As Purim approaches (less than two weeks to go!), here at JPulse we’re getting ready to ‘Party Deeply’ and ‘Venture Beneath the Mask’. When you come for the Purim party (Thursday March 24, kick-off at 5:30pm, 74 Corey Road, Brighton – see you there!), you may be somewhat (un)surprised to see so much wine flowing.
What’s with Jews and booze? Whether at a Kiddush, wedding, Brit Mila, a random le’chaim and especially on Purim, no Jewish celebration is complete without a bottle of the old Manischewitz. Do we just have a tradition of being drunkards (with bad taste)?! Could there be something a little deeper going on? Absolutely!
One of the unique properties of wine is that unlike other foods which deteriorate as time goes on (the moldy tomato that rolled under the fridge or the hairy slice of pizza that you found behind the kitchen counter should be proof enough!), wine actually improves as times goes on.
In fact, even more remarkable is that if you look at the whole process, you’ll notice something extraordinary. The grape itself is a mini wine-making factory. You may have noticed a powdery substance on the skin of grapes? That is natural yeast that a grape produces. When the grape is crushed and the yeast comes into contact with the juice, it feeds on the natural sugars, breaking them down and causing them to rot. After a short while, the acids which the yeast secrete in the process of decay turn into alcohol and from a rotten barrel of grape juice, a delicious wine emerges. What looked like a process of decomposition and destruction produced something wonderful.
On Purim, we commemorate a time that the Jewish People were decaying, as the wicked Haman pointed out “the Jews are sleeping from the Mitzvos”. Our heritage was slipping away before our very eyes and the richness of Jewish life and practice was relegated down to the bottom of our list of priorities. Not only that, but we were also under threat of annihilation by the great Persian Empire. However, from that lowly state, we came together in unison, stood up strong and declared our commitment to God and His Mitzvos, catapulting us to a state of unfathomable greatness.
There are many other occasions in our lives which provide us with the opportunity for introspection about where we’re holding and in what areas we can improve, which is why we have the constant reminder when we turn to the bottle on Shabbat, Holidays etc.
Recently, many companies have started writing on their alcoholic beverages the words “Drink Responsibly”. If a person appreciates that just as wine improves with age, we are also responsible for growing and becoming greater, then suddenly these words take on a whole different meaning. Drinking responsibly means that I am aware that I have a fundamental mission in life to constantly be trying to better myself and improve.
Let’s hope that this Purim, when we’re enjoying the fine wines, we can tap into this idea and GROW!