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Abstaining from Alcohol for Health


Dear Rabbi,

I have been recently informed that I likely have an autoimmune medical condition.

I have mixed feelings about whether I should stop drinking alcohol as a result of it and question were I to take such a decision, how that could fit within Judaism’s general celebration of the virtues of moderate alcohol consumption, happiness, and celebration.

On the one hand, I know that drinking almost anything beyond a beer or glass of wine makes me feel worse, and am therefore tempted to give it up altogether so as not to have the temptation of consuming anything more than that at weddings / shabbatot, etc. (people, I have noticed, are not supportive of those who abstain!).

On the other, I have been informed by doctors that, although some may recommend such an approach, there ISN’T a medical necessity to abstain from consuming alcohol and that I can drink moderately if I chose to do so.

The decision is complicated by my uncertainty about the religious aspect to the decision.

On the one hand, (moderate) alcohol consumption seems to be strongly encouraged in Judaism, and the nazir – to an extent – is looked down upon as an example of extremism who goes against the Rambam’s paradigm of moderation in all things.

On the other, there is the mitzvah to preserve one’s health, and I am certain that overall, I am healthier and feel better without the added strain on my body of alcohol consumption.

I feel that being a tee-tee totaler goes against the grain of everything that Judaism stands for (life, celebration, etc).

Yet on the other, I am certain that G-d wants me to take care of my health and feel good — and if giving up alcohol is a requirement for me to feel at my best, maybe I am an exception to the general rule.

What is the right answer to this dilemma from a Torah/halachic perspective?


There is no Torah obligation to consume alcohol. Many have joy and celebrations without it, and live as spiritual, happy, and uplifted people. Hence, your health would be the top priority. If you enjoy drinking and don’t want to give it up, set guidelines such as a few times a year when you will consume in small amounts, such as on Purim and Pesach.

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  1. On Yom Tov and Chol Hamoed, it is certainly a mitzvah to consume a revi’is of wine (obviously, we are not talking about people with health issues, though even those people should mix some wine into their grape juice, if possible, so that the taste of the wine can be felt).

    On Purim, it is certainly a mitzvah to drink alcohol.

    There is no simcha without basar and yayin (meat and wine). And simcha on the festivals IS a Torah obligation, and also on Purim, etc.

    1. grape juice can be used for these requirements
      on Purim one can take a sip and go to sleep to fulfill his obligation, Rama 695:2

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