"He drank some of the wine and became drunk, and uncovered himself inside his tent." (Gen. 9:21)

The Zohar notes that while "Eve entered the world and became attached to the snake…and Noah entered the world…drank from the wine, and became drunk…Sarah descended [to Egypt] and went up unscathed."

...he had merited Divine inspiration...by virtue of performing the commandments with intense joy.

A fundamental concept in Judaism is the importance of serving G‑d with joy. The renowned kabbalist, Rabbi Yitzchak Luria (the Arizal) of Tzefat, when asked by his students why he had merited Divine inspiration and encounters with the prophet Elijah, replied that it was only by virtue of performing the commandments with intense joy. Performing the commandments joylessly is lacking and incomplete, and therefore cannot bring the world to perfection.

According to the Midrash, the forbidden fruit Eve offered Adam was wine; Eve was aware of the importance of joy and sought to attain it through wine. But she failed to experience holy joy, since she succumbed to the feelings of self-awareness and ego that are the by-products of less-than-holy celebrating. Prior to the sin, Adam and Eve were merely vehicles for Divine expression; once they took the fateful sip of wine, they gained self-awareness and began to operate in a realm of seeming separateness from G‑d.

Noah attempted to rectify Eve’s error, to experience joy without self-awareness. He therefore sought to negate his selfhood through drunkenness. But this endeavor was misguided, since the goal is not to numb the mind and emotions through drinking, but rather to lose the self through humility and surrender to G‑d.

Selfless joy was finally achieved by Sarah...

Selfless joy was finally achieved by Sarah, who is associated with malchut (the name Sarah is derived from the word serara, "rulership"). Malchut, the lowest sefirah, has no intrinsic "content" of its own, and receives whatever it has from the higher sefirot. This is the epitome of selflessness. True joy is born of humility, since one who is humble does not feel deserving of anything and is therefore never disappointed. Joy born of selflessness has no negative consequences; on the contrary, it brings us to the highest levels of spiritual experience, a taste of the World to Come. This is why Sarah’s son was named Yitzchak ("laughter"), a foretaste of the messianic era, when "our mouths will be filled with laughter." This is why King David, who also embodies malchut and selflessness, also epitomized serving G‑d with joy. Similarly, Rabbi Yitzhak Luria was a spark of the soul of Moses, the humblest of all men, and therefore experienced true joy.

We, too, when we emulate the humility of Sarah, Moses, King David, and Rabbi Luria, can fulfill our Divine mission with true joy and without fear of negative repercussions.

Adapted from Sefer Ma’aamarim Meluket, vol. 2, pp. 148-153; Ma’aamarei Admor HaZaken 5562, vol. 1, p. 51
© 2001 Chabad of California/www.LAchumash.org