Love of the Land

For the week ending 7 January 2006 / 7 Tevet 5766

Grape - The Fruit of Joy

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
The Color of HeavenArtscroll

When Yotam presented his parable to the people of Shechem who had abandoned him and crowned his rival Avimelech as their ruler, he described the efforts of the trees to find one amongst them who would consent to be their king. The grapevine’s refusal was based on a reluctance to give up its traditional role of supplying the wine which “gladdens G-d and men.” (Shoftim 9:13)

Our Talmudic Sages Berachot 35a) ask: “That wine gladdens men is understood, but how does it gladden G-d?”

Their answer is that the Levites in the Beit Hamikdash only offered their praise to G-d in music and song when the wine libations accompanying the sacrifices were poured on the altar.

Although there is a general blessing praising G-d as the Creator of fruit which is made before consuming any fruit, even of the seven species, a special blessing is made before drinking wine. The reason, say our Sages (ibid. 35b), is because wine is unique in its ability to both satiate and gladden.

Caution must be exercised, however, as to how much gladdening wine, with its alcoholic element, should be allowed to induce. “There is nothing which brings so much sorrow to man,” say our Sages (Sanhedrin 70b), “as does wine.” This is a stern warning against intoxication induced by something with a capacity for bringing joy when used in moderation.

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