Are there any sources that suggest that the incense used in the Bet HaMikdash were hallucinogens?

If this is true, how do we understand their practices back then?

(There are various related discussions, but I don't feel that the issue is covered fully e.g. here and here)

  • 2
    Why do you think they might be hallucinogenic?
    – Double AA
    Commented Mar 3, 2014 at 22:36
  • @DoubleAA the links I have posted mention a couple of sources for them being hallucinogens (Aryeh Kaplan and a Rabbi Sokol). Also, in discussion with a friend...
    – bondonk
    Commented Mar 3, 2014 at 22:48
  • I don't see anything in the first answer you link to about the incense used in the mikdash. (The second page you link to is a long one. I don't see anything about it there, either, but I didn't read the it carefully.)
    – msh210
    Commented Mar 4, 2014 at 1:53
  • The first one brings sources for incense as hallucinogens. The other sources is relevant to a question I just included in an edit.
    – bondonk
    Commented Mar 4, 2014 at 6:21
  • I don't see any such evidence anywhere in the first link.
    – Double AA
    Commented Mar 4, 2014 at 6:32

2 Answers 2


Do not drink wine "v'shechar", neither you nor your sons with you, when you go into the Tent of Meeting, so that you shall not die. [This is] an eternal statute for your generations. (Leviticus 10:9)

The word "shechar" can mean non-wine alcoholic beverage, or it can mean intoxication. Rashi says that, in this verse, "shechar" means intoxication.

Since wine was often imbibed in a diluted state as a common beverage, Rashi is saying that a sip of diluted wine doesn't prohibit a kohen from entering the mikdash, but drinking wine to the point of intoxication does.

According to this verse, as understood by Rashi, kohanim are forbidden to be inebriated in any way when performing their Holy Temple duties.

Therefore, it would be forbidden to burn incense that would cause any type of inebriation.

EDIT: DoubleAA points out that the topic of whether kohanim may enter the Temple while inebriated is displayed in the Babylonian Talmud, Nazir4a, as a dispute between Rav Yehudah and Rav Shimon. The issue is not resolved there, although the halacha typically sides with Rav Yehudah over Rav Shimon.

Rav Yehudah said that [a kohen] who eats preserved figs from Keilah, or drinks honey or milk, and then enters the Temple, is guilty (Babylonian Talmud Nazir4a)

That is to say, anything which would impair a kohen's ability to focus on his Holy work, is forbidden to consume before (and certainly during!) the Temple service.

  • 3
    Rashi al hatorah is not the best halachik source.
    – Double AA
    Commented Mar 4, 2014 at 13:47
  • I'm referring to Nazir 4a where this issue is a Machloket Tannaim. The fact that Rashi explains the verse one way is a poor indication of what the Halacha is. Plus you have yet to show that olfactory intoxication is the same as food related intoxication.
    – Double AA
    Commented Mar 4, 2014 at 17:41
  • I didn't say the Gemara was conclusive, but showing me how Rishonim paskin it in a halachik context would be very informative.
    – Double AA
    Commented Mar 4, 2014 at 18:17
  • @DoubleAA Thank you very much. Answer has been edited.
    – Oholiav
    Commented Mar 4, 2014 at 18:52
  • 1
    That just isn't what 'parshan' means....
    – Double AA
    Commented Mar 4, 2014 at 19:22

Yosef Glassman offers an interpertation that the "kana bossem" (קנה בושם) mentioned in the book of numbers and in the song of songs as the good kane from the far country is marijuana you can read more about ot here and here

  • Sigh... The keneh bosem is never mentioned in conjunction with the incense. The verses in Numbers discuss incense with no mention of keneh bosem. The verses the Ha'aretz article quote mention keneh, meaning a branch. No proof that it's even the same plant as keneh bosem, regardless of how you translate it. (Con't)
    – DonielF
    Commented May 11, 2017 at 21:59
  • As for the piece in the Shulchan Aruch, nobody actually quoted where it's from, but after some digging I found it in Orach Chaim 264:1 where he does indeed discuss קנבוס. Note that all he says is that it's acceptable, not that it - or any wick on the list - is recommended. Also note se'if 3 there: "One may not light with pitch, because it has a foul odor, and he will leave it and go out." For someone who doesn't like cannabis, it would fall under that category, presumably. (Con't)
    – DonielF
    Commented May 11, 2017 at 22:00
  • Furthermore, if Kohanim are forbidden to serve while intoxicated (Vayikra 10:9), how can they serve in the Beis Hamikdash, which was full of Ketores smell? By the end of the day, at the very least, they'd be high on Ketores. (See similarly @Oholiav's answer.)
    – DonielF
    Commented May 11, 2017 at 22:06
  • Vayikra only talks about wine יִן וְשֵׁכָ֞ר אַל־תֵּ֣שְׁתְּ ׀ אַתָּ֣ה ׀ וּבָנֶ֣יךָ אִתָּ֗ךְ בְּבֹאֲכֶ֛ם אֶל־אֹ֥הֶל מוֹעֵ֖ד וְלֹ֣א תָמֻ֑תוּ חֻקַּ֥ת עוֹלָ֖ם לְדֹרֹתֵיכֶֽם׃
    – eliavs
    Commented May 13, 2017 at 20:39
  • Let us continue this discussion in chat.
    – DonielF
    Commented May 15, 2017 at 14:26

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