ג׳ בסיון ה׳תשע״ג (May 12, 2013)

Eiruvin 65a-b: Jewish Law’s Views on Drinking

As a side point to an earlier discussion (64a) Rav Yehuda quotes Shmuel as teaching that a judge should not rule on cases if he has drunk a revi’it (one quarter if a log) of wine. This statement leads to a lengthy discussion in the Gemara of the ramifications in Jewish law of drinking, and distinctions made between drinking moderately and reaching “the drunkenness of Lot” (see 19:30-36).

Rabbi Hanina said: They taught that an intoxicated person is responsible for all his actions only in a case where he did not reach the state of intoxication of Lot; however, if he reached the state of intoxication of Lot, so that he is altogether unaware of his actions, he is exempt from all liability.

According to Rabbi Hanina, someone who reaches that level of inebriation will not be held responsible for his actions, as he is not merely impaired in his decision-making capabilities, rather he is unable to function as a thinking person. Someone who has not reached that level is still held responsible for his actions, although the halakha will free him from his obligation in prayer – which demands a high level of concentration and reverence.

Throughout the Talmud, the Gemara points to drinking wine as an activity that can lead to damage, sin, etc. The Ein Ya’akov, written by Rav Ya’akov ibn Habib, explains that this brings to the fore a basic question: If it is so dangerous, why was wine created? This quandary helps explain the closing discussion of the Gemara, which sings the praises of drinking wine responsibly. Included are a number of such statements – some of them based on biblical passages:
Rabbi Hanina – Whoever becomes more open and comfortable with others after having a drink of wine, is walking in God’s footsteps
Rabbi Hiyya – anyone who drinks, but does not get drunk, has the wisdom of seventy sages.
Rabbi Hanina bar Papa – You are not blessed unless wine flows in your house like water.

The Gemara concludes with Rabbi Ilai’s maxim:
A man’s character can be recognized by his behavior regarding three things –
B’koso – his drinking, does he drink responsibly?
B’kiso – his spending, when he has money, does he apportion it correctly?
B’ka’aso – his anger, can he control himself, even when angry?

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