I've heard that certain tribes used various narcotic substances to help achieve a mystic state. Here in Arizona, the Peyote Indians are well known. Is there room for this in Jewish practice?


I haven't found a precedent for such use in Jewish literature. In fact, in the Talmud (Pesachim 113a), Rav advises his son to avoid narcotics. Rashi, the classic Talmudic commentary, explains that this is because they are addictive and waste away a person's money. As far as achieving spiritual heights, I've copied below a letter from the Rebbe written in 1965 to a student in Cambridge, MA, when LSD and other hallucinogenic narcotics were beginning to be of interest to many people. Basically, the Rebbe's point is: Better to achieve a high through learning Chassidut.

I am in receipt of your letter of _____, which you write in the name of your friends and in your own behalf, and ask my opinion regarding the new drug called L.S.D. which is said to have the property of mental stimulation, etc.

Biochemistry is not my field, and I cannot express an opinion on the drug you mention, especially as it is still new. However what I can say is that the claim that the said drug can stimulate mystical insight, etc. is not the proper way to attain mystical inspiration, even if it had such a property.

The Jewish way is to go from strength to strength, not by means of drugs and other artificial stimulants, which have a place only if they are necessary for the physical health, in accordance with the Mitzvah to take care of one's health. I hope that everyone will agree that before any drugs are taken one should first utilize all one's natural capacities, and when this is done truly and fully, I do not think there will be a need to look for artificial stimulants.

I trust that you and your group, in view of your Yeshiva background, have regular appointed times for the study of Torah, and the inner aspects of the Torah, namely the teachings of Chassidus, and that such study is in accordance with the principle of our Sages, namely "The essential thing is the deed," i.e. the actual conduct of the daily life in accordance with the Torah and Mitzvoth, prayer, Tefillin, Kashruth, etc., etc. This is only a matter of will and determination, for nothing stands in the way of the will.

I trust that you are also using your good influence throughout your environment.

With blessing,

[the Rebbe's signature]