Why I’ve never ever been drunk

-Rabbi, you must be kidding.

No, seriously. I don’t like drinking, I don’t enjoy it and why should I drink something, I don’t enjoy it too much.

-But you are form Argentina, Malbec!

Yes! Soccer (futbol), BBQ (asado), ice cream (helado) and so many other good things, but I don’t drink

– So how do you do in Purim?  Aren’t you supposed to get drunk?

Ah! Great question. The commandment on Purim is to drink until you are not able to recognize between cursed Haman and blessed Mordechai (By the way, the numeric value in Hebrew of these Baruch Mordechai and Arur Haman are equal!).  There is an easy way to do it, you drink a little and then you go to sleep… when asleep, you cannot distinguish between the two.

 

This dialogue happened to me many times. I don’t like drinking, and I have never been drunk. If there is a good reason, in the morning miniyan, I may take a small shot of scotch for the L’chaim, but that’s it (this Friday morning for me there is one, our son Ari will put on tefilin for the first time).

Last week with our “Some Midrash in your life” group, we studied the following Midrash:

“Our sages of blessed memory said: when Noach wanted to plant a vineyard, Satan came and stood before him. He said to him: what are you planting? He said: a vineyard. He said to him: what is its quality? He said to him: its fruits are sweet, whether fresh or dried [raisins], and we make from them wine to gladden the heart, as it is written ‘and wine gladdens the heart of man’ (Tehillim 104:15). Satan said to him: come let us both participate in this vineyard. He said to him: to life [as you wish]. What did Satan do? He brought a sheep and killed it under the vine; after that he brought a lion and killed it, after that he brought a pig and killed it, after that he brought a monkey and killed it under the vine, and dripped the blood in the vineyard and watered it with their blood. To hint to him that before he drinks man is innocent like this lamb that does not know anything and like the ewe dumbstruck before her sheep-shearer, he drinks sensibly – he is brave as a lion and says there is no other like him in the world, because he has drunk too much – he becomes like a pig and is soiled with urine and another thing [excrement], he gets drunk – he becomes like a monkey who stands and dances and performs and spews forth disgusting things from his mouth and does not know what he does” (Tanchuma 58:13).

I find this Midrash fascinating. It teaches us about excess. It’s one that isn’t necessarily so well known and I believe it is important as our society continues to struggle with drug and alcohol abuse – including in the Jewish community.

While I understand that alcohol is praised by our tradition, “And wine gladdens the hearts of man” (Psalms 104:15), and “Wine gladdens life” (Koheles (Ecclesiastes) 10:19), and finally, the Talmud, in discussing how to celebrate the festivals, states: “There is no true happiness without wine” (Pesachim 109a), our tradition warns us about excess.

Therefore, I have never, ever gotten drunk.

My message isn’t that you should be like me. My message is that every individual must find what works for them in their lives. And it’s also the important acknowledgement that our Beth El community isn’t immune from the challenges faced by the broader community. If you’re struggling, you’re not alone.

Note: Beth El is hosting a 12 Step meeting every Monday at 7 PM. If you need assistance, do not hesitate to contact any member of the Beth EL clergy.

 

Posted by Rabbi Fabián Werbin

2 comments

Excellent discussion. To drink a small amount may be good for health reasons. But too much will harm you.

Both interesting midrash and excellent post! I am of like mind: a sip for a simcha is more than sufficient.

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