This morning I came across a fascinating Midrash that described the predicament of the un-trellised vine:
"Though the vine be supported by straight reeds and forked reeds, it cannot stand up under the weight of the wine in the grapes. So if wine's own mother cannot bear its burden, how then can you?" (Translation Chabad.org)
The image that immediately came to mind was that of a tavern drunk, who by night's end needs two others to carry him home. Such is the intoxication of wine-- "if wine's own mother cannot bear its burden, how then can you?"
This week's portion, Naso, discusses the Nazirite, a man or woman who resolves to abstain from the pressed grape and her by-products for a period of time. (Numbers 6:1-21) Most likely, the period of abstinence may have been inspired by a period of over-indulgence. As Diogenes put it: "The vine bears three kinds of grapes: the first of pleasure, the second of intoxication, the third of disgust." It started out well, but then indulgence was followed by intoxication, and intoxication to blabbering and slobbering, and from there to a morning of many regrets.
Truth be told, a good many things, like wine, give us pleasure. Likewise, in excess they engender the same self-disgust. 'I meant to spend twenty minutes on the computer, how did three hours go by?' 'I just wanted a handful of potato chips, why did I eat right down to the crumbs on the bottom of the bag?' 'How did I spend so much time on the phone?'
Without the trellises of support--family and faith, good deeds and constant self-reflection--the fruit of pleasure grows in weight, the branch bends, the timber threatens to break.
Perhaps the lesson of the Nazir is that it is wise to say 'No' on occasion--to abstain from that which distracts us, to use the extra time and energy to mend those trellises, prune the excess, grow deeper roots.