BAD IS GOOD

"God spoke to Aaron, saying:  'Do not drink wine and intoxicating liquors, you and your sons with you, when you come to the Tent of Assembly, so that you will not die.  This is an eternal decree for your generations. To distinguish between the sacred and the profane' ..." (Leviticus 10:8-10). It seems from this text that the Divine view of wine and alcohol is negative, and the priests are instructed to stay away from these substances.

If this is true, how do we explain the use of wine for Kiddush?  The Hebrew word "kiddush" means sanctification.  Do we "distinguish between the sacred and the profane" by sanctifying the profane?

Wine is not a prohibited substance.  Furthermore, wine was used as an ingredient in some of the sacrifice rituals in the Tent of Assembly and later in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem (see, e.g., Exodus 29:40, Leviticus 23:13, Numbers 15:5,7).  The Torah tells us that wine can be abused, as by Lot's daughters who intoxicated their father in order to be impregnated by him (Genesis 19:31-38), just as it can serve in the holy ceremony of Kiddushin (Jewish wedding).  The priests were forbidden from getting drunk, but were commanded to use wine, in measured quantities, in the worship of God.  The Kiddush is a worship ritual in which we acknowledge the sanctity of God's commandments and their elevating and hallowing effects on us.  Then we drink a measured quantity.

We are approaching Passover.  In the Seder we drink 4 cups of wine, which may "affect" some people...  As long as we drink within the context of the religious ceremony, telling the story of exodus, with blessings, songs, good food, and close relatives and friends around a festive table -- we are doing the sacred, not the profane.

May this Passover bring holiness to our lives.  Enjoy the Seder and have a happy and kosher Passover.

                                                                            Judah Ari-Gur

For more columns: http://homepages.wmich.edu/~arigurj