2009-11-06 / Columnists

Point of View

"The Rabbi's Personal Column" Rabbi Allan Blaine Temple Beth-El, Rockaway Park

Every morning at 5:00 a.m. Radio Station WINS goes on and while waking up my wife and I listen to a constant barrage of awful events which took place that past night or the day before - murder, rape, mayhem, sexual assaults and never ending automobile accidents due to D.W.I. - driving while intoxicated.

Years ago I was asked to edit a book on alcoholism and the Jewish community. In it I pointed out that Biblical/Rabbinic Judaism had placed a constraint on alcoholism and drunkenness by placing drinking of alcoholic beverages within Jewish tradition. One drinks wine and makes a benediction on Sabbath and festivals. Religion condemned excessive drinking yet sanctified wine as part of the prayer service to God.

I was asked to write this book because changes had taken place in society. Social drinking among young acculturated American Jews has begun to be part of their lives, Alcoholism sometimes followed.

My studies led me to realize that excessive drinking is essentially a pathology, a terrible disease which can bring with it horrendous consequences, killing and maiming many adults in car accidents and many more teenagers who begin to drink as a symbol of their adulthood and of, "growing up" by getting drunk and endangering their lives and worse still the lives of others, or by emulating their parents and older brothers and sisters leading to so many horrendous problems while under the influence.

The blame they say goes all the way back to father Noah. After the flood and confinement for forty days in an ark with every known animal. Once departing the ark he apparently needed a stiff drink and so Noah planted a vineyard and got drunk. Noah was not a bad man. The Bible calls him righteous in his generation, but from Noah onward the Biblical prophets saw alcoholism and drunkenness for what it was and the sages constantly railed against it.

Moses and later the prophets of Israel tried to teach the difference between acceptable ("wine gladdens the heart" - Bible) and unacceptable behavior and for centuries they spoke against the problems of drinking in wrong places and at the wrong time (when wine enters Satan emerges - proverbs). .

Today alcoholism and substance abuse are the scourge of our times. Horrible automobile accidents that we read or hear about daily are but one instance in which drinking destroys lives. Excuse making and denial are a serious drawback to curing alcoholism. Making drinking glamorous and sexy is a misdirection to the young. Who doesn't know that 007 (James Bond) likes his martini slightly stirred? For many drinking becomes a crutch and when we say, "boy, do I need a drink" or "I need a drink to calm my nerves" it is a danger sign that we are becoming overly dependent. Drinking should not be used as a way to relax or to dull pain.

To drink acceptably is to drink modestly, to know ourselves, to set boundaries and limits and it's not easy especially in the times in which we live or indeed in any time.

Let's not put all the blame on Noah. We live in a society of overdependence and over indulgence and we don't seem to realize that popping pills and imbibing liquor are not long range solutions. They merely dull them temporarily.

One does not need alcohol or drugs to experience the daily miracles of God in our lives. Three times a day the traditional Jew thanks God for the simple ever recurring miracles, the ones enjoyed every day of our lives just by being alive. So dear reader let me say the best drink is to drink fully and completely of God's cup of life. - "L'Chaim" - to life!
(The begining and the end of European Jewry in 1938)
RENI HANAU, an eyewitness will speak
at Temple Beth-El, 201 Beach 121 Street
Monday evening, November 9th, at 8:00 pm
All Welcome - Refreshments
An experience not to be missed!
(This page comes through the generosity of the Arlene Topal Creative Arts Fund
of Temple Beth-El. Dedicated to educating children in the Judaic Tradition)

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