Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Table Talk - Noach 5768

We all know the phrase "You are what you eat." But Noach teaches us that the phrase is only half true. In addition to the food that we eat the Torah would add that sometime, "You are what you drink."
After finally leaving the ark to begin life anew, the Torah tells us that, וַיָּחֶל נֹחַ אִישׁ הָאֲדָמָה וַיִּטַּע כָּרֶם - "And Noah the husbandman began, and planted a vineyard." He plants grapes, presses those grapes into wine, and proceeds to get riproaringly drunk. The results of this type of activity are never good, and Noach is a great example of that rule.
Rashi notes that the word for "began" -- ויחל, shares the same root at the word חולין -- "profanity", connoting the opposite of sanctity. Commenting on this strange choice of language Rashi notes, עשה עצמו חולין, שהיה לו לעסוק תחלה בנטיעה אחרת - "He made himself profane, for he should have engaged in another planting first."
While we can all understand Noach's need or desire for a good glass of wine, he should have planted something more practical first. By making the wine his first crop, he allowed the alcohol and his need for it to become his defining quality. A good drink is fine -- but only in its proper time.