Sunday, October 28, 2012


“No Wine!”

by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths


      “I do not want to drink any wine, only grape juice!” my Shabbos guest told me. Actually, he said this five years ago when he first came to my house. This week he came back, and he laughed at himself for having said it.

     He was on what he thought was a more pure path than the Torah teaches. Often, when someone begins to follow the Torah, he or she will take a medical report from here, an alternative lifestyle report from there, an idea from an Eastern religion, a few fond memories, and blend them all into what they think is a really groovy way to be. They end up inventing what they believe is a more holy, or more healthy way to live. This is pretty much what the 1960s did so “well.” It’s called, “roll your own.”

     But when you see that the Torah has sustained the Jewish people so beautifully for thousands of years, you should tread very carefully before you stray from even the smallest bit of it.

     But wasn’t my guest right in abstaining from wine? After all, common belief is that drinking wine leads to drunkenness! Isn’t alcoholism one of the major pitfalls of society today? Alcohol is horribly unhealthy, right? Surely, we should not encourage our young people to drink alcohol?

     Lo and behold, today’s medical reports show that moderate alcohol consumption is very good for you. Of course this assumes that you do not overindulge. The Rambam, who besides being a principal Torah scholar was also a medical doctor, wrote that wine is good for the stomach.

     There is an interesting law regarding a nazir. A nazir is a Jew who, wanting to become more aware of G-d’s presence, would take a vow of abstinence. He could not cut his hair for this period of time, nor was he allowed to eat grapes or drink wine. He was not allowed to become spiritually unclean by tending to the dead, ether. Most often the vow was to last for 30 days. After he fulfilled his vow he would go to the Temple in Jerusalem and offer up certain required sacrifices. Then, his vow would be fulfilled and he would return to normal life.

     One of the sacrifices that he was required to bring was a sin offering. It is asked, “Why should a man who tried to become more aware of G-d have to bring a sin offering? What was his sin?”

    It is answered; wine in moderation brings joy. The nazir’s sin was that he forbid himself something that G-d put into the world to bring joy.

    My advice is, if you want to abstain from something to become healthier, or to become more aware of G-d’s presence, then you should abstain from such things as; sorrow, anger, overeating, laziness, judging others, and a few things like this.


  1. I've tried almost every possible alcoholic beverage but could not get used to appreciate any of them. In fact, most of them cause me real displeasure, owing to the burning sensation the alcohol provokes in my mouth and throat.

    Is there anything wrong if I abstain only for personal taste reasons?

    I always make kiddush at home with grape juice on Shabbat, and in Pessach I use to drink a little home-made Pessach wine in order not to upset my relatives who make an absolute point on such thing...

    But I suppose it should be OK according to halacha, or...???

    R. Halevy

  2. Good post. I'll just point out two things. One, some of us just don't handle alcohol very well. I always refuse the little cup of wine at shul or whatever, and take grape juice if they have it, because I have kind of an extreme reaction to even a small amount of alcohol -- it makes me feel extremely tired for several hours and I often end up with a hangover the next day.

    Second, some chassidic Jews do have a custom to usually refrain from alcohol. I'm not sure, but I think R' Lazer Brody and R' Shalom Arush only drink alcohol on a few occasions a year (Purim, Pesach, etc.)

  3. Rav, thanks for you post. I'm not a connaisseur of wine but seem to know that good wine is the kind that does not sting when you swallow, has some sort of interesting tast, but usually costs a lot of money. Usually, that stuff will cost 50shek and up and seems somewhat of a luxury that I can live without. Using the cheaper wines for kiddush or otherwise causes me pain.

    For many years, we would have a modest seudah shlishit at our shul. Somehow, a few people started bringing wine, and all of a sudden, it became of new tradition that you must bring wine, and not the 20shekel kind. This prevented some people from contributing a seudah shlishit entirely because a modest lite snack suddenly cost 25% more. A few times, people would get drunk and it was a) pathetic, b) hillul Hashem.

    Some people could take your post and insert the word Coca Cola as if it were the spirit of life instead of using some cheap alternative like RC or Cristal, or water and some petel.

    I'm notcriticizing your post, but wanted to say that I am actually very disappointed that the supermarkets now have very large sections for wine and drinking alcohol is certainly becoming a regular part of the new Israeli culture.

  4. The expensive wine problem can be gotten around by using an inexpensive dry or semi-dry wine (I pay 18 sk a liter) and if you cannot handle the taste, add a little sweet grape juice. The guests love it. Well, they sure drink a lot of it.

  5. Josh,

    The stomach pain problem is often a problem with too many sulfites, a natural chemical that is sometimes added to speed the aging of the wine.

    A surprisingly simple solution is to open the wine and let it breath for at least 5 minutes and up to 1 hour, the sulfites dissipate - most within 5 minutes and almost all within an hour.


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