By Rabbi Berach Steinfeld
In Vayikra, Perek Yud, posuk tes the Torah tells the Kohanim that they are not allowed to drink wine or alcoholic beverages upon entering the Ohel Moed.
In Meseches Taanis, daf yud zayin, amud bais the Gemara brings down shitas Chachamim that Kohanim are prohibited from getting drunk in today’s times since there is a chance the Bais Hamikdosh will be rebuilt quickly and then the inebriated Kohen won’t be fit to serve in the Bais Hamikdosh. Tosfos asks the following question regarding this opinion. If we are all tamei meis and need a week to become pure, why does it matter if the Kohein is drunk; in a week’s time that problem doesn’t exist anymore? Tosfos answers that as far as tumah is concerned, we have a rule that tumah is hutrah be’tzibbur, so the Kohanim are eligible to do the avoda while being tamei. Therefore, the Kohanim can’t be in a state of drunkenness.
The Piskei Teshuva in Chelek Gimel, siman shin mem ches brings down the following question in the name of the Imrei Emes. The Kotzker asked, “Why did the Chashmonaim need a pach shemen during the neis of Chanukah if tuma hutra be’tzibbur? The Kotzker answered that normally we say tumah hutra be’tzibbur; however, the Gemara in Avoda Zora, daf mem gimmel, amud alef tells us that the Chashmonaim made a new Menorah, therefore there was a chinuch involved (an inauguration). When there is a chinuch involved, we do not say tumah hutra be’tzibbur. Based on the premise of the Kotzker, the Imrei Emes asks on the above mentioned Tosfosthat when the third Bais Hamikdash will be built there will be a chinuch haBayis so we can’t say tuma hutra be’tzibbur, so how come the Kohanim can’t get drunk if they will need to wait a week until they become tahor?
The Bais Yisroel answered that there is a difference between what happened on Chanukah and what will happen during the third Bais Hamikdosh. The Bais Yisroel did not elaborate.
We can try to explain this distinction in two ways. The first one is based on Rashi in Rosh Hashana, daf lamed, amud alef that says the Bais Hamikdosh Hashlishi will come down from shomayim totally built and therefore not require an inauguration. The Kohanim will be able to serve right away despite being tamei meis and we will invoke the rule of tumah hutra be’tzibbur. The Chachamim therefore felt that a Kohein should not become drunk.
Another way to explain it is based on the Gemara in Sota, daf tes, amud alef that says the handiwork of Moshe Rabbeinu never fell into the enemies’ hands, therefore the aron and other things were hidden during the first Bais Hamikdosh. That is pshat in the Medrash in Bamidbar, Yud Bais, tes vov when the posuk said that the kailim of the Mishkon were anointed and sanctified. The Medrash says anointed was for the Mishkon; however, the sanctification was for the Bais Hamikdash haShlishi when all these kailim will be re-used. We see that there will be no need to have an inauguration at that time and therefore the Kohanim will be able to serve while being tamei. This is the reason why the Chachamim made a gezeirah that the Kohanim should not get drunk.
Lemaaseh, we pasken that a Kohein is permitted to get drunk since we have been in golus for so long. Let us hope and daven that Moshiach comes and we will be able to be in the Bais Hamikdosh HaShlishi very soon.