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The Good & Evil of Wine

Likutei Halachos on Parshas Shlach Lecha

Translated by Dov Grant 

Possuk 13:20 "… and the time was the period of the first ripe grapes"

We must be careful to avoid drinking wine on a regular weekday. Most of us are not able to attain the level of “wine that gladdens”. Therefore, the opposite takes place “it desolates”. In addition, wine rises blood boiling to the maximum, corresponding to the verse (Mishlei/Proverbs 23:31) “Don’t look at wine when it is red”, which is an aspect of the rise of the klippas Amalek (the thickest crust of evil – Amalek), that has grasp on the blood in the left ventricle of the heart. And this corresponds to the fouling of blood that is an aspect of sadness and blues, from which stems all earthly desires – particularly sexual desire.

Therefore the entire flaw of the spies that were sent at the time of Moshe was through the blemish of grapes – which is the blemish of wine. It was through this that Adam HaRishon (the first man) marred the world, as Chazal (our Sages) teach (Bereishis Rabbah 19:5) “She squeezed the grapes and handed it to him”. Noach also fell in this area when he left the ark after the floodwaters had subsided. And so we find that the majority of the spies were together grasping the large cluster of grapes.

Consequently, the Torah states “the time was the period of the first ripe grapes” to indicate that the entire fall and mistake of the spies stemmed from grapes, the source of wine, causing them to err in their opinion and declare that conquest of Israel would be impossible. And their main mistake was through klippas Amalek. For they were men of great intellect and perceived that Amalek was an extremely powerful evil force. They failed, however, to overcome their personal opinion in favor of Moshe to say that, despite the negative factors, Moshe had the ability to subdue and uproot Amalek. Thus, Chazal tell us (Bereishis Rabbah 16:18) that they frightened all the people specifically with Amalek: “Amalek dwells in the south”. Therefore their fall came about through the cluster of grapes, since klippas Amalek has the greatest grasp on grapes in the aspect of wine. This is the meaning of (Devarim 32:32): “Their grapes are grapes of gall; their clusters are bitter”, relating to the force of the blood.

Joshua, however, was rescued from the bad advice of the spies through the power of Moshe. Joshua subdues and detaches the klippas Amalek. Therefore, he didn’t trip through the grapes which the spies blemished the land of Israel. On the contrary, he actually merited bringing all the Jewish people into the land.

Accordingly, on Purim, the time of the main destruction of Amalek, it is a great mitzvah to drink wine. Then, we are able to subdue Amalek specifically through wine, through which we attain simchah/joy. For Amalek’s main defeat is through simchah.

Orach Chaim Hilchos Shabbos 7:68 (Otzar Ha’yira Shichrus 3)