ט׳ בניסן ה׳תשע״ב (April 1, 2012)

Keritot 13a-b – Drunkenness in the Temple

The Torah forbids performing the Temple service while in an inebriated state (see Vayikra 10:9). The Mishnah on yesterday’s daf (=page) explains that someone who drank a revi’it (a quarter of a log) of wine and then entered the Temple and remained there for a length of time equivalent to keday akhilat peras (see yesterday’s dafhas transgressed and would be liable for punishment. Rabbi Eliezer argues that if he did not drink the wine all at once or if there was water mixed with the wine, he would not be liable.
The Biblical passage in Sefer Vayikra is discussed in a baraita quoted by the Gemara, where we find that Rabbi Eliezer’s teaching is based on his reading of the pasuk (=verse), that drinking wine is forbidden if it is drunk in a manner that will lead to inebriation. If it is diluted, however, or if it is drunk slowly, he will not be liable. Rabbi Yehudah derives a different law from this verse. According to Rabbi Yehudah, a person who drinks wine and enters the Temple will be liable to receive a death penalty; drinking other intoxicating beverages is also forbidden, but there is no death penalty for doing so.
The Gemara identifies another baraita with Rabbi Yehudah’s teaching. According to the baraita, someone who eats a deveilah Ke’ilit and drinks honey or milk before entering the Temple to perform the service will be liable to receive lashes.

deveilah Ke’ilit is a dried fig from the city of Ke’ilah in Judea. It appears that the figs from that location were unique in that they had a very high level of sugar. In other places in the Gemara we learn that the honey that dripped from these figs would ferment easily and turn to alcohol. In any case, eating a large amount of sugars could cause a case of mild poisoning – if the liver cannot process all of the sugar quickly enough – including nausea and dizziness, similar to what people experience after drinking alcoholic beverages.

 

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