The Torah relates that the two sons of Aaron died when they introduced “an alien fire” to the altar. Rebbe Yishmael says that they died because they were intoxicated with wine when they did the service.
How does Rebbe Yishmael dare to contradict the Torah that clearly states the reason for their death is that they introduced an alien fire in the sanctuary?
Rebbe Yishmael is saying that the “alien fire” is figurative. The sons of Aaron felt that they could intensify the spiritual experience of the Divine service if their spirits were lifted with wine. But this was a defiance of G-d’s will. One’s spiritual experience is not enhanced artificially by mind-altering chemicals.
Some people mistakenly thought that they attained a spiritual mood with hallucinogens. (Others might imagine that giving in to their addictive desires would make them happy or free them of the obsession for a while so they can serve Hashem). This is an “alien fire,” inimical to G-d. G-d desires that one achieve spirituality by observing His will as expressed in the Torah.