Past Weekly Shabbat Message
Jewish Heritage
Rabbi Dovid Saks
(Torah Portion Shemini) Wine!
Wine consumed with moderation expands a person’s view, relaxes him and allows him to absorb things a little more. Wine gladdens one’s heart, and it is through wine that one reveals the secrets of his heart.

Wine is the ultimate beverage used during our celebrations and traditions. All our celebrations have expansive qualities to them, making wine most appropriate.

Before our meals on Shabbos and on the holidays we recite Kiddush over a cup of wine. Shabbos is a day of expansion. It is when we expand our physical and spiritual appetite. On Shabbos we receive a Neshama Yesairah – an expansive soul which allows us to enjoy the delicacies of Shabbos. Shabbos is also a day that has a touch of Olam Habah – when we bask in the tranquility of the World to Come and are able to grasp additional spiritual connectivity.

At the conclusion of Shabbos we recite Havdalla over wine. This is also a time when we expand and broaden our experience and blessings we received over Shabbos into the success of the coming week.

At a marriage ceremony a bride and groom and their families come together. Both the bride and the groom expand and welcome the other into their space. Marriage is where a family is created – thus the appropriate vehicle of this expansion is through blessings over wine.

Wine is used at a Bris – Circumcision. The Bris is when an infant is welcomed into the family of Israel – the ultimate expansion of our people.

When a girl is born it is customary to prepare a Kiddush which can include a plethora of prepared foods, yet the celebration is called a Kiddush - and not by another name - because Kiddush is made over wine symbolizing expansion and at this time we are welcoming another Jewish child into the family of Israel.

In this week’s Parsha the Torah relates the inaugural ceremony of the Temple, which included various sacrifices and offerings. In the midst of the ceremony, tragedy occurred. A fire descended from Heaven snuffing out the lives of Nadav and Avihu, the two sons of Aaron, the high priest. One of the reasons they were punished is because they drank some wine before they performed the service.

If wine has this expansive quality why did G-d forbid one from drinking before doing the service in the Temple? Perhaps we can explain this through a Mishna in Ethics of our Fathers. The Mishna lists ten open miracles that occurred in the Temple.

One of the miracles is that the Temple’s space wasn’t under the jurisdiction of the laws of nature. ‘When the Jews were in the courtyard, they stood shoulder to shoulder. However, when they bowed to the ground they found plenty of space.’

Upon entering the Temple area, there was an immediate aura of spiritual, emotional and physical expansion. This is because the Temple is G-d’s dwelling on this world and therefore external aids to assist one’s expansion such as wine are unnecessary and forbidden.

So what were Nadav and Avihu thinking when they drank wine before entering the Temple? (The law forbidding drinking wine before entering into the Temple was not yet explicitly given.)

Rabbi Yaacov Schnaidman, dean of the Yeshiva Bais Moshe of Scranton explained as follows:

According to one of the opinions in the Talmud the Tree of Knowledge was a vine. Had Adam not sinned by eating from the fruit, then a few hours later when the holiness of Shabbos descended, the vine would have produced wine. This wine would have been permitted and Adam would have recited Kiddush over that wine, making mankind immortal. However, once Adam ate from the forbidden vine, man became a mortal being and the ability to cause drunkenness was instilled into wine.

Our Sages tell us when the original sin of Adam will be repaired, wine will once again be reverted back to its original purity and potency.

At this heightened spiritual occasion of the dedication of the Temple, when G-d graciously showed forgiveness for the sin of the golden calf, Nadav and Avihu felt that the world was repaired from all sins it incurred, including the original sin of the Tree of Knowledge. They therefore felt that wine had reverted back to it original state of purity and was appropriate to drink before entering the Temple.

As we see from what occurred, the world was not yet at that state of perfection. With our continual efforts to ascend spiritually, the day of perfection will come soon!

Wishing you a most enjoyable and uplifting Shabbat!

Rabbi Dovid and Malki Saks and family