The end of December is a festive time of year. Regardless of religious beliefs, most people in North America are swept up into the celebrations of the season, if only because of the legal holidays and the days off from work.

Included in the festivities are, of course, the parties, both social and the not-to-be-missed office holiday party. As we know from the abundant ads and warnings at this time of year, alcoholic drinks are often free-flowing.

Drinking is one of humankind’s oldest pleasures, or one of its oldest vices – depending on your perspective. Indeed, Noah had barely set foot on the newly dried earth after the flood when he planted a vineyard (a fact that the Torah does not consider to be to his credit). Yet, while drunkenness, which was Noah’s goal, is frowned upon, the consumption of wine is a basic fact of Jewish life. Almost every celebration or festival is sanctified by a blessing over a full cup of wine.

As in most things, moderation is the appropriate path. For those, however, who would like specific guidelines, it may surprise you to know that this, too, is a subject discussed in the Talmud (Eruvin 64b):

When are people considered slightly intoxicated and when are they considered drunk? They are considered slightly intoxicated if they are capable of speaking before a king [able to speak coherently to a person who is held in awe]. People are considered drunk if they are unable to speak before a king.

Of course, most of us have little contact with royalty. Nevertheless, we can understand it clearly from a more mundane perspective: How would a person behave in front of his/her boss?

This Treat was originally published on Friday, December 30, 2008.

Copyright © 2011 National Jewish Outreach Program. All rights reserved.

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