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What is Judaism's take on alcohol consumption?

What is Judaism's take on alcohol consumption?


Wine and intoxicating beverages are a fascinating subject when viewed from the Torah's perspective. On one hand, we use wine for kiddush and havdallah on Shabbat and Jewish holidays, and many, many mitzvot are accompanied by a cup of wine. Blessings are recited on a cup of wine beneath the chupah (wedding canopy), at a circumcision, at a Pidyon Haben (the "Redemption of a Firstborn Son"), and let's not forget the four cups of wine we drink at the Passover seder.

In the Scriptures, wine is described as "bringing joy to G‑d and man" (Judges 9:13). And, indeed, every sacrifice offered in the Holy Temple was accompanied by a wine libation. Because wine is considered to be the "king of beverages" the rabbis coined a special blessing to be recited exclusively on wine: the Hagafen blessing.

And let us not forget the venerated age-old Jewish custom to say l'chaim and wish each other well over a shot glass of schnapps.

Conversely, we are told of the destructive nature of wine and intoxication. Several examples:

According to an opinion expressed in the Talmud, the "Tree" of Knowledge was actually a grapevine. Thus it was the fruit of the vine that tripped up Adam and Eve, causing them and their descendents untold hardship and misery.1

The righteous Noah, whose righteousness caused G‑d to spare the human race, was disgraced by excessive wine consumption.

Nadab and Abihu, Aaron's two holy sons, entered the Tabernacle while drunk and were consumed by a fire that emanated from the heavens.

The Torah extols the virtue, courage, and holiness of the Nazirite who vows to abstain from wine.

So what is wine? Is it a holy beverage with immense powers, reserved for holy and special occasions? Or is it a destructive agent with the power to bring down mighty people; a substance to be avoided at all costs?

Well, a little bit of both, it seems. As we mentioned earlier, according to one opinion, the Tree of Knowledge was a grape vine—and the Tree of Knowledge is dubbed by the Torah as being "good and bad." It has tremendous potential, when utilized properly, and a drawback of equal proportion, if misused and abused. What we use it for is entirely up to us.

Wine's ability to bring joy is because it relaxes our inhibitions and weakens the body's natural defenses. This "weakening of the body" allows the soul to shine through. After taking a l'chaim one is more easily inspired, because the body offers less resistance. This obviously applies only when one drinks in moderation, and on special, holy occasions in an attempt to make them a bit more festive and to introduce an inspirational ambiance.

On the other hand, getting drunk in order to escape responsibilities we have to ourselves, to our families, and to those around us, is highly destructive. A person who is in an "escapist" mode is a dangerous person, because very often he is also escaping many of the rules that he would be wise to follow.

On the practical side, we are forbidden to pray while drunk and priests were not allowed to serve in the Holy Temple whilst drunk. Even today, priests may not bless the congregation after having even a single glass of wine.

Click here for more about wine and intoxication.

I also recommend that you read Can Wine Be Holy?

Yours truly,

Rabbi Menachem Posner


This is also one of the reasons why wine is so often used in the course of the observance of various mitzvot—it is an attempt to rectify the original sin that was perpetrated with wine.

Rabbi Menachem Posner serves as staff editor for
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Menachem Posner March 16, 2017

Alcoholism If a person is in danger of becoming addicted or losing the sobriety they have fought very hard to achieve, having wine or other alcoholic substances would be unkosher for them. Reply

Anonymous March 16, 2017

The disease of alcoholism can be triggered by one sip of wine and a person never knows who is susceptible. It's sad if someone must ingest alcohol in order to feel comfortable in their own skin, to rejoice and celebrate life and God. Reply

David Kenya October 4, 2016

Thanks Rabbi for shining some light about wine.from your explanation, what I think I have learnt is that wine itself is not a sin but sin is how one uses the wine; the sin lies within a person and not in the wine.

I long to continue learning more from you Rabbi. Reply

Joe Wright Shepshed September 5, 2016

Very helpful..thank you and shalom. Reply

Anonymous April 26, 2016

Thank you! Reply

Anonymous January 1, 2016

I wonder what age Jewish children consume alcohol? Reply

Anonymous Canada December 17, 2015

I think that with the consideration that alcohol, just like drugs can be addicting, it's best to avoid them entirely. I have seen a lot of people who comment on the fact that they can control themselves, then get carried away and do the most absurd things while drunk, despite that they thought they could hold it in. Why drink in the first place? a devout follower would pray, do good things, feast and feed the needy in order to feel the thrill of being close to G-d. Isn't that what faith is all about? Or rather, the conviction of a true purpose is to do the things that are constructive for both yourself and those around you. A sip of a drink that has the potential to arouse addiction is not worth it. Reply

Tina Gravelle Ottawa October 23, 2017
in response to Anonymous:

I agree totally. People who want to drink alcohol will use any excuse to do do - and have an uncanny ability to justify their actions. Thank you for your thoughtful and accurate comments. Reply

Anonymous September 12, 2015

Protocols Notice that when people are given freedom, they use it to drink themselves senseless and behave like animals. We ourselves should avoid behaving like that. Reply

Llewellleo Austria April 28, 2015

Many of the beverages consumed by ancient Israelites might have had a lower degree of alcohol, nothing like the more refined beverages of today. One would have to consume huge volumes to make one drunk, more than one would be able to consume I believe. There were stronger drinks and these Israelites were encouraged to avoid, to not consume. Also new wine was generally consumed which would not have had a very high percentage of alcohol. The prophets and judges were not allowed to drink alcohol and the Lord gave them this commandment to be an example. Reply

Anonymous November 2, 2014

Everyone has their own opinion on alcohol. That's fine but what does the bible say? Going by just the bible (The word of god) it is permitted to use alcohol. It is prohibited to be drunk. So you can drink alcohol as long as you don't get drunk. Simple as that. Reply

John Sydney, Australia May 31, 2014

Like Anonymous from London, I find myself very critical of people who justify drinking for celebratory reasons, or for "relaxation", etc. I subconsciously look at these people like they are "weak" in some sense and lack self-control. Moreover, a person that professes righteousness yet turns to alcohol somehow hints of a deceptive personality.

Despite all this, my opinions may be heavily influenced by my perhaps genetic propensity to be sensitive to alcohol (where some scientists estimate over 50% of Jews to have a mutation in alcohol dehydrogenase). It could simply be that I cannot drink in a way that induces the same feelings as someone who enjoys a drink - and therefore cannot understand the pleasure that they feel. I admit I don't enjoy the company of drunkards but I really don't understand what they are feeling that's so pleasurable (I get nauseous).

In way it comes down to human empathy. Can non-drinkers ever feel truly inter-connected with drinkers or will they feel detached? Reply

Paul J. Huntsville Al. May 19, 2014

Be honest with yourself! Obviously, at least to me, G-d frowns on the use of Alcohol, especially by those who draw the closest to him. Thus, the prohibition for the Nazerite. If you were a priest in the temple you were a dead man if you were under the influence, and came into the presence of Hashem. Do you see the conflict here? Where is the common sense, Hello? Hello? Why are we still lying to ourselves about it to this day?

Those of us who are usually accustom to a certain level of spiritual intuition, and yet are familiar with a good Purim hangover, will be ESPECIALLY keen to notice that we are spiritually unclean, as there is a darkness that falls on a person for a time afterwards that is quite real I assure you.

It seems that drinking is tolerated to a certain degree due to the sinful weakness of man, but we do not warn people enough about what they are sacrificing for this empty thrill... Reply

Mark Cohen Guateng May 7, 2013

choice, its yours, even if you want to be abusive in the face of G_D Judaism is a wonderful religion.
Obey Mitzvas, learn Torah, get Married, have children.
Teach them Torah, and love of mankind.
Celebrate the holidays, and keep the Sabbath with the finest food and wine you can afford.
Give charity, help the sick, the poor, and be hospitable

It does not say, take many wives, take too many drinks, eat too much, be rude, use bad language, or discredit other humans.

Happy to be special.


Scientes February 16, 2013

I'm confused Dear Rabbi,

I was wondering where in the Torah one is permitted to consume alcohol in any form? Has its consumption always been legal/illegal throughout Jewish history?

Being Muslim I really want to learn more about my brothers in faith. I was wondering why G-d would permit Musa alais-salaam's people to drink? Reply

Mr.F.Koch The Hague, The Netherlands August 10, 2012

Alcohol is Intitoxant From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search A toxicant is a type of poison that is made by humans or introduced into the environment by human activity.[1] This is in contrast to a toxin, which is a poison produced naturally by an organism (e.g. plant, animal, insect).[2].
Background: Ethylene glycol (EG) and methanol are responsible for accidental, suicidal, and epidemic poisonings, resulting in death or permanent sequelae. Reply

Anonymous August 28, 2011

Judaism's rules on alcohol And so the answer, based on what G_d says, is...? I too want to convert, but I don't want someone's opinion on the booze issue. I want what the established historical religious text says. Either you can drink or you can't. Presently I do drink - a few beers or vodkas over a weekly bbq. Reply

Diane Kisela Cape Town, South Africa December 1, 2010

To Anonymous, London, UK I understand that you disagree with Rabbi Posner, but it is no reason to get rude and personal: "...are you mad?"

Please, let's have some respect for our fellow Jews and human beings and especially those charged with guiding and teaching us in the ways of our G-d.

This is a forum for discussion and exchange. I am learning about G-d and His people, as I want to convert and I find very useful and I thank G-d everyday for the team as well as the many users who post insightful comments.

Please, don't ruin this fantastic service for other users. Rather pray that G-d would continually guide and help the people who have brought us this wonderful resource.

Shalom and happy Chanukah to everyone! Reply

David King Halifax, Canada February 24, 2010

Balance The usage of any tool has with it the necessity of using it in a balanced way. And so, one can say that fire is useful in that it can heat your food and keep your house warm but someone with destructive intent can use the same exact tool and cause an entire town to burn down into a smouldering ruin of charcoal.

Even religious texts (a type of tool) can be used in imbalanced ways. They can sometimes be used to cling to and avoid introspection (which I feel is the opposite of what they should be used for).

And so I would suggest that it is always the intent of the use of any tool that is important. So our use of tools (anything) need to be balanced and if we aren't balanced, our usage will not be.

I suggest the reasonable use of alcohol can be a 'spiritual' tool and not just for celebrations with people but entirely alone.

Alcohol use isn't 'better' than everyday conscious state but it can allow different reception of 'patterns' of Reality in a quiet environment. Reply

Otto Heidingsfeld August 23, 2009

to the abolitionist in london: Do you think that the author is mad, or perhaps it is G-d who is mad? After all, He is the one who created alcohol in the first place... Reply

Anonymous London, UK August 22, 2009

contradictory You stated that "This obviously applies only when one drinks in moderation, and on special, holy occasions in an attempt to make them a bit more festive and to introduce an inspirational ambiance".

This is total nonsense. If you need to intoxicate yourself to be able to fully enjoy a holy celebration, it just shows how far you really are from your faith.

You say "to make them a bit more festive", well that is your own human innovation, to try and enjoy a holy occassion that you otherwise find boring.
You say "to create an inspirational ambience". wow, you should be a politician, very eloquently put, very impressive word play... but does that not mean in simple terms that drink allows you to lower your inhibitions and act without proper thinking?

Religion is about self control and discipline, and intoxicants create an opposite effect of what the Creator intends us to do.

You are trying to justify drinking alcohol as part of religion, are you mad ? Reply