When I got married, I didn’t have a whole lot of kitchen experience. As a matter of fact, when I was a child, I believed that when girls got married, they would wake up the next morning and magically know how to cook. Well, alas! Such is not the case.
So, at the beginning of my marriage I invested a lot of time, planning, and energy into my Shabbos meals. I would begin very early in the week. First, I had to collect an assortment of recipes. Then I had to decide on a menu, shop for ingredients, and eventually cook the dishes. This took a lot of my time. From early on, my husband would make the cholent every Shabbos. He would spend about ten minutes in the kitchen throwing it all together, with me cleaning up the mess, mind you. Then our guests would come and eat all that I had worked so hard to prepare and continuously compliment his cholent for the entire course of the meal. If you are wondering if you are detecting any resentment on my part, you are absolutely correct. With all of my hours of preparation, all anyone would ever talk about was the unbelievably delicious, over-the-top, one-of-a-kind cholent! Over time, cooking for Shabbos became easier. But two- and three-day yamim tovim still posed a challenge. And even though Purim is a one-day affair, it is still no small deal.
We were married for just a few years when we made our first Purim s’udah. We eagerly invited quite a large group of friends to join us in our small apartment. The more, the merrier, we figured. But this was going to involve a lot of organization and planning, especially since by then we already had two kids in tow. I did as much as I could in advance. On the day of Purim itself, I was busy with the mitzvos of the day and last-minute details for the s’udah. Between all of those things, plus taking care of my kids, I was not exactly focusing on what my husband was doing. Huge mistake. He was thrilled to finally be making the s’udah in his own home and wasted no time getting into the Purim spirit. He greeted everyone who walked in the door with a l’chayim, and then some. Coming from a family of non-drinkers, I had absolutely no idea of what I was in for. Let’s just say that my husband was as happy as I’d ever seen him. When he began dancing with everyone who brought us mishloach manos, he was quite funny. But as time progressed, I realized that I had a problem on my hands. He did manage to greet our guests who came for the s’udah, but I don’t believe he even made it through the first course. For the rest of the s’udah, he slept like a baby on the floor of our bathroom, with his head comfortably nestled in the tiny space between our commode and bathtub. This did not make me happy at all. I was left to singlehandedly serve, entertain, clean up, and look after our kids, including a baby. Luckily, our guests were kind enough to pitch in.
The next morning, my husband was hung over and feeling quite unwell. He was nauseous and vomiting. I’m not sure if I was expected to pity him in this state, but I certainly did not. Well, maybe a drop. But only because he was the father of our children. My husband begged me to bring him some anti-nausea medication. Did I mention that every bit of the nausea he was suffering from was well-deserved? After considering ignoring his request, I did dutifully go to the pharmacy. But before I handed him the meds he desperately reached out for, I insisted that he sign a contract that I had written on the paper bag from the pharmacy. I basically made him sign that he will never get drunk on Purim again. I gave him his meds and then took the signed paper bag and put it in our safe, along with all of our other important documents.
We spent the first Purim after we made aliyah with my husband’s brother, his wife, and family. Knowing our Purim history, my brother-in-law decided to try to help out his brother and drew up a hataras n’darim based on the actual nusach. He bolstered his case that my husband was not bound by our contract stating that my husband only signed the document under duress. I think he meant to be funny, but I was not very amused (okay, maybe just a teeny-weeny bit).
Unfortunately, we were robbed several years ago. The robbers yanked our safe right out of the wall. All of our replaceable documents along with my precious and irreplaceable Purim contract were gone. Baruch Hashem, over the years, my husband learned how to hold his liquor and I learned how to keep a watchful eye. Our Purim s’udos are very happy and lively, but in a balanced way. I don’t see what my boys do in yeshivah, but I get the feeling I’m better off that way.
My oldest son got married four years ago on Purim Katan, exactly one month before Purim. He and my daughter-in-law and her entire family joined us for Purim that year. It was a lovely s’udah, although my son drank a tad more than he should have. As a newly minted mother-in-law, I tried to navigate the delicate terrain of keeping him in line without over-stepping my bounds. He didn’t do anything crazy, but his new kallah sat watching with interest a side of him she had never seen. She wasn’t quite sure if she should stop him from drinking, and, if yes, how? “Have you ever heard of something called a Purim contract?” I asked…
Suzie (nee Schapiro) Steinberg grew up in Kew Gardens Hills. She works as a social worker and lives with her husband and children in Ramat Beit Shemesh.