The measure of one’s character can be found in the glass (Daf Yomi Eruvin 65)

Should an intoxicated person be held accountable for actions while intoxicated? Should you nap when tired?

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After I die, there will be more than enough time for sleep.”

Today’s Daf Yomi continues the discussion of the liabilities of an intoxicated person and if he should be held accountable for actions while intoxicated. In perhaps not a reversal of the previous day’s position on the impact of drinking on decision making, but a clarification, the text takes a different turn today. It includes a discussion on tiredness and the lack of sleep, which in its extreme state can result in a condition not unlike drunkenness. The reading then returns to a discussion of eruvs in a typical display of zig-zagging logic.

In a strange introduction to the day’s topics, we are told that “all Jews are considered intoxicated” in the “wake of the destruction of the Temple” and “are not responsible for any sins they commit.” This suggests that without the physical temple we are not of clear mind. There is an inference that one is not responsible for his actions if he is intoxicated or in a great state of mourning like after our spiritual center was destroyed.

In our modern legal system, a person who commits a crime while under the influence of drugs or alcohol is responsible for his actions. A person who drives while drunk is accountable for any mayhem caused while on the road. Of course, this being the Talmud very few arguments are made without counter opinions. The Gemara raises an objection to the absolution of responsibility when one is in a drunken state and says that an intoxicated person “cannot retract the transgression when sober” and if he does something that would result in the death penalty or a flogging while under the influence he should be so punished. In a correction, the Gemara says “even if the people of Israel are considered drunk, they are nonetheless responsible for their actions.”

Rabbi Ḥanina said that a person is responsible for all his actions until he reaches the state of intoxication of Lot, at which point he is unaware of his actions and no longer liable. I researched how drunk this must be and was reminded that after Lot’s wife was turned to salt, he encamped to a cave with his daughters who got him so drunk that he was unaware of engaging in sexual acts with them. One would have to be so drunk that he is unaware that he is engaging in an act of incest. That is very drunk, but still disturbing that it would absolve someone of responsibility.

There is some debate on whether one should sleep if he is very tired or soldier on through the day. Rabbi Ḥanina said that one should nap if he is so inclined so that he is more productive when he awakens while Rabbi Yohanan said that one should toughen up and “marshal his strength and pray.” Rav is quoted as saying that if one is exhausted or if his mind is unsettled, he must not pray or issue decisions. We are told that one sage refused to venture out to court when there was a “hot and harsh” southern wind blowing through his town, which would disturb his “usual clarity of mind.” Perhaps this was like the foreboding Santa Ana winds in California which can be followed by wildfires. Rav Hisda says that regardless of exhaustion he will continue devoting his nights to study because after he dies, “there will be more than enough time for sleep.”

We are told that Shmuel, who does not seem like an ascetic, would not pray in a house that contained alcohol, because the scent alone would “disturb his concentration.” But we are also told in today’s reading, which adds an interesting context to the previous day’s examination of drunkenness, that anyone who can remain clear-headed after drinking wine has the wisdom of “seventy elders.” We are told that wine was created to comfort mourners and as a concession to the truly wicked who will be excluded from the World-to-Come. At the same time, we are told that a home without wine is devoid of blessing.

And finally, we are told that along with how someone conducts himself in business, and how he displays anger, his character is judged by how he can hold his drink. In other words, it comes down to moderation. Wine is a blessing if it is appreciated for the craftsmanship that goes into aging the grapes and nurturing vineyards. And while it can be offered as a consolation for those who have no chance of having an afterlife, it has a place in the homes of those who may have a place in the World-to-Come if they are able to respect the cup.

And finally, on another note, I am in the camp of Rav Hisda in terms of sleeping. I am very tired and have not slept through the night since the onset of the pandemic. I have taken on additional projects, including this blog, in order to keep me occupied during the shut-down. I am determined to keep pushing through the exhaustion as my way of coping with these terrible times. I believe that I will be able to catch up on sleep later on, when I am retired, and even later, in what comes next.

About the Author
Penny Cagan was born in New Jersey and has lived in New York City since 1980. She has published two books of poems called “City Poems “ and “And Today I am Happy." She is employed as a risk manager and continues to write poetry. More information on Penny can be found at
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