Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A Practical Ruling

To many people's pleasant surprise the new Vaad Ruchni has come out with a practical takonah regarding the consumption of alcohol in the community. After the previous update a week ago I, for one, was despairing of seeing anything down-to-earth coming out of their meetings. Thank G-d they have issued what I feel is a decisive statement based firmly on the Rebbe's wishes in this matter. We can only hope that this ruling is taken seriously by all in our community.

The takonah as published on the Yeshivah Community Website:



The abuse of alcohol is a problem in society at large on all levels, but we feel that it is our duty to address this issue as it exists within our community. This is especially so, since there have, over the years, been several incidents in which young people have put themselves into potentially dangerous situations through over-drinking.

We feel that a meaningful and significant improvement in the situation can be achieved only if we base our whole approach to the drinking of alcohol on the specific Takonoh (decree) of the Rebbe. This was first instituted by the Rebbe about forty-five years ago, and subsequently repeated, emphasized and reiterated by him in public on countless occasions. The Takonoh was that for any person less than forty years of age, the maximum amount of alcohol consumed is a sum total of not more than one Reviis, (In Halocho there are differing opinions as to the actual size of a Reviis, the accepted opinion in Chabad is 86ml) and that this Reviis should be split up into three or four separate times of saying L'Chaim, example: a person should say not more than four L'Chaims, the total amount not exceeding 86ml. In the event of his having made Kiddush on wine, the amount of wine he drank is included in the total shiur of alcohol permitted. Kiddush itself should not be made on vodka or whisky.

We believe that if the above takonoh is observed, it is highly unlikely that alcohol consumption will be a problem. Unfortunately, quite apart from the fact that some people consider the above Takonoh to be outdated and irrelevant and do not take it seriously, there are, in addition, social and practical circumstances which encourage people to behave in a way totally inconsistent with both the letter and spirit of the Takonoh.

The three main venues where alcohol consumption has been a problem have been:

(i) Kiddushim and farbrengens;

(ii) Simchos such as a Sholom Zochor, weddings, engagements, etc;

(iii) At the Shabbos/Yomtov table of a Baal-Habayis.

In all of the above, very often several bottles of alcohol are left on a table, where they attract the interest of those who are included in the Takonoh, and who therefore should not be drinking more than the Takonoh permits.

In order for the Takonoh to be observed, surrounding circumstances must be arranged in a way that actively encourage its observance. We therefore recommend that the Institution of a "Sar Hamashkim" (server of drinks) which has for generations been in practice at Chassidic farbrengens, is here both necessary and timely. Practically speaking, the arrangement should be that at any of the above, there should be one or more persons who are responsible for the distribution of alcohol. This person (or persons) will go around and offer L'Chaim, in small-size cups only to those present. Given that no alcohol will be placed on the table, and that those in charge of distribution are responsible people, there is no reason why anyone should drink over the limits of the Takonoh. School age children up to and including secondary school students should not be given any vodka or whisky. At farbrengens for school age students, L'Chaim should be said on wine or soft drinks.

The key to all of the above is responsibility. Those who organize a farbrengen must be responsible for arranging a distributor for the duration of that farbrengen. The host is responsible for a similar arrangement at a Sholom Zochor taking place in his home. He is similarly responsible for the amount of alcohol distributed and consumed at his Shabbos/Yomtov table. We therefore feel that no event should be advertised on Yeshivah notice-boards or websites, etc. or announced in Shule unless there is someone who accepts responsibility for making and implementing the appropriate arrangements. We hope that everyone will appreciate that such restrictions are in everyone's best interests, and represent a minor inconvenience which yields major results.

Needless to say, all of the above concerns only the maximum amount of alcohol allowed. If, however, a parent wishes that their son should drink no alcohol whatsoever, their wishes must be respected.

Ksivo Vchasimo Tova