the following in mind:

  • Go ahead. Have a l’chaim in honor of yom tov. But always drink responsibly.  Using Simchas Torah as a license to get drunk is just wrong.
  • Be respectful of others. If you offer someone a drink and they say no, accept it and don’t push them. We have no idea who is struggling and has invested considerable amounts of time, effort and money trying to kick an out of control alcohol addiction.  A single drink can undo months or even years of hard work in recovery.
  • Parents, remember that children are always watching.  Irresponsible drinking is obvious to our kids; they learn more from what we do than what we say.  Make sure to be an example and send positive messages to your children by showing them how to be responsible.
  • If alcohol will be served in your shul, make sure that there is someone on hand to monitor that adults aren’t overindulging and that minors do not have access.
  • Parents, observe your children.  Unfortunately, unsupervised alcohol is easy to come by on Simchas Torah.  Make sure you know where your kids are and what they are doing so that they are safe at all times. Set up your children to succeed by providing sensible guidelines and minimize potential opportunity.
  • Kiddush and table wine is a standard on our Yom Tov tables and that is okay. Remember that practicing responsible drinking isn’t about prohibition, it is about moderation and safe practice. So, enjoy your L’chaim and Kiddush, but always remember that we have a duty to our children and loved ones to be sensitive and responsible when consuming alcohol.

Wishing everyone a safe and happy Simchas Torah – a holiday that is all about the true joy of celebrating our cherished Torah and the foundation of our lives that defines us as a nation and makes us who we are.  Chag Sameach!

Zvi Gluck is the director of Amudim, an organization dedicated to helping abuse victims and those suffering with addiction within the Jewish community and has been heavily involved in crisis intervention and management for the past 20 years.

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