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No wine-ing

Written by d fine

Citing the gemarra, Rashi (6:2) famously asks why the Torah juxtaposes the topics of the Sotah (the suspected unfaithful wife) and the Nazir (the person who vows to refrain from wine, amongst other things)? Rashi – again citing the gemarra – answers that ‘anyone who sees the Sotah in her decrepit state will refrain from wine, for wine leads to adultery.’ Seems a good answer, but if one looks a bit deeper then there’s a major question to be asked.
If anything, the least necessary time to take on to refrain from wine is when one sees a Sotah in her decrepit state. For after one has seen what (suspected) adultery can do to someone, one is sure to never commit such an act – for the consequences have made such an impression on your mind’s eye. So how does this comment of Rashi make sense? There are two classic answers given here. The first is that an ‘impression’ does not go very far unless one grounds it in some form of action. Thus, in order to ground and cement this inner commitment to never go near adultery, one takes on to avoid wine. Rav Nissim Kaplan offers the second approach to Rashi here. True, one has seen the Sotah in her decrepit state. But the very fact that one has found out that someone has committed such a sin will mean that you are more likely to fall in this area too (‘if she can sink to such a level, maybe I can too’). Thus, in order to prevent such a failing, one takes the precautionary steps in refraining from wine. Indeed, we witness the same principle regarding Amalek. Amalek paved the way for any other nation to attack us by ‘cooling down the bath’ in being the first nation to attack us after we left Egypt. And even though we defeated them in battle, the very fact that other nations heard that a nation dare attack Klal Yisrael allowed the other nations to conceive of mounting such an attack themselves in the future.

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