Purim is upon us. Most Jews who celebrate Purim remember it as the story of the evil Haman who bribed the buffoonish King Ahaseurus to kill all the Jews in the Persian kingdom as a result of his rivalry with the Jewish courtier Mordecai. The Jews managed to depose Haman, and convinced Ahaseurus to let them fight back and slaughter those who would have stood against them.
The key to understanding the story is a statement by a fourth century Babylonian rabbi who lived centuries after the story might have happened, in the place that it was supposed to have happened—Persia. That rabbi, Rava, added one observance to those listed in the Esther scroll itself (feasting, exchanging gifts, supporting the poor and reading the story): “A person is obligated to get drunk on Purim until he cannot tell the difference between ‘blessed is Mordecai’ and ‘cursed is Haman’.” This is a very specific obligation. There is a specific goal here.