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  • Yehuda Pevzner

Wine: Good or Bad?

Samson was the most powerful man in the Bible, but he was undone by a haircut from Delilah. Why? He was a nazirite, and the sacred vow of the nazirite prohibits him from cutting his hair, coming into contact with the dead, and drinking wine.

At the end of the nazirite period, a nazir brought atonement offerings to the Temple. The Talmud questions why a nazirite should be required to seek atonement for voluntary prohibitions beyond the law. One opinion suggests that denying himself the pleasure of drinking wine is considered sinful.

Why does the Torah consider it wrong to deny oneself anything? Is everything that is allowed necessary? Are we held accountable for every permissible possibility that we don’t take advantage of?

The answer is in the mindset. What constitutes a good way of life? How should we view G-d's creation and the physical world? Do we have to cut ourselves off from society to be holy? Do we disregard everything that isn't entirely spiritual out of concern that it might compromise our piety? Do we withdraw from regular worldly life? Scale mountains in order to lose ourselves in spirituality?

It is seen differently in Judaism. We are supposed to engage in G-d's world. There are, of course, clear rules and restrictions. But we should work with the universe created by G-d within the parameters of the Torah. G-d's eternal plan for creation was that human beings, living mortal lives, should devote their time, effort, resources, and knowledge to bringing divinity into the physical world.

Every mitzvah we perform accomplishes that. Instead of avoiding it, we take the physical and turn it into the spiritual by facing it head-on and transforming it into something holy and meaningful.

Therefore, the nazirite who chooses to distance himself from that which the Creator permitted us is somewhat sinful after all. And his attitude does indeed require some atonement.

G-d asks us to live a higher, holier life within this world. So yes, drink the wine this Shabbat, but first, make Kiddush on it!

Shabbat Shalom!

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