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In VINO VERITAS...

By Zanna Linskaia

Who does not know this famous Latin saying, that translated as “in wine there is truth”?

It means that under influence of alcohol, a person speaks his hidden thoughts and desires. In many languages there are equivalents of saying. In English for example we admit - “what soberness conceals, drunkenness reveals.” French people almost repeat - “ce que le sobre tient an cceur est sur la langue du buveur”. Germans are more stronger - “Trunker Mund verrat des Herzens Grund”. In Russian language the saying is very strict -“Что у трезвого на уме – то у пьяного на языке!”

Jews and Judaism have a complicated, strange relationship with alcohol, specially with wine. Almost all Jewish traditions and rituals have wine as a significant element. During Kiddush on Shabbat and Holidays we recite over a cup of wine. 4 cups of wine play role in Passover Seder. Ceremonies like Havdallah, Brit Milah, Purim, weddings and more are always associated with wine. While wine “cheers the hearts of men”(Psalm 104:15), the Torah says that wine has a dangerous aspect. On one hand, wine brings a great joy as comparison in “Songs of Songs”: “Draw me after you, let us run. The King has brought me to his chambers. Let us delight in your love, savoring it more than wine”.

The Talmudic rabbis declared wine not only as a great beverage, but also as religious obligations for people and God. Yes, God appreciates wine!

On the other hand, the following midrash observes the stages of drunkenness: “when you drink one cup- you act like a ewe lamb. With 2 cups you behave as a lion bragging about yourself. When you drink 3-4 cups you become like a monkey without thoughts what you are doing. When you become drunk, you behave like a pig.”

Wine connection with Jewish culture reaches back 5,000 years and percentage of alcoholics among Jews is the lowest in the world. It is well known that Greeks and Romans used wine and cultivated grapes from tradition of Dionysus and Bacchus worships. But in ancient Israel the grapevine together with olive tree were the most valuable gifts of nature having poetic and symbolic meaning in the Old Testament. The Torah mentioned Noah as the one who planted the first vineyard.

Nowadays, Israel has the best wineries in Galilee - Golan Heights, Jacques Capsouto,

Covenant,Carmel and Latrun near Jerusalem. Grapes’ images and motifs are very popular and you can find them on the modern menorahs, shofars and cups for Kiddush. If wine is considered a holy drink, the only drink over which a prayer is said, so - L’chaim!


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