06. One Who Is Drunk or Tipsy

One must be clearheaded when she prays. Unlike many idol worshipers, who perform their rituals using drugs and alcohol to attain a state of ecstasy, our petitions to God are achieved through seriousness and deep thought. That is why the Torah commands the kohanim not to enter the Temple and perform the Divine service while inebriated (Vayikra 10:8-11). The Sages derive from this that one who is drunk or tipsy may not pray.

“Tipsy” (“shatui”) describes one who is slightly under the influence of alcohol, and finds it somewhat difficult to concentrate and focus her thoughts, but is still capable of talking before the King. “Drunk” (“shikor”) describes one who drank so much that she cannot properly speak before the King.

A drunken person who mistakenly starts to pray must stop immediately, for the prayer of one who is intoxicated is an abomination. Even if she concludes her prayer, she does not fulfill her obligation. If she becomes sober before deadline to pray, she must repeat the prayer properly (SA 99:1). However, be-di’avad, one who prays while tipsy fulfills her obligation, since she is able to speak before the King. Likewise, if she begins praying and then remembers that she is tipsy, she may finish her prayer (Eliya Rabba; Kaf Ha-ĥayim 99:2). 1

A tipsy person may le-khatĥila recite other berakhot, for example, Birkhot Ha-nehenin (the berakhot one recites from deriving pleasure from something) and Asher Yatzar, but a drunken person should not recite them. Nevertheless, even a drunken person should recite berakhot that she can only recite at that time. For instance, if she became drunk at a meal, she should still recite Birkat Ha-mazon (Grace After Meals). Similarly, if she relieves himself, she recites Asher Yatzar (Rema 99:1; MB 11).

One who has reached a state of intoxication such as Lot, and is unaware of what is happening to her, is considered a shota (a deranged person) and is exempt from performing all the mitzvot. Even the berakhot that she did recite are considered invalid (MB 99:11).

  1. Regarding men, the halakha is that since kavana has diminished over the years, we are not so strict on this matter, and in extenuating circumstances, even one who is slightly tipsy may pray, especially when he is praying with a siddur, for there is no concern that he might become confused in his prayer (Rema 92:3; MB 99:3 and 17; see also Kaf Ha-ĥayim 22). However, we are not lenient when it comes to women, since there are poskim who maintain that women can fulfill their obligation by praying one prayer daily, and some say even by reciting Birkhot Ha-shaĥar and Birkhot Ha-Torah. If so, why should she recite a prayer that would be considered be-di’avad? Likewise, concerning the recitation of Shema and its berakhot, the poskim disagree whether a drunk or tipsy person may recite them, as explained in Peninei Halakha: Prayer 5:11. Because women are exempt from the recitation of Shema and its berakhot, a woman may certainly not recite them when she is possibly tipsy. As a general rule, it is important to know that drunkenness is repulsive and even more so for, women as explained in Ketubot 65a. Therefore, there is reason for women to be especially stringent on this matter.