Inspired by the holiday of Purim, the University of California Police Department has implemented a new test to determine student driver intoxication levels. The new policy, which goes into effect Friday, will have an officer showing students side-by-side photos of Mordecai and Haman and asking them to identify these characters from the Purim story. The cutting-edge technique was developed by Officer Cohen of the Westwood Branch and taken directly from a portion of the Talmud in which one is instructed to drink on Purim to the point of not knowing the difference between the phrases “cursed is Haman” and “blessed is Mordecai.”
“We have had a hard time figuring out who has been drinking and were searching for a more definitive and accurate test than breathalyzers,” said Cohen, “I reread the Purim story and the idea hit me.”
According to plan, the police officer should begin with standard questioning, such as with the inquiry, “Do you know why I pulled you over?” (This question ensures that the driver is not a mind-reader or in possession of any divinatory artifacts.) The officer will then ask, “How much have you had to drink?” (This question is to ensure that you’re not a lightweight.) Feel free to embellish how many drinks you’ve had. It’s Purim after all! You don’t want a cop to think you’re a buzzkill.
At this point, the officer will have the driver step out of the car for the new field sobriety test. The test examines a driver’s coordination, balance, dexterity, and understanding of the Purim story — all of which are affected when a person’s blood alcohol content level increases. The officer will show the driver a photo of Mordecai. If there is any involuntary jerking or trembling of the eyes, the driver is likely to have been drinking. Then, the officer will take out a photo of Haman and have the driver identify the two men as well as answer questions about the Book of Esther.
Recent studies have shown that a lack of understanding of the holiday — which commemorates Haman’s foiled plot to kill all the Jewish people in the ancient Persian Empire, the struggle of Queen Esther and her relative Mordecai as they fought to protect their people from persecution, and a man with a hat allegedly shaped like a cookie — is likely a symptom of intoxication.
According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, a blood alcohol concentration of over .08% (the legal limit in California) results in “slow eye movement, decreased visual perception, and an inability to recall details of the Purim story.” As impairment increases, many people are known to forget several mitzvot of the holiday, including giving and receiving mishloach manot, donating to charity, and reading the Book of Esther. Through careful trials, it is clear that one of the most efficient ways to assess impairment and understanding of the Purim story is to have the subject differentiate between Haman and Mordecai.
“You can’t have someone who can’t distinguish between our interpretations of what these two old, bearded men looked like be driving around the streets of Westwood,” said Area Captain Goldman.
“The Book of Esther is an important story,” agreed Cohen, “Everyone planning to go out should go to a reading first.”
At press time, officers were responding to a noise complaint about a party that had been giving out groggers (noisemakers) to underage students.
So if you’re over 21 and planning on fulfilling a mitzvah this Wednesday night, make sure you know your limits and the Book of Esther.
This article was in written in the Purim spirit. All likenesses to actual people are purely coincidental, we promise.