After the devastation and the destruction of the flood, God makes a covenant with Noah and charges him with the task of building a new world. Noah sees the destruction, but he lacks a plan and a vision for the world. He plants some vine branches from the Garden of Eden which grow with miraculous speed. It seems that God is happy with his actions. Wine is pleasing to both man and God. The wine libations- ניסוך היין -accompany sacrifices and we sanctify holy days with wine. Wine can open up the heart and mind and add a new dimension to a happy occasion. But miracles sometimes come to test man and are not a sign of God's approval. The Torah-Bereishit 9:20 and Midrash play on the words - ויחל נח איש האדמה and Noah began or figuratively, from the word chulin= חולין- he debased and profaned himself by getting his priorities wrong. He planted a vineyard instead of grains that will provide for man's basic needs for food. He falls from being a איש צדיק - a righteous man to become a 'man of the earth '– איש האדמה - a man who needs take from the world and compensate for his lack of joy and lack of vision. He drank from the wine, became drunk and uncovered himself within his tent. His grandson Canaan saw Noah in his disgrace and told his father Ham. Ham castrated his father so he could not have any more children.
The fall of Noah was because he was only a survivor, concerned about his own life, a Tzadik – a righteous man only relative to his corrupt generation. Unlike Abraham, he did not have a vision for the world and the leadership qualities to serve God and support man by building God fearing communities. For him God was a support and not an inspiration.
The fall of Noah is a reminder to all of us that we can never to secure in our spiritual levels. We are never stationary , either working on ourselves, marriages, relationships, businesses – going up or going down if we do not invest in our lives and relationships. And falling is so much easier and quicker when there is alcohol available. There are so many stories of young men who are trying to create new meaningful live and fall because they drank too much. Even if we use the physical world in a positive way for eg we drink in honor of the Sabbath, Purim and at special family events and simchas, there is danger. There are 2 aspects to drinking - we elevate the wine when we use it for a spiritual ritual, we are subjects, givers = gavra, but when we get pleasure from the wine we become like objects, 'receivers' = cheftza. And the question becomes - are we essentially ' receivers', happy because of the bottle or 'givers', happy because of the meaning and significance we attach to an event. This is the reason we try to be modest and understate ourselves when we are eating, drinking, being intimate or relieving ourselves.
We and especially young people with challenges can learn from Noah's mistakes. We drink and only a little, not because we live in our depressed world, but because we want to celebrate achievement or a meaningful event and wine can ADD to our mood and feelings of happiness. Noah needed to first plant grains, so wine accompanies food and water which are the main part of the meal and not the drink. If we want to stay sober we need to also eat and drink water. Drinking alcohol not only impairs cognitive ability but promotes the making of urine in excess of the volume you have drunk and this can cause dehydration unless extra fluid is taken. Our focus should not be on the drink or even the food but on being pro-social and contributing in a meaningful way to the social event.
Purim becomes a challenge because there is an obligation to drink on Purim –' l’besumei' – until he cannot discern between Haman and Mordechai. This is because wine plays a significant role in the Purim story It cannot be that there is a mitzvah to get drunk as the word ' l'besumei' is derived from the word to sniff or inhale a smell. It means we should only have a little to drink during the meal in order to get us into the mood. When we are drunk with happiness because of the miracle of Purim, we will occasionally sing verses of a popular song in the incorrect order, meaning that we will sing the verse of Arur Haman- Cursed is Haman in the place of the verse of Baruch Mordechai – Blessed is Morderchai. In this way we fulfill the mitzvah of - Chayav einish l’besumei be’puria ad deloi yoda bein arur Haman l’baruch Mordechai” which loosely translated says, that one is obligated to drink on Purim until he cannot discern between Haman and Mordechai.
As Parents and educators we have to offer kids guidelines to wine drinking and alcohol and even to the art of pairing wine with food, so wine is always part of the meal.
Wine and alcohol can cause the downfall of a person but when he is happy about something meaningful , a little wine can add something extra to the mood of a festive meal .When people are concerned about others , pro-social and giving , drink a little only during a meal , getting drunk will never happen.