It is ten generations since the creation of the first human. Adams descendants have corrupted the world with immorality, idolatry and robbery, and
The Wisdom of Wine
"Noach, the man of the earth, debased himself and planted a vineyard." (9:20)
Jews are not known for their alcoholic indulgence. Statistically, the incidence of alcoholism amongst us is among the lowest in the world. On the other hand, alcohol is not taboo in our tradition. On Purim, we have a holy obligation to become drunk enough not to know the difference between "Mordechai the blessed" and "Haman the cursed." A Jewish child grows up with Friday night Kiddush wine on his lips. The same is true on Shabbat morning. And at the close of Shabbat, wine is part of the Havdala ceremony that guides our re-entry into the week. In addition, wine features in the Four Cups on Pesach, at weddings, Yamim Tovim, Brit Mila and other events in Jewish life. Jews seem to have no problem combining wine with an essentially sober lifestyle.
What is the secret of this combination of wine and wisdom?
In this week’s portion, after Noach emerged from the ark he planted a vineyard and subsequently became drunk. The Torah describes Noach’s action as "Vayachel ". This word is from the root chol meaning the opposite of holy. Rashi explains that Noach made himself un-holy, for he should have involved himself in planting something other than a vineyard. Rashi’s words here need some explanation. Why was Noach’s un-holiness connected with his failure to plant some other species than the grape?
In the language of the spiritual masters the word wine is synonymous with pleasure. This is why the ultimate pleasure of being close to the Divine Presence in the futureworld is described as "the wine preserved from the grapes of the Six Days of Creation." Before we experience the wine of the World-to-Come, however, we must first cultivate something other than the vineyard. Here we must labor to raise the level of the un-holy, the chol, to the level of the holy, and not the other way around as Noach did.
In this world our experience of wine must always be connected to holiness. For we exist in neither the place nor the time that the wine can be experienced in itself. The Talmud tells us that there is something in this world that no eye has seen except for
If we spend our life seeking the "wine" of this world we will find our end in degradation, but if we connect to the wine that is hidden in the grape, the future world that is promised to the righteous, then we will enjoy the ultimate closeness to
- Sources: Midrash Tanchuma, Rabbeinu Bachya, Sanhedrin 70, The Midrash Says