In many places in the Talmud the word "שכרות" is used (Shabbat 10, Beitzah 4, etc.) in these places is it proper to understand it as referring to alcoholic beverages (the simple/common translation?), or would it include other substances as well (i.e. marijuana, cocaine, etc. etc.)?

  • Related: judaism.stackexchange.com/q/61589
    – msh210
    Commented Sep 6, 2015 at 23:04
  • 1
    Why do you think it might mean anything other than intoxication as is commonly understood?
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Sep 6, 2015 at 23:12
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    @msh210 that question wasn't REALLY definitively answered, hence this question which gets closer to the point I'm going for
    – jj2
    Commented Sep 6, 2015 at 23:20
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    22(ישעיהו נא, כא) לכן שמעי נא זאת ענייה ושכורת ולא מיין
    – sam
    Commented Sep 7, 2015 at 0:09
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    @Hugh that is the impression I would get from Jastrow.
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Sep 7, 2015 at 3:46

1 Answer 1


To the very best of my knowledge, any discussion concerning what was commonly done in Talmudic times (e.g. "in the late afternoon people are often drunk") meant simply alcoholic beverages. We know that people drank a lot back then; we have no indication of use of any other conscious-altering substances.

If you're asking about the halachic implication of altered consciousness due to some substance other than alcohol (let's assume in a situation where the person was allowed to take such a substance), generally speaking there are a small handful of laws pertaining only to fermented grape products; otherwise, we say the underlying point is the state of altered consciousness, regardless of its pharmacological source.

The strange case of the wayward and rebellious son, for instance, has dozens of obscure technicalities; Sanhedrin 70b adds that he may only be executed if he got "drunk" on grape products, not something like an alcoholic date product. Similarly, Rambam Bias Mikdash Ch. 1 says that death penalty for a Kohen who works in the Temple drunk was limited to "drunk on grape products."

However, Rambam continues that a Kohen who is drunk on anything else should not be in the Temple, and may be given lashes for doing so; similarly a rabbi should not rule on matters of Jewish law "while his mind is somewhat mixed-up, even from something like [fermented] dates or milk" אסור לכל אדם בין כוהן בין ישראל להורות כשהוא שתוי; אפילו אכל תמרים או שתה חלב, ונשתבשה דעתו מעט--אל יורה,

Similarly we know that if someone should not pray if he is "drunk enough that he couldn't stand in a king's presence" -- the point here is the state of mind. It follows pretty easily that you could substitute "high" for drunk and the same would apply.

The Mishna discusses the man who is delirious with kordaikos and asks to divorce his wife; we do our best to determine whether he's in his right mind. How did he get kordaikos? One translation is just way, way too much alcohol; another is "improperly-fermented wine" -- most likely some sort of fungal mold that grew on it, which can have all sorts of neurological effects. Halachically it's all the same point: how "with-it" is this person now?

  • "It follows pretty easily that you could substitute "high" for drunk and the same would apply.", from where is that? A lot of people wouldn't drive drunk but would under the influence of marijuana etc..
    – jj2
    Commented Sep 7, 2015 at 17:44

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