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Thought for the Day: Limiting Pleasure in This World

When a second bottle of good wine is brought to the table, there is another bracha to make: haTov v'haMeitiv [Sh. Ar. OC 175].  The Mishna Brura gives two reasons.  First, to give thanks for the abundance of wines at his table.  (Wine is by nature chashuv; having more varieties of quality wines is something worth giving thanks to heaven, apparently.)  Second... hang on, this needs a new paragraph.

Ok (this is pretty much a direct quote): s'farim note the reason to use this particular wording (haTov v'haMeitiv) is because it is well known that a person must limit worldly pleasures and wine brings a person to rejoice and can bring him to light-headed/frivolous behavior.  Therefore the sages chose this particular bracha because everyone knows that it was added to birkas hamazon in commemoration of those murdered in Beitar and were finally allowed to be buried.  That, of course, will bring a person to think about his own day of death and so he won't drink too much.  Basically you are saying, "Enjoy this nice wine, but don't forget: you'll be dead someday."  Maybe the Torah should have just made wine forbidden and be done with it.  Why did HaShem make wine strong enough to bring us to bad behavior, then tell us to think about death so we won't come to bad behavior?  Just make the wine weaker; then we could have the wine with no worries.

Another chazal (Chullin 109b): for everything the Torah forbade, something similar exists that it permitted.  For example, blood is forbidden, but liver is permitted (Rashi says since the liver is filled with blood, it has the taste of blood).  Why make two things that taste the same, one forbidden and one permitted?  Just make one thing, permit it, and be done with it.

The answer is, that would miss the point.  We are in this world not so much to do Torah and mitzvos as to choose to do Torah and mitzvos.  It is our choices that make us into the people we are.  By spending 70 or 80 years of making choices -- which means having to turn down things we like and having to choose things that aren't necessarily what we want  -- we transform ourselves from smart animals to human beings, then from human being to Jews.  That's why HaShem, b'chasdo, gave us so much Torah and so many mitzvos; so that every moment of our lives can be spent acquiring Olam haBah.

Now that's drinking responsibly.


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