I’m compelled to bring to the fore the drinking abuse problem that permeates today’s world, and especially here in the Far Rockaway and Five Towns Orthodox Jewish world. Tragically, this problem continues to claim the lives of beautiful teenagers and young adults. This must stop.
Wine and Alcohol can be Good and Bad
We use wine for kiddush and havdallah on Shabbes and Yom Tov. Further, many mitzvos are accompanied by a cup of wine, including the chuppah ceremony, abris, and a Pidyon Haben. Let’s not forget the four cups of wine we drink at the Pesach seder. We Jews have enjoyed for generations saying l’Chaim, wishing each other well over a shot glass of schnapps.
Wine and intoxicating beverages occupy an exalted place in the Torah. Shoftim 9:13 describes wine as “bringing joy to G‑d and man.” Every sacrifice offered in the Beis HaMikdash was accompanied by wine. Wine even has its own bracha.
And yet, our Torah tells of the destructive nature of wine and intoxication. According to an opinion expressed in the Talmud, the “Tree” of Knowledge was in actuality a grapevine, so it was the fruit of the vine that tripped up Adam and Chava. Noach, whose righteousness caused G‑d to spare the human race, was disgraced by excessive wine consumption.
Nadav and Avihu, Ahron’s two sons, entered the Mishkan while drunk and were consumed by a fire that emanated Hashem. To obfuscate things further, the Torah praises the Nazir who vows to abstain from wine.
So, What is Wine?
At this point, we must ask: What is wine? A special beverage reserved for holy and special occasions and with unique powers? Or, is it a destructive agent that can bring down people and, therefore, should be avoided at all costs?
Like most things in life, it is neither completely black or completely white. It’s actually a little bit of both. As mentioned earlier, there is an opinion in the Gemara that the Tree of Knowledge was a grapevine—and was dubbed by the Torah as being “good and bad.” When utilized properly, it has potential for good and if misused, G-d forbid, the ramifications are untold. And, as is the case with everything in life, it is our free choice to decide how to use it.
Wine’s ability to bring joy is because it relaxes us, plain and simple. In today’s world, we have lost the balance in many areas, especially with drinking alcohol. The risks are not taken seriously. It’s okay to drink socially, but some people ignore or forget that there are consequences to excessive intake. Each person metabolizes alcohol differently, depending on liver function. It’s unfortunate that at kiddushim andShabbes and Yom Tov meals nowadays, more discussion is devoted to the age and quality of the single malt whiskey than to the weekly Parsha.
Rabbi Yaakov Salomon shares a short message via Aish on why we need to take drinking seriously in with ourselves, as parents and examples for our youth Wine Alcohol and Jewish Rituals
Individually and communally, let’s start using our free choice to elevate all behavior, including our drinking, to bringing unqualified Yiddishe naches to HaKodesh Baruch Hu. In doing so, we will enhance lives and save lives.
Helpful Links for Parents and Community of Total Family Care
As always, daven