1) THE THIRTEEN WOES CAUSED BY WINE
QUESTION: The Gemara says that wine was put into the world only to console the mourners (by cheering them up) and to punish the evildoers (by having them overindulge and receive their pleasure in this world and lose any reward that they might have deserved in Olam ha'Ba). The Gemara cites a Derashah that says that the word "Vai" ("woe") is alluded to thirteen times in the verse that describes Noach's planting of a vineyard and becoming intoxicated, and the evils that resulted. Why are there specifically thirteen "woes"?
ANSWER: The TORAS CHAIM explains that since there are Thirteen Midos of Rachamim -- the Midos with which Hash-m has mercy on this world, when Hash-m rewards Tzadikim in the World to Come the reward involves luxuries that come in sets of thirteen (Ta'anis 25a; Midrash Rabah, end of Chayei Sarah). Thirteen is also the Gematriya of the word "Ahavah."
A Rasha, through his evil acts, takes the Rachamim that Hash-m wants to direct to the world and prevents it from being expressed. He thereby turns the Thirteen Midos of Rachamim into manifestations of punishment (Din). This is particularly true of the Rasha who sins through the misuse of wine. Wine was placed into the world for the purpose of Rachamim -- to console the mourners. Furthermore, through wine's ability to bring a person to Simchah, it is also able to make a person wiser and help him understand Torah, as Rava says here, and as the Gemara in Shabbos (30b) teaches when it says that the Nevi'im were able to reach levels of Nevu'ah only through Simchah. The Rasha, on the other hand, misuses this wine and turns it into a vehicle of sin through his overindulgence. That is why the verse calls the evil drunkard one who is "Oved" ("lost"), which has a Gematriya of thirteen. This implies that he has taken the element that represents Rachamim and misdirected it, preventing the Thirteen Midos of Rachamim from being expressed in the world. As a consequence, he is punished by having those Midos of Rachamim converted into thirteen manifestations of punishment. Those are the thirteen "woes." (Thirteen times the Gematriya of "Vai" (16) equals 208, which is the Gematriya of "Yitzchak," who represents the Midah of Gevurah and Din of Hash-m. Yitzchak, through the Akeidah, was able to deflect the Gevurah and Din of Hash-m and convert it back to Rachamim, as expressed in the morning Tefilos before Pesukei d'Zimra and in the Shemoneh Esreh of Rosh Hashanah, in which we ask Hash-m to turn His Midah of Din into Rachamim in the merit of Avraham's offering of Yitzchak at the Akeidah.)
This might also be related to the Gemara in Megilah (15b) which says that Haman had 208 sons. This means that he aroused the Din (represented by the number 208, as mentioned above) upon himself by causing the Jewish people to sin with wine at the first banquet of Achashverosh, and by coming to Esther's "Mishteh Yayin," her wine party. The Gemara says that Esther was hoping to arouse the Midas ha'Din against Haman by having him overindulge in wine. (M. KORNFELD)
2) AGADAH: WINE AND AROMATIC SPICES MADE ME WISE
Rava taught that if a person is careful and controls his consumption of wine and does not overindulge, he will merit that it will make him rejoice. RASHI explains that it will bring him happiness because wine makes one wiser. The Gemara supports Rava's statement from his own testimony that "wine and aromatic spices made me wise."
RAV NAFTALI MARYLES of LITOVISK, the son of the Yoruslaver Rebbe, Rav Shimon Maryles, wrote that he heard in the name RAV MORDECHAI ZE'EV ORENSTEIN the following explanation of Rava's statement. The Gemara in Menachos (87a) quotes Rebbi Yochanan who states that Dibur, speech, is harmful to wine (speaking in the vicinity of wine tends to harm the wine), while speech is beneficial to aromatic spices.
It is the wise person who is careful only to speak when it is necessary to speak, and he watches what he says when he does speak (see Megilah 18a). Accordingly, wine and aromatic spices train a person to be wise by requiring him to refrain from speaking in the presence of wine, and by encouraging him to speak in the presence of aromatic spices. This is the intention of the words, "Wine and aromatic spices made me wise" -- by requiring me to control my speech. (SEFER AYALAH SHELUCHAH, republished in 5761 by Rabbi Ari Maryles)
3) AGADAH: FOUR WHO SINNED WITH WINE
The Gemara relates that both Adam and Noach sinned with wine. Noach sinned by planting a vineyard and becoming intoxicated soon after he left the Teivah. Adam sinned with wine by eating from the Etz ha'Da'as, according to the opinion that the Etz ha'Da'as was a grapevine.
The SHELAH HA'KODESH (Parshas Shemini) explains that the sins of Adam and Noach were part of a set of four punishments that corresponded to the experiences of the four Tana'im who attempted to comprehend the deep secrets of the essence of Hash-m (Chagigah 14b). The Gemara in Chagigah relates that four Tana'im attempted to enter the "Pardes." Literally, a "Pardes" means an orchard of grapevines or other fruit-bearing trees. The word is used figuratively to allude to the higher levels of knowledge and understanding of the Divine. Of the four Tana'im, only one returned unscathed.
Elisha ben Avuyah became a sinner and his Emunah was weakened as a result of his delving into the Divine secrets and not properly comprehending them. Ben Zoma lost his intellectual faculties as a result of the experience. Ben Azai died prematurely. Only Rebbi Akiva "entered in peace and left in peace."
(These three punishments -- Elisha ben Avuyah's weakened Emunah, Ben Zoma's loss of his mind, and Ben Azai's premature death -- correspond to the three cardinal sins which are the root of all sin -- Avodah Zarah, Giluy Arayos, and Shefichus Damim, respectively. Each of the three were found to be somewhat lacking to a certain degree in one of those categories. Elisha ben Avuyah was affected by the sins connected to Avodah Zarah, and that is why his Emunah weakened. Ben Zoma was affected by the sins related to Giluy Arayos, about which the Gemara (Sotah 3a) says that a person does not sin (through immoral relations) unless he is overcome by a spirit of foolishness (whereby he loses his intellectual faculties). Ben Azai was affected by the sins related to Retzichah, murder, and that is why he was punished with premature death. -M. KORNFELD)
The Shelah ha'Kodesh explains that four incidents in the early history of the Jewish people were precursors to the experience of the four Tana'im in the "Pardes." Adam ha'Rishon's sin through drinking wine represented his attempt to reach higher understandings (Etz *ha'Da'as*) of Hash-m. He suffered the same fate as Elisha ben Avuyah, as the Gemara says earlier (38b) that Adam ha'Rishon manifested traits of heresy. Noach's drunkenness was also an attempt to enter the "Pardes." He suffered the fate of Ben Zoma, losing his mind, and he became so intoxicated that he was subject to defilement at the hands of his son. Nadav and Avihu, the sons of Aharon, sinned (according to the Midrash) by entering the Mikdash while they were intoxicated. This again means that they attempted to achieve a level of understanding of Hash-m's ways which they were not fit to comprehend. Their punishment was that they died prematurely, like Ben Azai.
In contrast, Avraham Avinu also attempted to enter the "Pardes." He "entered in peace and left in peace." The verse alludes to this when it says that he built an "Eshel" in Be'er Sheva, meaning that he built a vineyard.
Four later groups attempted to rectify the sins of the earlier ones. Those are the four groups that received the Torah from Moshe Rabeinu, as the Mishnah in the beginning of Avos teaches. Moshe Rabeinu gave the Torah to Yehoshua, who gave it to the Zekenim, who gave it to the Nevi'im, who gave it to the Anshei Keneses ha'Gedolah. (Moshe Rabeinu is not included in the group, since it was his natural place to be in the "house" of Hash-m, and he did not need to exit and return.) Yehoshua corresponded to Avraham Avinu (and to Rebbi Akiva later), because he was the closest disciple of Moshe Rabeinu and he was able to receive the Torah she'Ba'al Peh from Moshe. As the Gemara in Bava Basra (78a) says, Yehoshua's face shined with a degree of the shine of Moshe Rabeinu's face. The Zekenim (according to Rashi, end of Shemos) were punished at Har Sinai when the Torah was given, and they were required to stay among the rest of the Jewish people who could stand only around the mountain and could not approach the mountain. At the time of Matan Torah, they were the ones who represented the Jewish people when they asked Moshe Rabeinu to listen to the word of Hash-m by himself instead of the entire people hearing it, since they felt that they would die if they continued to hear Hash-m speak to them. The Midrash says that when the people heard the word of Hash-m, their Neshamos left their bodies and returned only when Hash-m brought down upon them the dew that resuscitates the dead. This rectified what occurred to Nadav and Avihu (and later, to Ben Azai), because even though the Zekenim died, they came back to life and lived in the times of Yehoshua.
The Nevi'im rectified what happened to Noach (and later to Ben Zoma). Although a Navi who receives a Nevu'ah loses all control over his actions and acts as if he has lost control of his faculties, it is a temporary state that is brought upon him in order to enable his mind to achieve prophecy.
The Anshei Keneses ha'Gedolah rectified what happened to Adam ha'Rishon (and later to Elisha ben Avuyah). The Gemara (64a) teaches that the Anshei Keneses ha'Gedolah annulled the Yetzer ha'Ra to serve Avodah Zarah and to reject Hash-m.
4) BREAD OF GRAIN
QUESTION: The Beraisa teaches that at the time of the Ibur Chodesh, the Beis Din would make a festive meal at which they would eat only "Pas Dagan v'Kitnis," bread of grain and legumes. RASHI asks why the Beraisa needs to say that they ate "Pas *Dagan*." Pas, bread, is always made from grain! Moreover, the Gemara itself says immediately afterward that at the meal of Ibur Chodesh, they would eat "Pas v'Kitnis," leaving out the word "Dagan." Rashi leaves this question unanswered.
ANSWER: The RASHASH explains the Gemara as follows. The Mishnah in Bava Metzia (83a) relates that Rebbi Yochanan ben Masya instructed his son to tell his workers that he accepts upon himself to feed them "Pas v'Kitnis." The Gemara there (87a) asks whether the Mishnah reads "Pas Kitnis" or "Pas v'Kitnis" -- did he say "Pas *and* Kitnis," or did he say that he would feed them "Pas made out of Kitnis"? (See TOSFOS there.) The Gemara there seems to be asking whether "Pas Kitnis," bread made out of Kitnis, is considered a fair meal to give to one's workers, or whether it is too inferior to give to them.
The Beraisa here maintains that "Pas Kitnis" is an inferior food and is not fit for a normal meal, and therefore it inserts the word "Pas *Dagan* v'Kitnis" in order to ensure that there is no ambiguity about what food is considered a fair meal. (If the Beraisa had said merely "Pas v'Kitnis," it would have been possible for that phrase to evolve into "Pas Kitnis," thereby misleading one into thinking that Pas made out of Kitnis is a fair meal.) The Beraisa therefore makes it clear that Pas Kitnis is not a fair meal, coming to the same conclusion as the Gemara in Bava Metzia, which concludes that Rebbi Yochanan ben Masya offered his workers Pas *Dagan* and Kitnis.