A Hypnotic Diet


Dear Rabbi,

People make fun of my weight (I admit I am overweight). A friend suggested hypnotherapy for weight loss. Since I am beginning to be religiously observant, my question for the Rabbi is: Does Judaism permit hypnotherapy? Thank you!



  1. Before I answer your question, permit me to wish you much happiness and success in losing weight and in all that you do. And I really hope that no matter what happens, you will always feel good about yourself, no matter what you weigh or how you look!

    I am aware that in recent years there has been increasing interest in the phenomenon of hypnosis, both for entertainment purposes and for medical applications. By medical applications, I mean stopping smoking, losing weight, dealing with anxiety and more. There are two main sources in Jewish teachings I will present here regarding whether hypnotherapy is a permitted form of treatment.

    Rabbi Yaakov Ettlinger (Germany, 1798-1871) wrote a reply regarding the use of hypnosis for health reasons. After consultation with the experts at the time, he concluded that there were two schools of thought on the nature of hypnotism. Some said it’s fake while others claimed it’s real. If it’s fake, there’s certainly no problem. And even it it’s real, Rabbi Ettlinger reasoned that hypnosis works through natural means (even if we don’t understand the exact science behind it), but not through any forbidden impure spiritual forces. Based on this analysis, he permitted the use of hypnosis for treating infirmity, although he did not specify that it would be permitted for weight loss.

    A more contemporary source is Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, one of greatest Jewish authorities in recent history. He discusses the topic of hypnotism in his famous Iggrot Moshe. After consulting a number of hypnotists, he wrote that hypnotism is a legitimate technique used to help patients overcome a variety of problems. He does, however, warn that a person seeking this kind of therapy must consult a Jewish, God-fearing practitioner. He then adds that although he cannot find any grounds for forbidding hypnotism, it is self-degrading for a person to allow himself to fall into such a trance. He therefore maintains that one should resort to this type of therapy only if he indeed requires it, and not just for the experience.

    Therefore, I suggest that you first try traditional means of weight loss, such as diet, exercise and checking with your physician to make sure the excess weight is not due to a health issue that needs treatment, such as an underactive thyroid. If nothing else works, and all else checks out, then hypnosis is an option that may be pursued, in accordance with the appropriate guidance, as stated by Rabbi Feinstein.

    Best wishes from the AskTheRabbi.org Team