Rabbi Ephraim Sprecher, Dean of Students and Senior Lecturer at Diaspora Yeshiva, is not only a popular speaker and teacher, but also a dynamic thinker and writer. A student of Harav Yaakov Kamenetsky and Harav Gedalia Schorr, Rabbi Sprecher was granted smicha (rabbinical ordination) by Torah Vodaath Yeshiva. Prior to his current position, Rabbi Sprecher was a professor of Judaic studies at Touro College in New York. In addition to his duties at Diaspora Yeshiva, Rabbi Sprecher writes a regular column on various Judaic topics in the Jewish Press, and lectures regularly at the OU Israel Center in Jerusalem.
Wine in Judaism : Tikun For The Sin Of Adam & Noach
Published: Monday, October 15, 2012 09:11:43 PM
Number of views: 3510

Why is wine so essential to Judaism? All of our sacred occasions are accompanied by the drinking of wine. To find the answer we must look into the Talmud.
The Talmud discusses the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden, wondering what type of fruit it was (B. Berachot 40a; B. Sanhedrin 70 a-b). Three opinions are presented.

According to one opinion, the forbidden fruit was wheat. This suggestion is innovative since wheat stalks are not normally considered trees. According to this line, children only begin to call their parents once they have tasted grain. The meaning of this cryptic statement may be that people only recognize their independence once they have experienced this material world. It is only after interaction with physicality that a person sees a unified world and has the autonomy to transgress against the will of the Almighty.

A further opinion suggests that the forbidden fruit was a fig, for it was a fig leaf that was later used to cover Adam and Eve's nudity (see Genesis 3:7). According to this approach, the very item that brought about the spiritual downfall of this first couple was cobbled together to cover up their embarrassing state.

At the root of this approach is the idea that the same object can be used to wreak destruction as well as to repair all that is wrong. It is in this vein that the prophet tells us that in the Messianic Era the sharp metal of the deadly sword will be made into plows for preparing the land to provide sustenance to all. (See Isaiah:2:4).

According to the first opinion cited in the Talmud, the forbidden fruit in Gan Eden was none other than a grape vine, since it is always wine that is the source of misery. To prove this contention, the Talmud cites the passage where Noah partook of wine (see Genesis 9:2).

Noah and his family came out of the ark to a new, idyllic world. All evil had been destroyed, and what remained was pure. Noah quickly began life anew by working the cleansed land and planting a vineyard. The produce of this vineyard was made into wine, and when Noah drank and became intoxicated, his behavior and that of his son, Ham, was inappropriate. Thus the new beginning-just like the Almighty's initial program – was sullied by wine.

While the Talmud doesn't quote this, another biblical episode provides a similar lesson (see Genesis 19:30-36). After Lot and his daughters escaped the destruction of Sodom, they reached the safety of a cave. The two girls mistakenly believed that the entire world has been destroyed. In a desperate move, they conclude that they must have children by their father to ensure the continuation of humanity. Yet how could a father agree to such a depraved act? The solution suggested by the older daughter and implemented by the two women is to get Lot so drunk on wine that he would be oblivious to any misdeeds committed. This decadent plan succeeded.

Thus, in an attempt to reverse this tragic trend, at every Sabbath and Festival we seek to repair the initial damage from the Garden of Eden. Wine should no longer be a tool that brings about grief, a means for impropriety. Wine should be used in the service of spiritual growth and sanctification.

The Almighty's creations are tools for bringing G-dliness into this physical world. Despite the woeful history of wine, we do not abstain from this hazardous beverage. We seek to sanctify it at moments of spiritual potential. Instead of relegating wine to the annals of vice, it is elevated to open each and every Jewish ritual service, proudly announcing that physical objects have neutral value. We choose how to employ G-d's creations and write their history; will they be recorded as tools of corruption and sin or as objects of holiness that repair this broken world?

G-d created the Tree of Knowledge of Good & Evil. We choose and decide whether Knowledge is to be used for good or evil. A classic example is the internet, which contains evil, or rabbisprecher.com.

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