SALT - Motzaei Shabbat, October 6, 2019

  • Rav David Silverberg
            We read in Parashat Noach that after Noach emerged from the ark following the flood, he offered animals as a sacrifice, and God “smelled the fragrant scent” of the sacrifice and then decided He would never again flood the earth (8:21). 
            The Gemara in Masekhet Eiruvin (65a), citing this verse, comments, “Whoever is lured as a result of his wine has within him the mind of his Creator.”  Chazal here draw a comparison between God’s “softening” His approach to the world upon “smelling” Noach’s sacrifices, and somebody who yields to his fellow as a result of inebriation.  The Gemara appears to praise those whose indulgence in wine results in greater flexibility and willingness to grant other people’s wishes, and compares such conduct to God’s favorable response to Noach’s sacrifice.  This comment raises several questions, including the question of why this is admirable, and how it is possible to indicate – as the Gemara appears to do – that God was somehow “inebriated” by Noach’s sacrifice and thus “lured” to make His promise never to bring another flood.
            One approach to explaining the Gemara’s remark is cited by the Or Ha-chayim in the name of his grandfather.  The Or Ha-chayim explains that the Gemara here speaks of wine in the possessive form – “yeino” (“his wine”), suggesting an emphasis on the wine’s belonging to the person in question.  Meaning, the Gemara is referring to a person who becomes softened and more generous after drinking his own wine.  The Or Ha-chayim explains that this speaks of a host who asks his guess to pour him a cup of wine at his table, and feels genuinely grateful and indebted to the guest for this favor.  Even though the guest simply gave him that which was already his, nevertheless, the host appreciates this small favor.  This quality, the Or Ha-chayim writes, is “Godlike.”  After all, as in the case of Noach’s offering, God lovingly accepts our sacrifices and rewards us for them even though He already owns anything we “give” Him.  Any sacrifice we make is, in some sense, similar to the cup of the host’s wine brought to Him by his guest.  The Gemara thus teaches us to feel deep appreciation for the small favors people do and the gestures they make, just as God appreciates our “favors” and gestures.  The message being conveyed, according to the Or Ha-chayim, is that we should not reserve our feelings of gratitude and indebtedness for the enormous favors people do for us.  We should be grateful even for the seemingly small, simple acts of kindness from which we benefit – even something as simple as our guest pouring our beverage for us – just as God cherishes and rewards us for even the small, simple mitzva acts that we do.