Hadrash Ve-Haiyun

by the Reisha Rav, HaGoan Rav Aaron Levine TZ"L

Elucidated and Adapted by Efraim Levine


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Afterwards the nazir will drink wine. (Bamidbar 6:20)

Among the restrictions that a nazir must accept upon himself is to abstain from partaking of grape products, most specifically wine. At the conclusion of the nazirus period the restrictions are obviously lifted. We may thus ask, why is it necessary for the posuk to explicitly state that at the conclusion of nazirus the nazir will drink wine?

Many of the commentators offer variations of the following popular solution. The Torah here is teaching that when one abstains from all forbidden foods and conduct, one should not say that it is because it is detestable. This would give the impression that even if not for the prohibition of the Torah one would still abstain from these foods and conduct. Rather, one should say that really I would like to partake of the forbidden, but I may not, only because the Torah has forbidden this to me. Such conduct demonstrates that one is only living his life for the purpose of fulfilling the laws of the Torah. This notion is expressed here with regard to the Nazir. In order that others should not have the impression that the reason why this individual has abstained from wine products is because he dislikes wine, the Torah commands the nazir to drink wine immediately upon the conclusion of his nazir period. This demonstrated that in truth he would enjoy to partake of wine products but the only reason he has abstained was because the Torah forbids it to him.

Expanding upon this idea we can understand the Gemara (Chullin 109b) that teaches us that all things that the Torah forbids for us in one place it has permitted their likeness elsewhere. For example, the Torah forbids pork but permits its taste in the brain of the shibutah fish. The torah forbids us to eat meat and milk but has allowed us to partake of this taste found in the udder of the animal. Why is the Gemara teaching us this? The answer is that by permitting the likeness of what is forbidden the torah is giving us the opportunity to show that the only reason why we do abstain from the forbidden is because the Torah says so. This is demonstrated in the fact that we do partake of the likeness of these forbidden items. This shows that we do truly enjoy and desire these things. Why then do we withdraw when it comes to other items that have their likeness? It must be because the Torah forbids this to us and for no other reason.

This idea is also the source of the popular custom of why many make havdalah at the conclusion of pesach on chometz, i.e., beer. We wish to show that the only reason we have abstained from chometz the past week is only because the Torah says to do so. Otherwise, we would have preferred to eat chometz as we do now at this first opportunity

Let us now suggest an additional homiletic interpretation for why the Torah states this seemingly superfluous statement that “afterwards the nazir will drink wine.”

It is noteworthy that we find two separate reasons for drinking wine. The posuk in Koheles (10:9) says, “Wine gives joy to life.” Likewise the posuk in Tehilim (104:15) says, “ Wine causes the heart of man to rejoice.” The Gemara (Pesachim 109b) also says that joy can only come through wine. Obviously, the posukim and Gemara convey that wine is associated with true joy and happiness. However, we also find that wine is associated with pain and suffering. The posuk (Mishlei 31:6) says, “give new wine to the destitute and old wine to the bitter of spirit, let them drink and forget their troubles, their toil they will no longer remember.” Likewise, the Gemara (Eruvin 65a) says the wine was only created to comfort the mourners. Here we see that wine has a different effect, that of comfort.

The commentators explain that wine has the ability to deepen and magnify the mood that one finds himself in. When one is in the joyous mood, wine will intensify the mood by bringing out truer happiness. When one is looking for comfort the wine will likewise have the power to bring a more intense feeling of comfort.

It is noteworthy that although wine is served at both occasions, there is a difference in the way it is served. When served at a joyous occasion it is the host who serves himself. However, at a time of mourning, others serve the wine. This is expressed clearly in the posuk when it says, “give wine to those who are destitute.” Likewise, the Gemara says that wine was only created to comfort the mourners. This also implies that others are serving the wine, just as it is the others who are providing the comfort.

With this idea we can now understand our posuk. By stating that after the conclusion of the period of nazerous the nazir shall drink wine the Torah is giving the nazir a blessing. The posuk informs the nazir that if he succeeds in carrying out this lofty mitzvah of abstaining from the delights of this world for his prescribed period of nazirous he will merit the blessing that he himself will drink his own wine. This implies that only he will serve his own wine and not have someone else serve him the wine. Taking this implication together with our previous idea this translates into a lofty blessing that he will only drink wine only at joyous occasion and never suffer times of trouble where others will serve him wine in order to provide him with comfort.

If we take this idea a bit further we may have a new understanding of why on Pesach the custom is that no one dilutes or serves his own wine but must have someone else provide him with this service. We drink wine on Pesach because it is the drink of a free man thus conveying that it is a symbol of freedom. Yet, at the same time the custom is that the wine is diluted, poured or served by one other then oneself. Having these services done by others is reminiscent of the conduct in a mourners home. The message is that the freedom of Pesach for us is truly bittersweet. On one hand we celebrate the redemption of mitzrayim but simultaneously we seek comfort for our pitiful state of galus. The dual symbolism of the four cups thus makes us yearn for our ultimate redemption.