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Thought for the Day: The Spiritual Content of Wine

I was once having a discussion with someone about a certain hashkafic attitude I felt was logically required by the Torah.  She disagreed with the attitude.  What about the logical necessity?  "Oh, I don't feel bound by the rules of logic.", she demurred.  Ah.  As you might imagine, that was my last attempt at a conversation with her.  You don't agree with my conclusions; that's great, you can help me to correct my thinking.  You think I am missing data; cool, you can educate me.  Can't quite put your finger on it, but something seems amiss; ok, let's talk about it.  Think that logic is irrelevant; you're patur from mitzvos, so there's point in further discussion.

I hold this truth to be self-evident: there is much more to this world than what appears to our physical senses.  You are more than welcome to disagree (though if you did, it is unlikely that you'd be reading this), but that is the stage for today's TftD.  Shi'urei Da'as (the Telshe Rosh Yeshiva) explains that it's not so much that there is a spiritual world and a physical world, but that our senses are geared to perceive our surroundings in a physical way.  Something like the difference between observing the world with your eyes vs an infrared sensor.  You don't see different things, you just see the same things differently.

S'farim tell us that the physicality of Adam and Chava before the sin was something like our spirituality.  Not a different world, the same world viewed much differently.  That is one of the things that makes leaning about  those times so tricky.  The words are the same, but our perception of those things is so vastly altered that we must constantly and consciously adjust our understanding to be aligned with the reality being presented.

The G"ra on mishlei gives us an example.  Chazal tell us, "mi'sh'nichnas yayin, yotzei sod" -- when wine goes in, secrets come out.  I don't need Chazal to tell me that when people get drunk their inhibitions are lowered and all sorts of things spill out.  I do need Chazal to reveal the inner meaning of that phenomenon: yayin is spelled yud-yud-nun, which stands for Y'rei'im (fear/reverence born of clarity), Y'sharim (righteous in conduct bein adam l'chaveiro), and N'vi'im (prophets).  That is, y'rei'im, y'sharim, and n'vi'im are the vehicle by which HaShem reveals Himself in the world.  Wine used appropriately opens the door to yirah, yashrus, and n'vu'ah.  Used the wrong way, of course, it just leads to foolishness.

Perhaps with this we can better understand what happened No'ach after the flood.  No'ach craved closeness with HaShem and used wine as the vehicle.  That would have been appropriate in the world he left, but in the new world -- one of much decreased spirituality -- the result was tragically different.  Same wine, but now wrapped in grosser physicality.  No'ach's mistake was to not account for that change.

That, then, is why it is so important to learn Torah from g'dolim.  They, and they alone, are equipped to translate -- each generation according to its level -- d'var HaShem into lashon b'nei adam.


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