The Hebrew Bible includes both praise for and warnings about alcohol. Even a Nazirite has to bring a sacrifice at the end of his vow period (which includes a prohibition against wine) to atone for having given up a legitimate worldly pleasure. In Jewish observance, you really can’t be fully part of the program if you abstain. Maimonides includes drinking wine as a required feature of festival observance, for men, not only on Passover with its required four cups. Chabad Chasidic custom leans toward vodka, as do I.
I thought of this in light of yesterday’s beer summit at the White House. As I was driving home from work, a caller to the Michael Savage show (which I find myself increasingly enjoying, to my surprise) noted that at the Obama-sponsored meeting between Professor Gates and Sergeant Crowley, only Crowley appeared to be drinking his beer. Obama and Gates each sipped delicately or not at all from a light beer. Biden had a low-alcohol brew, and appeared to disdain even that. At least this is how things went before the press was escorted away.
I obviously understand if someone, like President Bush, had a drinking problem and overcame it by giving up the stuff entirely. But a man who just never enjoyed it at all? To me, frankly, that raises questions. Just questions, that’s all. Especially if he goes around with a bit of a sour lemon look on his face. Psychologists including William James and Carl Jung saw a link between alcohol and spirituality. Booze can be a cheap substitute. It can also be an enhancer. It takes the edge off a world that is objectively harsh. If you don’t see that the world is that way, or if it doesn’t affect you, well I find that curious.
To a small extent, this may even apply to women. When I was single and took a girl out for dinner, I always knew it wasn’t going anywhere if she ordered a water to drink. Or am I unfairly prejudiced?