Wine Taster!

The story is told about a winemaker who asked the Karliner Rebbe to come to his winery to bestow a blessing on his business. The Rebbe arrived and was given a tour of the facility while the owner explained the detailed process of winemaking.

One of the Rebbe’s followers turned to the Rebbe and told him that he has the skill to taste any type of alcoholic beverage and is able to tell exactly how much alcohol it contains. The winemaker took the man at his word, and promptly poured a few glasses of various wines for him to taste to see if he indeed possessed the skill to determine the percentage of alcohol in each type of wine.

To their utter amazement, the man nailed it. He gave the exact and correct alcohol level and percentage for each type of wine he tasted.

The winemaker turned to the Rebbe in wonderment, “I studied the winemaking process in Paris for many years and I need expensive devices to determine the accuracy of the alcohol levels of each wine. How is it that this person with no education in the wine process has the ability to determine the precise levels?”

The Rebbe thought for a moment and explained, the difference between the two of you is although you studied and were educated in winemaking and you have vast professional knowledge, this person has been drinking wine for many years and by his tasting and absorbing the wine internally he became an expert.

In Song of Songs, King Shlomo states, “He brought me in the chamber of delightful wine.” Rabbi Shaul Alter asks, ‘Wine is associated with frivolity, so what does Shlomo Hamelech mean that G-d brought me to the chamber of wine?

He explains, ‘The Medrash tells us that the delightful chamber of wine which King Shlomo is a referring to, is the wine of Torah – not actual wine.’ Just as the person became an expert in alcohol levels through his exercise of tasting and drinking wine, so too, Shlomo Hamelech tells us, when one absorbs the message of Torah within themselves and lets it permeate them, rather than it being just an intellectual exercise, he will surely experience the delightful and uplifting effects of being intoxicated by G-d’s holy Torah!

This week’s Parsha discusses the unfortunate incident of the spies who were sent to Israel and came back with a frightening report, causing the people to fear advancing forward.

The spies’ mission lasted 40 days, and based on that, the Torah tells us that G-d punished the nation by having them spend a year in the desert for each day they spent spying the land.

Rabbi Chaim Shmuelevitz o.b.m. asks a very interesting question: If the sin of the spies was speaking negatively of the land, they should be punished for the time they spent speaking Lashon Harah. What does the 40 days they spent spying the land have to do with their actual sin?

Reb Chaim explains, we see from this incident that when one speaks negatively about another or in this case the land, G-d takes into consideration all the negative feelings and outlook that led the person to actually speak Lashon Harah. If the spies would have looked at things objectively, they would have understood how G-d was orchestrating all the peculiar events that were happening to the people as G-d’s way of distracting them from discovering the spies. However, due to the spies skewed and subjective stance it prevented them from seeing the Hand of G-d and the good of the land.

Therefore, when G-d punished the spies and the people for believing them and not trusting in His promise, He took into consideration the forty days of negativity that led to their sin of speaking ill of the land.

Perhaps we can extend Reb Chaim’s idea to when we speak positively about others or promote Hashem’s Torah and Mitzvos. When we speak positively of others and thereby encourage them – we not only have the Mitzvah of love toward the other that we are displaying at that time, we also have the merit of all the positivity and good eye that we have invested, and the reward is compounded exponentially. For we are taught, G-d magnifies His goodness towards us far more than when He reprimands us.

The ten bad spies approached their mission in a rational and logical way. While this works well for normal espionage, when dealing with a destination where G-d Himself guaranteed success, intelligence does not play a role. Yehoshua and Calev were inspired by internalizing G-d’s guarantee of taking the nation into the land and protecting them no matter how powerful or vicious the Cannanites were. They were able to see and perceive all the good that G-d was doing for them!

Yehoshua and Calev, the two good spies, were handsomely rewarded for seeing and reporting the good of the land.