Wine can be a double-edged sword and as such a metaphor for many things that can be either a blessing or a curse. It can be associated with sanctification or desecration and defilement. It has a very dark side associated with drunken excess, licentiousness, depravity, immorality, idol worship, evil and frightening ritualism and of course the addictive tragedy of alcoholism.
It can also be used in a kosher way and represent kedusha (holiness).
Wine can be a metaphor for a completed and perfected human life.
It starts off as a simplistic and immature product (grape juice represents childhood), but must go through fermentation (struggle represents the challenge of evil); and only then does it become the mature product, wine. Jews use it on occasions where they celebrate certain milestones in life, like marriage; circumcision; or, at times, like Shabbos (Sabbath), which represents a taste of the final product of human life, the Olam-Ha-Ba (World to come).
Cheers! Salud! Skoal! Kampai! Umpah! Prosit! Na zdorovia!
There are many toasts and drinking salutations around the world: Cheers! Salud! Skoal! Kampai! Umpah! Prosit! Na zdorovia!, represent some but Jews the world over use one Hebrew word:
“L’chaim!” - Literally, “to life.”
It is said as a salutation and a promise of hopeful blessing. Even when suffering poverty, cruelty and state sponsored tyranny Judaism draws strength from a celebration of life. In a glaring repudiation of the mistaken and truly absurd claim that poverty somehow causes terrorism, there is faith, hope, dignity, love and pride.
I recognize the following reflects more Hollywood than history but the narrative is consistent with the attitude and the view of what are arguably the most historically victimized people on the planet. Many are familiar with the popular song from Fiddler on the Roof. Selected lyrics follow:
“To life, to life, L’chaim.
L'chaim, L’chaim, to life.
Here's to the father I tried to be!
Here's to my bride to be!
Life has a way of confusing us,
Blessing and bruising us.
God would like us to be joyful,
Even when our hearts lie panting on the floor.
But how much more can we be joyful
When there's really something to be joyful for?
May all your futures be pleasant ones,
Not like our present ones!
It takes a wedding to make us say,
"Let's live another day."
Za va, shas da rovia, Heaven bless you both! Nasdrovia!
To your health ,and may we live together in peace.
May you both be favored with the future of your choice!
May you live to see a thousand reasons to rejoice!
To us and our good fortune.
Be happy! Be healthy! Long life!
And if our good fortune never comes,
Here's to whatever comes.
Drink, l'chaim, to life
No man is an island.
As noted above each culture has its own form of toast. “L’chaim” is unique among them. Another reason for this is that, although "L’chaim" is usually translated “to life,” the grammar is technically plural and literally means "to lives.” The singular version would be only “L’chai” (to a life). It is the “im” suffix that makes it plural. I like to see this as an expression of the idea that no one should live life alone. We all need someone else and we toast to each other. There's no point in toasting a lonely life, because life that is not shared is barren and undesirable. Rather the toast is “to lives,” in which what is truly meaningful is shared with others.
Simcha is to be shared!
As any oenophile (wine enthusiast) knows:
A bottle of good wine begs to be shared.
Wine is mentioned in the Torah and in many writings of the sages. The following represent some of the quotatio