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Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz: “Wine and fragrance have made me wise”

For every individual, there are particular conditions, dictated by his specific nature, under which he can make the most of his potential.

When a person is hungry or thirsty, or experiencing some bodily or psychological torment, his ability to operate is obviously impaired.

But some individuals require special food and drink, things commonly regarded as luxuries, for their peace of mind; if they lack these things, their concentration and clarity of mind is adversely affected.

Thus, the Talmud quotes the Talmudic sage Rava as saying, “Wine and fragrance have made me wise”–that is to say, the effect they had on him was to open his mind to Torah study.

A person such as Rava can “eat fat beef and drink spiced wine” and elevate them to holiness, for he does this to the end of broadening “his mind for the service of God and His Torah.”

–Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz