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A state of intoxication is the territory of evil spirits.

Drinking with the Demon

Drinking with the Demon

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Drinking with the Demon
A state of intoxication is the territory of evil spirits.

Moral values are not determined solely by deed, but primarily by the intention underlying the execution of the deed. Wine may be used to serve G‑d from a spirit of joy and gladness, such as when reciting Kiddush in order to sanctify the Shabbat. Or, it may similarly be used to recite the Havdala, the ceremonial termination of Shabbat. On the other hand, it may be used to bring on a drunken stupor, insensitivity to one's surroundings, or worse.

Noah…became the victim of this immoral deed….

Noah is here referred to as "a man of the soil", as from the outset the use he made of his wine showed what he had had in mind when he planted the vines. His intention in planting grapes had been wholly earth-oriented, not heaven-oriented. In an act of "measure for measure", he became the victim of this immoral deed, seeing that the use he had made of the wine was apt to produce immorality, loosening the inhibitions which prevent man from transgressing G‑d's law. Having been responsible for contributing to lack of chastity, he was punished himself by acting in an unchaste manner.

The product of the fruit he had planted could serve either holy or profane purposes….

Bereishit Rabba 36 states that when Noah planted a vineyard a demon called Ashmodai met him and said to him, "You are my partner, but I warn you not to interfere in my domain or else I will harm you." The meaning of the Midrash is that when Noah initially planted the vineyard, he had had neither constructive positive intentions nor destructive ones. Rather, he had engaged in a permissible activity - an activity, however, which lends itself to encouraging all sorts of demons to come out into the open, when it would have been better had they remained hidden.

He was joined in this by an external force, an unholy force [a demon]. This force informed him that the product of the fruit he had planted could serve either holy or profane purposes. The force warned him not to allow the wine to serve profane purposes, i.e. not to interfere with the domain of the demons by encouraging drunkenness - he himself would come to harm whenever he did not use the wine for sacred purposes.

[Translation and commentary by Eliyahu Munk]

Rabbi Moshe Alshich (1508-1600) was a rabbi and halachic authority in Safed and later in Damascus, ordained by Rabbi Yosef Caro. However, he was most famous for his eloquent sermons on the weekly Torah readings, and his works of commentary on nearly all of the 24 books of Scriptures.
Eliyahu Munk, the translator, was born in Frankfurt, and emigrated to England as a young man, later moving to Toronto. After retiring from education and moving to Israel in 1978, he began an extraordinary second career as a translator, publishing English versions of the Torah commentaries of Rabbeinu Bechayei, Akeidat Yitzchak, Shelah, Alshich and Ohr Hachaim.
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