“Noah, the tiller of the soil, planted a vineyard” [Genesis 9:20]. Was he the first to discover the secret of producing wine? Rashi explains that Noah took with him saplings of grapevines and figs to the ark, but he does not draw a conclusion that before the flood Noah was a drinker. It is possible that generations of farmers from Cain to Noah planted vines only in order to eat grapes without producing wine. The Bible tells us about Noah’s drunkenness without condemning him: “He drank of the wine and became drunk” and that as a result of his drunkenness “he uncovered himself within his tent” (Genesis 9:21). Since the expulsion from the Garden of Eden it is considered a shame for humans to walk around naked, but it is to Noah’s credit that he did it privately, within his tent.
Even If Noah had not known before the flood how to make wine, we understand his need to get drunk NOW, and necessity is a trigger for new inventions… Noah’s need to get drunk was caused by two reasons: The first one is the GUILT he felt for surviving the flood – Did he do everything he could to warn people about the forthcoming catastrophe? Weren’t there any other righteous people in the world who should have been kept alive? Could he at least save a few innocent babies? The sights and cries of thousands of people drowning, the stress of week after week sailing without any destination in an ark of which he had no control – All these were a terrible burden on his memories and conscience –a common reason for getting drunk.
Another reason: Presently the world is empty of human beings except his family. Noah feels that he accomplished his life’s mission: To save the human race and animals from total extinction. His children and grandchildren have grown up and can replace him in the agricultural work… Hence he has no reason to stay sober…
Some wine “cheers the heart of man (Psalm 104:15), but when a person is “lost or bitter” (Proverbs 31:7) drinking wine does not cheer him, but causes him to “forget his misery” (ibid).
There is a clear hint of the connection between alcohol-drinking and sexual promiscuity in the stories of Noah and Lot, and in the rabbinic midrash over the connection between two consecutive issues in Num. chapters 5, 6 –The ‘Sotah’ (deviant woman) and the Nazirite vow against wine-drinking.
We live in an ecological Pre-flood Era! A deluge can wipe out millions of people from the face of the earth. The global warming, defrosting hundreds of square kilometers of glaciers, changes in the weather caused by pollution, are not based on speculations of frightened scientists, it is a reality! To ignore the reality by taking drugs and drinking alcohol may delay the coping of the human race with the ecological dangers that already began effecting world’s health. If we do not wake up and fight for saving the water we drink and the air we breathe, soon a modern Noah will build a space-ark that will bring the few survivors to another planet, where the balance between hot and cold, summer and winter, water and air will be preserved…
It is time for the human-race to wake up from our power-drunkenness.
Rabbi Gil Nativ