Monkeys, Satan, and Wine

One of the main aspects of Purim is the mitzvah of drinking wine ad dl’lo Yada, until one does not know, the difference between arur Haman and baruch Mordechai . Much has been said about this, and the proper way to fulfill this mitzvah. There is a fascinating Midrash Tanchuma that sheds some light on the issue of wine and the proper way to utilize it.
The first mention of wine in the Torah is in a tragic circumstance. Noach plants a vineyard, becomes inebriated, and suffers dire consequences . The Midrash in several places discusses Noach’s mistake in choosing to plant a vineyard before all other crops. The Midrash Tanchuma is especially vivid :
Noach began and planted a grapevine. On a single day it grew, he harvested it, crushed the grapes, drank from it, got drunk, and his embarrassment was publicized. Chazal say that when Noach went to plant the vineyard, the Satan came to him, and asked him, “What are you planting?”
Noach answered, “I am planting a vineyard. “ Says the Satan, “What is unique about it?”
“Its fruits are sweet and can be eaten fresh and dried out as raisins, and can also be made into wine which gladdens that hearts, as it says in Tehillim, wine gladdens the hearts of man.” The Satan replied, “Let us be partners in this endeavor!” to which Noach responded “Agreed.”
The Satan then brought a sheep and killed it under the vine, and did the same with a lion, pig, and monkey; and irrigated the vine with their blood. This hints to the fact that before a person drinks he is simple and silent as a sheep. When he drinks correctly, he has the courage of a lion. When he drinks too much, he is filthy as a pig. When he is drunk, he is like a monkey, dancing and laughing and having no idea what he is doing. And all this happened to Noach.
The Zohar , and later in the Rekanati and many others explain that this Midrash reveals a very fundamental idea. When Noach left the Ark, the world was recreated. According to many opinions, the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge which Adam ate was a grape . In planting a vine before anything else, Noach attempted to rectify the sin of Adam by using the Tree of Knowledge in the correct way. But once again the Satan interfered and the results are catastrophic .
In emphasizing the immediacy of the growth of the grapes and the production of the wine; the Midrash teaches that this was a Gan Eden experience. One of the characteristics of Gan Eden was that everything took place immediately. Adam and Chavah had their children without delay and the Gemara says that the fruits in Gan Eden ripen immediately . It is a place of immediate spiritual gratification. Noach tried to use this opportunity for a new beginning after the Mabul to rectify the sin of Adam.
When the Satan offered to be a partner, Noach though he had reached spiritual completion. There is a pasuk which says “when HaShem desires a man’s ways even his enemies will make peace with him. ” Chazal explain that this means that the Satan will be man’s friend and help him serve HaShem . Noach thought that he had reached that state of perfection since the Satan was offering to help him. Unfortunately, Noach was wrong, and the Satan slyly ruined everything by taking the Tree of Knowledge and introducing into it the pig and the monkey .
The Kli Ykar explains that the sheep, lion, and pig refer to the three main exiles of the Jewish people. The sheep is Egypt which worshipped the lamb. The lion is Bavel who is compared in many pesukim to a lion . The pig is Edom which is compared to the pig in the Midrash in VaYikra . The Kli Yakar appeared to have a Girsa of the Midrash that did not have the last of the animals, the monkey . Although not explained in the Kli Yakar, I would like to explain that the monkey represents the challenge of utilizing wine correctly on Purim.
The Zohar says that the Yetzer HaRa/Satan is to man as a monkey is to a human . The Gemara in Bava Basra in turn says that man is to the Shechina as a monkey is to a human .
Man needs to imitate the Divine. That is the Pasuk of Kedosim tihiyu ki kadosh ani- man should be holy as I am Holy . That cannot be an actual directive to be completely holy as HaShem, but as an imitation of His Holiness. The Satan, however, uses the power of imitation to create a false alternative world. It is an empty world that only seems to fulfill man; it is really more like the monkey which imitates man, but which has no intellect or spirituality. The Satan watered Noach’s vineyard with that destructive power.
Noach planted the vine so that he could use wine to bring himself closer to serving HaShem. The wine is the medium to bring happiness; it is the wine of the sacrifices, of the kedusha of Kidush and Kidushin. Noach sought to rectify wine and make it holy.
The other place we find the monkey is in connection to Adar. Sefer Yetzirah assigns a letter to each month. The letter kuf corresponds to the month of Adar . The names of the letters in lashon hakodesh have meaning and the letter kuf (קוף) can be read when spelled out as kof ((קוף, monkey.
This is problematic since the Gemara in Shabbos sees the letter kuf as a reference to kedusha . How can we reconcile these seeming opposite interpretations of the letter kuf?
The answer lies in the common denominator which is imitation. Monkeys imitate. What are we imitating? Are we being holy like HaShem, engaging in an act of ‘imitatio Dei,’ imitation of God consistent with the prophetic statement “in the hands of the Nevi’im I will be imitated. ” Or are we as Hiram the king of Tyre who made himself a god and said, “I will be comparable to the Almighty. ” The ability to imitate, the power of imagination, is the power to be Godly, but it must be controlled. As R’ Yisroel Salanter writes, “The imagination is a raging torrent, and if we do not control it with the ship of intellect, we will drown .”
Both the Pri Tzadik and the Sfas Emes say there is a correlation between Adar and the monkey. The idea is that the end of the year is similar to the kuf, in that just as the leg of the letter kuf extends further downwards, so too by man only being an imitation it brings him lower and lower and more like a monkey. When Haman cast lots and chose to try to exterminate the Jews in Adar, he was using the power of the kof to lead us into the world of imagination and destruction.
The Ari Z”l writes that this idea is found also in the Megila . He explains that the gallows which Haman prepares for Mordechai was fifty Amos tall, and that is the leg of the kuf. The leg of the kuf is comprised from a final nun which is the numerical equivalent of fifty, the height of the gallows Haman built to hang Mordechai on. The Arizal explains that this is the tail of the snake from the sin of Adam which is the nun which descends from the kuf. Haman’s attempt to hang Mordechai is in the month of Nissan, which is the letter heh. A heh is very similar to a kuf, just the leg is a yud rather than a nun. That seemingly minor difference changes the heh from the letter that comprises half of HaShem’s name to the Satan’s kuf. However, Haman attempted to extend the leg of the heh of Nissan into a kuf of Adar and hang Mordechai on it.
The juxtaposition of these two ideas shows that the power of Haman is to use the kuf to descend into the realm of the monkey which is the imitation of reality in order to destroy Mordechai. This is the aspect of Amalek that claims to be reality. Reishis goyim Aalek, the world is created for reishis which is the Jewish people; but Amalek claims to be the reishis. This is Amalek’s further imitation of reality. But since, as we’ve mentioned, there is a kuf of holiness, so Mordechai was able to turn the tables on Haman and transform the kuf into Kedusha and hang Haman on this gallows.
All of this takes place in the context of the drinking of wine. Haman returns from the wine feast and that is when he sees Mordechai. At the beginning of the Megilah also we see that Achashvairosh abuses wine. He parties with wine for 187 days, and descends into the depths of depravity. He also desires to bring the Jews to the depths of depravity through this wine, and bring tem to the realm if the monkey as is explained in the Midrash . This too represents an attempt to use wine to destroy the world and bring about its descent into a simian imitation of humanity instead of a proper world which imitates Godliness.
We drink wine ad dl’lo Yada to show that even though Noach sinned and allowed the Satan entrance to his vineyard, we do not. We can drink wine and retain the courage of the lion without sinking to the level of a monkey. We can accomplish the task that Noach had planned.

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