An Introductory Overview to Drinking in the Jewish Tradition

For an introduction into some texts from the Bible and Rabbinic Literature, here is a selection.

ט֞וֹב לָלֶ֣כֶת אֶל־בֵּֽית־אֵ֗בֶל מִלֶּ֙כֶת֙ אֶל־בֵּ֣ית מִשְׁתֶּ֔ה בַּאֲשֶׁ֕ר ה֖וּא ס֣וֹף כָּל־הָאָדָ֑ם וְהַחַ֖י יִתֵּ֥ן אֶל־לִבּֽוֹ׃

It is better to go to a mourning-house, than to go to a drinking-house; for that is the end of all people, and the living will lay it to his heart.

לִשְׂחוֹק֙ עֹשִׂ֣ים לֶ֔חֶם וְיַ֖יִן יְשַׂמַּ֣ח חַיִּ֑ים וְהַכֶּ֖סֶף יַעֲנֶ֥ה אֶת־הַכֹּֽל׃

Bread is made for laughter, and wine gladdens life; and money answers everything.

וְיַ֤יִן ׀ יְשַׂמַּ֬ח לְֽבַב־אֱנ֗וֹשׁ לְהַצְהִ֣יל פָּנִ֣ים מִשָּׁ֑מֶן וְ֝לֶ֗חֶם לְֽבַב־אֱנ֥וֹשׁ יִסְעָֽד׃

And wine makes human hearts glad, making the face brighter than oil, and bread satiates the human heart.

תְּנוּ־שֵׁכָ֣ר לְאוֹבֵ֑ד וְ֝יַיִן לְמָ֣רֵי נָֽפֶשׁ׃

Give beer to the hapless,

and wine to those in bitter distress.

יַיִן וְשֵׁנָה

לָרְשָׁעִים, הֲנָאָה לָהֶן וַהֲנָאָה לָעוֹלָם,

וְלַצַּדִּיקִים, רַע לָהֶן וְרַע לָעוֹלָם.

Wine and sleep:

for the wicked, they are a benefit to them and a benefit for the world;

and for the righteous, they are bad for them and bad for the world.

אמר רבי אילעאי:

בשלשה דברים אדם ניכר - בכוסו ובכיסו ובכעסו

ואמרי ליה אף בשחקו

Rabbi Ila’ai said:

“With three things can a person be recognized: with his cup, with his pocket, and with his anger.”

And some say, “Even with his laughter.”