Some religions probit drinking alcohol and consuming caffeine. Is there any similar prohibition in Judaism?
The short answer is: No, there is no similar prohibition in Judaism.Consumption of alcohol and caffeine is permitted, and alcoholic drink, specifically wine, is the prescribed beverage for the celebration of Shabbat, the major festivals and various life cycle rituals, such as a wedding and a brit milah.The operative controlling principle associated with ritual and casual drinking is moderation.
Rabbi Gershom Barnard, spiritual leader of Congregation B'nai Avraham - Northern Hills Synagogue in Cincinnati, in a sermon he posted online, provides us with a very thorough presentation of the variety of opinions on this subject.I have excerpted key segments of his remarks which can be found below.The full text of his comments can re read online at http://www.jacsweb.org/article-gershombarnard.html .Additionally, Rabbi David Golinkin, President of the Schechter Institute in Jerusalem, has an enlightening responsum on the supposed “mitzvah” to drink excessively on Purim.That paper can be found at http://judaism.about.com/od/purim/a/purim_golinkin.htm .Both authors concur with the conclusions noted in the first paragraph, above.
Rabbi Joel Rembaum
Excerpted from: Rabbi Gershom Barnard: Judaism on Alcohol and Substance Abuse (1997)
Amid all the exciting stories in this morning's Torah portion - like the great flood and the Tower of Babel - a short passage in the middle is liable to be overlooked. That is chapter 9, verses 20 and 21: "Noah, the tiller of the soil, was the first to plant a vineyard. He drank of the wine and became drunk, and he uncovered himself within his tent." In its context in the Torah, this passage would seem to have two functions. One is to give an account of the beginning of viticulture, the cultivation of the grape vine and wine-making. The beginning of the Book of Genesis served our ancestors as an explanation of how various parts of their world came to be the way they were. The second function was to explain the relationships among various groups of people in terms of the behavior of Noah's sons, Shem, Ham, and Yaphet, toward their father when he was incapacitated. The different peoples of the Near East and its vicinity were supposed to be descended from Noah's sons, and the "pecking order", as understood by later Israelites, was established through this and other stories at the beginning of Sefer Bereshit. Our sages and commentators, besides explaining the matter of the sons' behavior, used the passage as an opportunity to comment on the problems associated with wine….
In presenting some Jewish religious teachings on the subject, let me first give you some halakhah (Jewish law) and then some aggadah (sayings or discursive material). There is nothing in Jewish law which prohibits the drinking of alcoholic beverages. In this respect, the rarity of Jewish teetotalers fits the tradition. Indeed, there are occasions when it might seem that drinking wine is required: kiddush at the beginning of Shabbat and Festivals, havdalah at their end, brises, weddings, and, of course, the seder. In fact, however, while there is a traditional preference for wine on such occasions, strictly speaking, grape juice may be used for any of them. This provision is very important to remember when we consider the dilemma of Jews with drinking problems, and it may keep us from airily dismissing arguments for total abstinence from alcohol….There are two occasions in the Jewish year when drinking in larger quantities might seem to be called for: Simhat Torah and Purim. The practice of drinking on Simha Torah is pure folklore, but, with regard to Purim, there is a passage in the Talmud, Megillah 7b, which holds that “On Purim a person should drink so much that he doesn't know the difference between ‘Blessed be Mordekhai and Cursed be Haman.’”However, whatever that passage may have meant in the context of the Talmud, the main thrust of Jewish law is not to take it literally; we are never required to get drunk. There is a negative law concerning drinking. The priests in the ancient Temple were not allowed to drink when they were "on duty", and, by extension, rabbis are not supposed to give halakhic decisions while under the influence of alcohol. The reason is fairly obvious, but it is worth making explicit, because of something that I shall say later. It is that teachers of Judaism have to make distinctions, between the sacred and the profane, between the permitted and the forbidden. Anything which impairs the faculty of judgment, which leads to a breaking down of boundaries, is a problem.
While the Jewish laws specifically relating to drinking are important, I believe that a more general Jewish law is the most relevant teaching on this subject. That is that we are forbidden to do anything which is harmful or dangerous. To do so is to violate the Torah's commandment of shmirat hanefesh, taking care of oneself. This commandment clearly proscribes excessive drinking, drinking before driving, taking of other drugs, and many people would add smoking cigarettes to the list. I believe that is the essential teaching; this law covers the permissibility of moderate drinking in general, the problem of excessive drinking, the case of individuals for whom even moderate drinking may be harmful or situations in which any drinking is a problem, and the use all kinds of other chemical substances as well.
There are two other Jewish laws which apply to some special cases. One is the mitzvah not to put a stumbling block before the blind. This mitzvah has been understood to prohibit playing to anyone's weakness. It teaches us not to give alcohol to someone who has a drinking problem, and not to give it to someone who might be driving soon. The last legal principle which I shall mention is dina d'malkhuta dina, the law of the government is law. That is, it is against Jewish law to violate the law of the country. There are some exceptions to this principle, but its applicability here is that, whatever we may think about the use of marijuana and some other drugs, if they are illegal, then their use is against Jewish law as well.
Let me now turn to some broader Jewish teachings, to aggadah. On the one hand, we read in Psalm 104:15, "Wine makes the human heart rejoice", and this thought was carried further by the Talmud (Pesahim 109a), "there is no joy except in wine". On the other hand, one Ubar the Galilean commented on our original passage (Sanhedrin 70a): "There are 13 instances of the letters vav-yud (which spell vay, or woe - in Hebrew as well as Yiddish) in the passage dealing with Noah and the wine." In the Midrash Bemidbar Rabbah 10:6-7, we read that wherever there is wine, there are lust and immorality. These sayings, and many others in the same vein, are consistent with the guarded attitude toward alcohol conveyed by the halakhah.
Let us now broaden our focus further, and consider some very general aspects of Judaism. One is a general ethical principle propounded by Maimonides in his Shemoneh Perakim, the introduction to the commentary on Pirkey Avot. There, the Rambam, obviously influenced by Aristotle, states that the right path is usually found in the middle. For example, it consists of neither complete abstinence from alcohol nor drunkenness. The Rambam recognizes, however, that people who are sick (either in body or in soul), must deviate from the mean in order to compensate for their sickness. For example, alcoholics or people who have trouble with drinking have to minimize drinking or abstain altogether. The second general observation is based on the point which I mentioned above - that the reason for the prohibition of a rabbi's teaching while intoxicated is the necessity of maintaining distinctions and boundaries. [It should be noted that Rambam also writes, in his law code, Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot De’ot, 3:1, that a Nazir who has vowed, among other things, not to drink wine, must offer a sin offering at the conclusion of the period of his vow because he has sinned by abstaining from wine, which is s gift from God which we should enjoy (JR).] The most characteristic Jewish form of spirituality is not reaching for mystic communion with God, perhaps through altered states of consciousness, but rather living our daily lives with the understanding that we have various responsibilities to fulfill, both toward god and toward other people. Fulfilling our responsibilities, doing mitzvot, with the consciousness that the metzaveh, the commander, is God, is the most characteristic Jewish way of drawing close to God. This is a very sober approach to life, in more senses than one. The theoretical Jewish approach to drinking, therefore, is a quite consistent teaching of moderation.
There is no prohibition of consumption of alchohol or caffiene, within moderation. Judaism practices utelization rather than denial. If something is kosher, it can be used. The one caveat is that it be used to serve G'd.
In other words, I can use this thing to make the world a better place somehow. If I cannot somehow incorporate the consumption into making the world a better place - then it's better not to consume it.
There are hundreds of references to wine in the Bible, and many in the Talmud. Almost ninety per cent of them allude to the proper use of wine. Only a handful deal with drunkenness or drinking to excess. There is even one tradition that says that on Purim one should drink until he cannot distinguish between the blessed Mordecai and the cursed Haman.
There are no references to caffeine in any Jewish writings.
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