Friday, March 29, 2024

Parshas Tzav 5784




Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Tzav/Parah

19 Adar II 5784/ March 29, 2024



Recently, one of our neighbors joined us for a Shabbos Seudah. The neighbor appreciates fine wine and gave us a bottle as a gift. It’s always a bit uncomfortable for me when I’m gifted with a bottle of wine, as the extent of my appreciation of wine doesn’t go much beyond Cream Malaga, Bartenura, and Asti. I do not understand when people swoosh their wine in their glasses or any other ‘wine etiquette’.

Of course, I thanked my neighbor for the bottle but admitted that I didn’t have much of a taste for it. He poured me a bit and insisted that it went down very smoothly, and I should try a bit. I humored him and drank a bit of the wine. It tasted very much like all the other expensive dry wines I have ever drank. Please pass the soda.

My neighbor and I began discussing the intricacies of producing wine. He noted that not only do wines produced from different locations have a different taste, but even wines produced by grapes in the same vineyard can have different tastes. The exact amount of water, sunlight and climate all impact the taste of the wine.

My neighbor pointed to the indentation on the bottom of the wine bottle and asked me if I knew why it was there. When I replied that I assumed it was because the wine companies were cheap and wanted to save money, he almost gagged. His annoyance with my naive response was noticeable. It was as if he felt he had to defend the honor of fine wines throughout the world.

He explained that the indentation, called a punt, serves an important purpose. True wine connoisseurs are extremely sensitive to anything that can alter the taste of the wine. When a person grasps a bottle of wine, the body heat in the fingers can subtly affect the taste of the wine. To prevent that, the server places his thumb in the punt under the bottle and grasps the bottle with his other fingers wrapped in a cloth. Then he pours the wine without his fingers coming into direct contact with the bottle.


When one drinks alcohol, it heightens whatever emotions he was feeling beforehand. If he is happy, his happiness will become more extreme, and he may begin to sing and dance. But if he is sad, his sadness will likely deepen as well.

The celebrations of Purim and Pesach are both inextricably connected to wine. Aside from the more basic connections, these two holidays are particularly emotional celebrations of our national pride.

They are also both celebrations of our uniqueness as a people. When Achashveirosh invited all citizens of Shushan to his party, many Jews attended feeling that they - Jew and gentile alike – were all equal subjects of the king. But Haman starkly reminded them that the Jew is not the same. We are special, whether we want to be or not.

Pesach celebrates when a band of hapless slaves were redeemed from amidst the immoral world superpower. It became clear then that the formerly enslaved nation was a nation of royalty.

On Seder night, we commemorate the four levels of freedom by drinking four cups of wine. Meshech Chochma explains that it is particularly on wine that we commemorate these expressions because, more than any other food or drink, wine symbolizes the uniqueness of the Jewish People. The Gemara (Megillah 13b) relates that Haman maligned the Jews by telling Achashveirosh that if a fly would fall into a Jew's cup of wine, the Jew would fish out the fly and drink the wine. However, if the king would touch the Jew’s cup, the Jew would spill out the wine.

To enjoy wine, it’s not only about the taste and texture of the wine itself, but also how it’s handled.

It seems that our enemies, and even some of our “friends”, just don’t get it. Those who mishandle the Jewish people, or tamper with the Jewish people may initially be successful and may hurt us badly. But, rest assured, they’ll end up where all our previous enemies have ended up.

At the same time, the Jewish people will continue to raise their glasses of wine at the Seder and proclaim in v’hee sheamdah, “In every generation they have stood upon us to destroy us, and the Holy One, blessed is He, saved us from their hands.”


Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,

R’ Dani and Chani Staum