What is the attitude of Chazal toward drinking alcohol? It seems to be have been common practice to drink at night (see Shabbos 10a), was this frowned upon? If so, was it only frowned upon in excess? Please source from Chazal, Rishonim, and Acharonim.
- Anybody can ask a question
- Anybody can answer
- The best answers are voted up and rise to the top
Just how many sources do you want? There are so many, like in almost any topic. Here are a few (limited to those specifically that indicate whether or not Chazal thought of drinking as favorable or frowned upon)
A bit of Shas:
Berachot 40a quotes an opinion that the Etz HaDaas was a grapevine, because we know that grapes cause sorrow to the world. Similarly, Yoma 76 says that wine is called יין because it brings moaning (יללה), though the Gemara continues that if one is worthy, the wine will make him happier or wiser. Similarly, later on in Berachot (57a), it says, 'some drink wine and it's good for them, and some drink wine and it's bad for them'. The Gemara in Bava Basra (90b) prohibits bringing foods outside of Eretz Yisrael, but allows exporting wine because less wine means less תפלות (levity). Sanhedrin (70), in discussing the Ben Sorer UMoreh, mentions to take lessons from Adam and Noach and that wine can cause destruction. Yoma 71, like the source you quoted, indicates that drinking wine was common, as it states that one who wants to do the equivalent of pouring wine on the mizbeach should fill the throats of talmidei chachamim (with wine). Also, Megillah 17 states that Yosef sent his father wine from Egypt because דעת זקנים נוחה ממנה, the minds of elders are bettered by it. Even more positive is the opinion in Nedarim (10) and Nazir (22) that a nazir is called a 'sinner' because he separated himself from wine. Pesachim 109 states, 'there is no happiness other than through wine', indicating that this is how one should fulfill the mitzvah of being happy on Yom Tov.
Ibn Ezra on the pesukim by nazir (Bamidbar 6:2) says that nothing is more destructive to service of Hashem as wine. The Sefer Hachinuch similarly explains the concept of nazirus (Mitzvah 372) and kilei hakerem (Mitzvah 549). Radak, however, on the oft quoted pasuk יין ישמח לבב אנוש (Tehillim 104:15), writes that wine makes one happier by opening the mind, and he clearly understood wine-drinking (probably in moderation) to be a good thing. The Rambam in Hil. Deios (5:3) says that a righteous person drinks wine for health purposes but one who becomes drunk is a חוטא ומגונה ומפסיד חכמתו - a sinner, disgusting, and loses his wisdom. The Rambam is just as severe in Moreh Nevuchim (3:8). In Hil. Yom Tov 6:10 he points out that even in the context of holiday joy, it is impossible to serve Hashem while drunk. The Orchos Tzadikim says in Shaar HaSimcha that one needs to be happy to properly serve Hashem, and wine is a legitimate way to increase one's happiness if it's done in appropriately small amounts and not made into a habit.
Maharal (on Sanhedrin 70a) discusses wine as something belonging to Olam Haba.
The rambam in de'os writes that it is forbidden to drink in the afternon (when you will get drunk) based of the Mishnah in avos (3: 10). The Orchos Chaim is also in the Kol Bo, and their source is the Meoros to Megillah 7b who also writes that there is no greater sin than drunkenness.
Rabbeinu Avraham Ben HaRambam writes (p. 556 in English Feldheim ed.) that although the Torah didnt forbid wine since it is sometimes useful, it didnt prohibit drunkenness since there is no way way to define the difference between too much and not too much. However we are required to draw the line for ourselves, as we realize (from several passages in the Torah) that the Torah opposes drunkenness. The Rashba says the same thing almost word for word in the maamar al Yishmael.
The Malmad Hatalmidim (13th cent. Provence) similarly writes (parshas tazria) that when it comes to things which are logically inappropriate the Torah suffices with preventing us from doing them through hints in stories and the like, such as drunkenness
Orchos Chaim Hilchos Purim 38 writes that getting drunk is completely forbidden, and there is no greater sin, as it leads to illicit relationships, spilling blood, and many other sins.