Dear Dr. Yael,
I read your recent column about alcohol addiction and had to respond.
I believe that drinking in moderation on Shabbat is okay. Most kiddush clubs have eighteen men who enjoy it properly and two men who get drunk on occasion.
Men going home to their families drunk is unpleasant for everyone, thus, we all have to know our own limit and cut down if we find ourselves overdoing.
Men who have drinking problems need to get help because they will not know their limit and will come home drunk every week. The rabbi needs to oversee and give liquor only to those who don’t have drinking issues.
The same goes for other social settings. At weddings, they need to close the bar earlier and have a strict limit on the amount of drinks each person can have. On Purim, the men do not need more than one drink.
As I said, when a husband and father comes home drunk, he is often very loud and sometimes upset. He will lose his temper easily and yell. Friends have told me that their husbands can come home out of control. One friend told me that her husband broke the door; another slammed a hole in the wall and yelled at his wife in front of his kids. These men need help.
Wine has to be used lightly. Kids who see their parents sip wine only on Shabbat and buy a new bottle every once in a while will be very light drinkers. They will see alcohol and drinking in a positive way.
Rabbanim and community leaders must ban drinking clubs. Our kids are watching what we drink and how we act.
Drinking in front of your kids is a controversial subject. Some feel that if you do so responsibly, you are teaching them how to drink responsibly; however, others feel it sets a bad precedent. Research has shown that getting tipsy or drunk in front of your kids can actually cause them to feel a range of negative emotions, such as embarrassment, worry, upset about increased arguments between their parents, feeling like their parents are unpredictable, feeling ignored, and feeling like their bedtime routines were disrupted. However, research also shows that drinking responsibly (whether that means that you will make sure you have a driver if you drank too much or you make sure to drink in moderation, which may be different for everyone) can teach your children safer ways of drinking.
It’s important to have a clear idea of your values in regards to drinking and to follow through with what you say to your children. If you tell them it’s okay to drink, but only in moderation, then you should never drink more than that in front of them or come home drunk. Sending mixed messages to kids can cause anxiety and confusion. In addition, it’s frightening for kids to feel that the people who are supposed to keep them safe are not able to do so; thus drinking to insobriety in front of your children or coming home drunk can be a direct factor in their loss of trust in a parent – even if it does not happen often.
You mention a lot of ways people can cut down on drinking, but those only work for people who are not alcoholics. An alcoholic will not be able to just cut down his or her drinking. He or she will need to seek professional help as soon as possible and completely abstain from alcohol.
As to rabbanim, unfortunately many do not have control over their congregants drinking and cannot stop the kiddush clubs from taking place. Yes, some of them are harmless, but as you mentioned, some can lead to a lot of difficulty for families.
I hope people read this letter and take the time to analyze what they should do differently in terms of drinking and make the necessary changes. Thank you for highlighting this important issue!