This week's Parshah discusses the laws of a sotah and then immediately afterwards teaches the laws of a nazir. The sotah is a woman who is suspected of adultery; the nazir is a person who voluntarily vows to abstain, for a specified period of time, from wine and haircuts and to avoid becoming ritually impure through contact with a dead body.

Based on the juxtaposition of these topics, our sages teach us that whoever sees a sotah experiencing her degradation1 will realize that such illicit behavior is often a result of drinking too much alcohol, and will vow to become a nazir and abstain from wine.2

In some circumstances, the drinking of wine is considered praiseworthy, or even mandatoryIn relation to this, the following are some the Torah's views on alcohol consumption.

In some circumstances, the drinking of wine is considered praiseworthy, or even mandatory. This is true for kiddush, havdalah, the four cups of the Passover seder and many other "cups of blessing," such as the cup of wine over which the sheva berachot for a bride and groom are recited, and the wine of the Brit Milah.

In addition, it is considered an obligation for men to drink wine every day of Yom Tov and Chol Hamoed (the "intermediate days" of Passover and Sukkot).3

Despite this, or perhaps because of this, our sages warned us many times of the dangers of excessive alcohol consumption. King Solomon writes in the book of Proverbs4: "Who has wounds without cause? Who has bloodshot eyes? Those who sit late over wine, those who come to search for mixed wine. Do not look at wine when it is red; when he puts his eye on the cup, it goes smoothly. Ultimately, it will bite like a serpent, and sting like a viper. Your eyes will see strange women, and your heart will speak confusedly."

Our sages tell us in the Midrash that drinking wine in excess can lead to transgressing the laws of Family Purity, issuing improper rulings on Torah matters, and impoverishment. 5

Here are some negative events that are attributed to the drinking of wine:

1) Our sages say that the original sin of Adam and Eve involved wine, as the Tree of Knowledge was actually (according to one opinion) a grape vine.6

2) After Noah successfully survived the flood, he made grapes his first crop and is faulted for doing so. The inebriation which followed resulted in immodest behavior and ultimately led to his inability to have more children, as well as the curse which came to the descendants of Canaan.7

3) The excessive drinking of Lot led him to commit incest.8

4) At the time of the consecration of the Tabernacle in the desert, the two elder sons of Aaron the High Priest drank wine. As a result, their judgment was impaired, and they sinned by entering the Holy of Holies without permission. Their punishment was death.9

One of the reasons why the Ten Tribes were exiled was their excessive alcohol consumption5) One of the reasons given for why the ten tribes of Israel were exiled from the Land of Israel (by the Assyrian King Sennaherib, during the First Temple Era) was their excessive alcohol consumption. As the prophet Amos says10: "Woe to those who are at ease in Zion and to those who are secure in the mountain of Samaria… Who drink from basins of wine, and with the first oils they anoint themselves, and they feel no pain concerning the destruction of Joseph. Therefore, now they shall go into exile at the head of the exiles, and the banquet of the haughty shall pass away."

The following rules apply to a person who has drunk a revi'it (approximately 3 oz.) or more of wine – or other alcoholic beverages that have a similar effect – and is still feeling the effect:

1) He may not pray.11

2) He may not render a halachic ruling.12

3) If he is a kohen, he may not administer the priestly blessing.13

Although a chassidic farbrengen (gathering) is traditionally accompanied by the saying of "l'chaims," the Rebbe instructed that the number of alcoholic drinks should not exceed four per person (for people under the age of forty).14

May we soon merit the coming of Moshiach, at which time we will be blessed with wine, as the verse15 says: "And it shall come to pass on that day that the mountains shall drip with wine, and the hills shall flow with milk, and all the springs of Judah shall flow with water, and a spring shall emanate from the house of the Lord and water the valley of Shitim."