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Laws of Religion

Laws of Judaism Concerning Food

 

12.  Intoxicating Drinks

 

from the Biblical Books of Moses (Torah)

and the Code of Maimonides (Mishneh Torah)

 

 

Intoxicating Drinks

From the Biblical Books of Moses (Torah)

 

Aaron and his descendents (the priests of the Temple) are forbidden from drinking wine or any other intoxicant before going into the Holy Tabernacle (later the Temple in Jerusalem). This is so they will be able to teach the Laws of Israel and be able to tell the difference between what is holy and not holy and between what is pure and what is impure.[1]

 

 

Intoxicating Drinks

Jewish Law (Halakha) from the Code of Maimonides (Mishneh Torah)

 

(Editor’s note: The issue of what wine may be consumed and what wine may not be consumed is discussed on the next page, 13. Idol-Worshippers, Non-Jews and Food.)

 

Making decisions when one is drunk is forbidden. However, if the decision to be made is one concerning a well-known point of law, such as that consuming blood is prohibited, then it can be made even by a person who is drunk.[2] A declaration of marriage is valid even if the man who makes the declaration is very drunk when he makes it. If he is as drunk as Lot was, however, it is invalid.[3] (Editor’s note: This refers to the Biblical story at Genesis 19:30-38 in which Lot’s daughters got him drunk and then seduced him). As a general rule, a person who has reached Lot’s state of intoxication is not responsible for any vows or actions, including transgressions of the law.[4]

 

A priest who had drunk too much wine was not permitted perform a priestly blessing.[5] If a priest who had drunk too much wine entered the inner areas of the Temple in Jerusalem, his ministry there would be invalid and he would incur death at the hand of heaven (which included a flogging).[6] If he was drunk from something other than wine, his ministry was valid but he would be punished by flogging.[7] Maimonides says that it appears to him that a drunk priest who entered or departed from the place where the Altar was in the Temple would be subject to a flogging even if he had not performed a service.[8] The prayer of a person who is drunk is an invalid abomination and must be repeated when the person is sober. He should not pray even if he is only slightly drunk, but in that circumstance his prayer is valid.[9]

 

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Laws of Religion is a project of the Religion Research Society.

 

Updated October 17, 2016

 

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Abbreviations used in footnotes:

Gen: The Biblical book of Genesis.

Exod: The Biblical book of Exodus.

Lev: The Biblical book of Leviticus.

Num: The Biblical Book of Numbers.

Deut: The Biblical Book of Deuteronomy.

MT:  The Mishneh Torah of Maimonides (Code of Maimonides). The names of the specific books and treatises within each book are given according to the Yale University Press translation and also the Moznaim/Touger Hebrew transliterations to facilitate locating the texts posted here.

F:  indicates page numbers in the Feldheim Publishers, Ltd., translation of Book 1 of the Mishneh Torah of Maimonides, the Book of Knowledge.

M:  indicates page numbers in the relevant volume of the Moznaim Publishing Corporation’s Touger translation. (Some of the books of Mishneh Torah are published in several volumes by Moznaim, so the Moznaim volume numbers do not correspond to the Book numbers of Maimonides’ work.)

Y:  indicates page numbers in the translation of the Yale University Press Judaica Series.

●  The sources cited are described on the page Source Texts Used for Laws of Judaism.

 



[1] Lev 10:8-11

[2] MT Book 8, The Book of Temple Service, Sefer Ha’Avodah; Treatise 3 on Entrance into the Sanctuary, Bi’at HaMikdash; Chapter I sec 3 (pages 216-218M 85Y)

[3] MT Book 4, The Book of Women, Sefer Nashim; Treatise 1 on Marriage, Ishut; Chapter 4, sec 18 (pages 52M 27Y)

[4] MT Book 6, The Book of Asservations, Sefer Hafla’ah; Treatise 3 on Nazariteship, Nizirut; Chapter 1, sec 12 (pages 244M 122Y)

[5] MT Book 2, The Book of Love, Sefer Ahava; Treatise 2 on Prayer and the Priestly Blessing, Tefilah u’Virkat Cohanim; Chapter 14, sec 1 (pages 188M 66Y); MT Book 2, The Book of Love; Sefer Ahava; Treatise 2 on Prayer and the Priestly Blessing, Tefilah u’Virkat Cohanim; Chapter 15, sec 4 (pages 214-216M 70-71Y); MT Book 8, The Book of Temple Service, Sefer Ha’Avodah; Treatise 3 on Entrance into the Sanctuary, Bi’at HaMikdash; Chapter 1, sec 1 (pages 216M 85Y)

[6] MT Book 8, The Book of Temple Service, Sefer Ha’Avodah; Treatise 3 on Entrance into the Sanctuary, Bi’at HaMikdash;  Chapter 1, sec 1 (pages 206M 85Y)

[7] MT Book 8, The Book of Temple Service, Sefer Ha’Avodah; Treatise 3 on Entrance into the Sanctuary, Bi’at HaMikdash; Chapter 1, sec 2 (pages 216M 85Y)

[8] MT Book 8, The Book of Temple Service, Sefer Ha’Avodah; Treatise 3 on Entrance into the Sanctuary, Bi’at HaMikdash; Chapter 1, secs 15-16 (pages 222M 88Y)

[9] MT Book 2, The Book of Love, Sefer Ahava; Treatise 2 on Prayer, Chapter 4, sec 17 (pages 176M 29Y)