Monday, September 24, 2007

A Grape Juice-Drinking Teetotaler

(Picture courtesy of trialiafoods.com.au)

A Simple Jew commenting on Alcohol & Chassidus:

In his CD "No To Drugs", Rabbi Lazer Brody mentioned that many Breslovers avoid drinking alcohol and drink grape juice instead except in places where it is required explicitly by halacha. When I asked Rabbi Brody about this, he responded:

"Rav Shalom Arush is very adamant about this - he says that a person needs tremendous spiritual preparation before he can make a proper tikkun to drinking wine. On Purim and Pesach, he cries his eyes out to Hashem for 30 minutes before the wine touches his lips."

I found Rabbi Brody's response to be particularly interesting since I too use grape juice for kiddush since I don't care for the taste of alcohol and also because I have small children at home. Furthermore, while some may accuse me of being a teetotaler, it my contention that the vast majority of people use alcohol as a way to simply cope with their present reality. This can be a slippery slope since an alcoholic is often defined as someone who has to drink to feel normal.

Commenting on the verse "wine gladdens the heart of man" (Tehillim 104:15), Radak wrote, "Hashem creates the grapes from which wine is pressed. When drunk in sensible proportions, wine gladdens the heart and drives away melancholy. It heightens the intellect and even prepares the mind for prophecy."

Wouldn't you agree, however, that the man who rushes back to retrieve the bottles of scotch and vodka on Shabbos morning after davening is thinking more about the liquid inside the bottles rather than using this liquid to aid his avodas Hashem? Does he really have a lofty goal in mind or is he just trying to get a chemical reprieve from his screaming kids who he expects others to watch while he pours another shot?

11 Comments:

At September 24, 2007 at 6:06:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just read the Doors of the perception to understand sthg about substances... Moreover, before 100 years, one could hardly fine any grape juice, but 2 or 3 weeks after the harvest season... Otherwise kidush WAS to be on wine only... Bottom line, all the Rebbeim and tsadikim from previous time did actually drink wine... There are some other explanations based upon Kaballa why to make kidush over alcohol davka...

 
At September 24, 2007 at 8:06:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Bob Miller said...

I don't think it's necessary or desirable to speculate about the motives of non-abusive drinkers, or about the chance that they will go all the way into alcoholism.

While I personally don't get much of a buzz from alcohol, as it makes me groggy, I do recognize that it has always had a valid place in Jewish life. Given a choice, I usually go for the grape juice, but that's just me.

 
At September 24, 2007 at 8:31:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If I'm not mistaken I believe that Rebbe Nachman did not forbid drinking wine for Divrei Kedushah (Kiddush, Purim, etc) and in fact encouraged it for Divrei Kedushah. I try to be Makpid to only use wine for Kiddush as I feel that Kiddush is supposed to be made on Yayin, not grape juice. While I know many Holy Jews who only drink grape juice for Kiddush (because they don't like the taste of wine or because of the reason mentioned in this post) there are Poskim that hold that one is not Yotzei the Mitzvah of Kiddush on grape juice alone.

 
At September 24, 2007 at 9:10:00 AM EDT, Anonymous shoshana (bershad) said...

Rebbe Pinchas of Koretz said that drinking wine, in moderation, unfolds the brain. Persons who abstain from drinking wine rarely exhibit wisdom. (From Nofeth Tzufim, pp. 13 and 21, cited in The Hasidic Anthology: Tales and Teachings of the Hasidim, by Louis I. Newman, pp. 85-86) However, other rebbes of the time disagreed with him on this; perhaps they feared it could be a "slippery slope," as you indicated.

 
At September 24, 2007 at 10:53:00 AM EDT, Blogger Akiva said...

I cannot speak for Rav Arush or his experiences, or how he feels it appropriate to lead his kehilah.

I can say that I find the extremes on this issue utterly ridiculous. The yeshiva's that now instruct to SLEEP on Purim rather than imbibe to fulfill the mitzvah of ad lo yada. Worries over literally a few ounces of wine at kiddush (no aspersions on your particular family reasoning).

Conversely, "Kiddush Clubs" (where the bored and/or social break between Shacharis and Musaf to make kiddush and have a few, or more than a few, shots) are very inappropriate (of course, so is a 30 minute rabbi speech), and drinking till shikker at the shul kiddush is equally inappropriate.

Similarly, the overuse and misuse of alcohol by our teens in yeshiva, especially around Purim and Succot, is a real problem that must be much more carefully controlled.

That said, I have always found the proper use at the proper time with the proper intentions, to be spiritually valuable. And that's just like anything else we do (noting that alcohol has much more room for abuse).

 
At September 24, 2007 at 11:17:00 AM EDT, Anonymous chabakuk elisha said...

I think Akiva is 100% right. We cannot deny the place of wine in Yiddishkeit, and while I maintain that it needs to be under control it certainly shouldn't be eliminated entirely.

 
At September 24, 2007 at 11:21:00 AM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Akiva: I cannot argue with what you wrote and completely understand your logic. I think I tend to a more hard position for myself on this issue since I frequently see the abuse and not the use with proper intentions.

Bob: My posting was directed more towards the abusive drinkers rather the non-abusive drinkers. You are 100% correct, I cannot speculate what goes on in a person's mind and his intentions.

 
At September 24, 2007 at 11:35:00 AM EDT, Blogger Alice said...

It's another one of those traps that can easily catch us up. The less I 'party' the more I eat. The less I eat, the more I shop. You have to be so vigilant!

Both sides of our family have many alcoholics, so we are very careful about what our son sees- and what we do even if he doesn't see it. So I tend to agree that it's something to be very careful about.

 
At September 24, 2007 at 11:14:00 PM EDT, Anonymous c klein said...

since kiddush friday night is a doraisa one should use wine just as the 4 koses pesach night look up or ask ure rov about it

 
At September 24, 2007 at 11:20:00 PM EDT, Blogger der ewige Jude said...

We also have a grape juice drinking household. This is due to my extreme intolerance of alcohol, a condition in which I do not posess the enzyme necessary to break it down into sugars, fairly common, I have been told, in oriental and native american populations. I am not aware of any ancestral connection to either group. Since this is transmitted genetically, we just assume that it has been and don't allow the wee folk to come in contact with alcohol either.
On a similar note there is a discussion in Tractate Taanis 17A, which says that a Kohen should never drink wine in case the temple is rebuilt and he is called upon to serve in it. Kohen drink nowadays based on a comment by Rebbi that they do drink because it has been so long and the temple has still not been rebuilt. This has always been a disturbing ruling for me and seems to exhibit a profound lack of emunah. If you truly believe that the temple is going to be rebuilt then you should hold yourself ready for it everyday no matter how much time has passed. May it happen speedily, in our days, now.

 
At September 25, 2007 at 11:55:00 AM EDT, Anonymous chabakyk elisha said...

I once heard R' Yoel Kahn (a Kohain) something along the lines of:

A Kohen should not drink alchohol since he must always be ready to do the avoda in the Beis Hamikdash, so how is it that Chassic Kohanim drink l'chaim?

The answer is that to do the avoda In Beis Hamikdosh a person must be a "mentch." And to be a mentch, he needs to sit farbrengens and work on himself. And to do that, he needs to take lchaim -- for without the prerequisite lchaim and self refinement, he isn't qualified to serve in the Beis Hamikdash alltogeter.

(Of course, obviosuly, this is only speaking about "proper" drinking, and wouldn't apply to drinking for the wrong reasons.)

 

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