The secret Jewish Cannabis History and Wisdom teachings of all ages

Friday, February 25, 2005

other chassidic cannabis masters.

And then there's this piece about our beloved Rebbe Nachman of Breslov:

"The Rebbe asked me for a light and smoked his pipe for a while. He sat there for some time and then went outside. The Rebbe grinned and said, 'A time will come when it will be very difficult to approach, but right now, i'm all yours."

And this story, with two major versions. The following incident was related by Rabbi Yitzchok Isaac Epstein of Homil about his visit to Rebbe Israel, the Rizhiner Rebbe.

"The Tzemach Tzedek sent me on a mission to Rizhin. I arrived at the Rebbe's house on Friday, and was directed to an outdoor hut where the Rebbe was praying.
As I watched him, I could discern that every limb of his body was suffused with prayer.

Later, the Rebbe sat with me and discussed the details of my mission. As was his habit, he was smoking a long, beautifully worked pipe. When his servant entered to tell him that noon had arrived, he immediately set the pipe down on the floor. [So we have the custom to refrain from forbidden activities from noon before the arrival of Shabbat].
"At that moment I had a very tangible sensation of remaining on this plane, while the Rebbe soared upwards."

How's that for a start? This one dude in Brooklyn is rumored to have the Baal Shem Tov's pipe. I met a Chabadnik in Marin County once, who claimed that testing was done on the pipe in question, and it did have marijuana resins in it. He furthermore claimed that the last Lubavitcher rebbe was told of this, to which he shrugged : "yeah"

Next: more chassidic pipe traditions, or maybe something else entirely.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

We have a tradition of dope smoking in chassidus, pretty much from it's inception.

Whisky, no one even asks about. Alcohol was the only way anyone could survive Europe, apparently, unless you were a nobleman trained in Kaphkhaz dance-yoga or soemthing.

The preponderance of smokeables in Jewish tradition tends to manifest only in periods with more writing. In the talmud, we are told of a practice of setting a mini-censer on the dining room table after a meal, which would then be lit, letting herbal fragrances fill the room, much to the satisfaction of all those present.

of this, it is written: Wine and fragrance made me wise, said R' Eliezer

The association of herbs and herbal wisdom with witchcraft may account for their dissappearence from everyday Jewish life following Rome, when most of our "don't scare the christians into killing us" legislation makes it onto the books, noteably the banning of Polygamy for Ashkenazic jewry and the re-wording of some sensitively phrased parts of the talmud and prayer books. Oral traditions of Jews and pagans hiding each other surface now and then, without verifiable source, one can only wonder what culture went on then, what with all the book burning.

It breaks my heart, to think of what we've lost, what we've destroyed. R' Nachman maintains that for new insight to come into the world, sometimes the old wisdom have to be consumed. Lord, help us with thy guidance, let the new good justify the destructions that were...

The first place I know of that an herb smoking culture is desribed again is completely outside christendom, in the Bagdad of the Ben Ish Chai. He sets a legal standard concerning the smoking of hookahs on festivals. I've read it as a permissing of smoking on Yom Tov, and not on Shabbos, understanding this as being part of the mystical difference between sabbath and holidays, where on holidays, the meals are more central, hence the permission to cook and carry out of personal boundaries on Holidays, the loophole that allows for the lighting of pipes.

He calls smoking there, on his laws of passover, if nowhere else, "shtiyas Hanesh" "the beverage of the soul." hmmm...

We don't hear of pipe smoking mystics again in Judasim until the chassidic revolution, when smokeable grasses and herbs, generalized under the blanket title of "Tobacco," (despite being more than one kind of compound, much like all blanched herb potions became "Tea," as opposed to what is specifically known as Green or Black Tea, or a Tea tree for that matter) suddenly became sacred sacraments, used for a variety of thaumatergic and/or theraputic purposes.

Foremost amongst these heads of their generations, wuz de' Holy Baal Shem Tov, may his karma shine down on us all, and his name be a blessing, who was accustomed to never let a sabbath end without taking hits from his water pipe (lulke in yiddishe) immediatly after Havdalah.

It's not nessesarily clear why he was so strict to do this. there is a tradition of consoling the self over the loss of the extra sabbath soul and the day's end, using the sense of smell to restore the memory of how good the world could be. Maybe it had to do with that. maybe it had to do with the reading of the insense offering during the Feast of The King on saturday night, with judgements about the working world that people were being hurled back into, or something like that... It's not clear. But what is clear the tradition

"The stories Hasidim later told about the Ba'al Shem Tov — usually referred to by his acronym, the Besht — invariably depict him with a pipe in hand, telling seemingly secular tales with deep religious meanings."

"Rabbi Yaakov Yosef of Polnoye said before his departure that he asked God to credit him for all the Torah and mizvot of his entire life with the same value he gave to the great Baal Shem Tov's heavenly thoughts (yichudim) when he smoked his pipe.

One day Rabbi David, head of the Ostrow Beit Din (Jewish court) was shown by the Baal Shem Tov the new heavens that had been created by his thoughts while smoking. Rabbi David fell into a faint from the awe and fear that the sight inspired in him"

"The Baal Shem Tov taught that even mundane acts could be invested with holiness if performed "for the sake of heaven." (Chassidic legend therefore depicts the movement's founder meditating upon Divine Names as he sat in silence, smoking his long-stemmed pipe.) "

"Being connected with nature, the Baal Shem Tov was connected with his own body too. He discouraged fasting and self-affliction; he prayed with shouting, dancing and singing, with his whole body. He and his followers drank and smoked much more than their opponents thought was decent, using both drinking and pipe smoking to lift their spirits and even enter into trances. "

"Once, Rabbi Elimelech of Lizensk was sitting with the first Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, and they were studying the talmudic commentary, the Rosh, by a candle. Rabbi Zusya, Rabbi Elimelech's brother, came over and lit his pipe with the candle and extinguished it. When they relit the candle, he came over again and lit his pipe with it, again extinguishing it. They then realized that he was doing this on purpose and they asked him why. He said, "You are laboring so hard to understand the commentary that you've ceased slightly in your d'vekut (God- consciousness)." So he snuffed out the candle. "What will be with the Rosh?" his brother, Rabbi Elimelech, asked [how can they hope to understand this difficult commentary without the kind of concentration that turns them slightly from God-awareness?]. Rabbi Zusya then told them the correct interpretation. Rabbi Shneur Zalman said later that the simple meaning that Rabbi Zusya told them was deeper than what the Rosh himself had intended.

In the early days of the Hasidic movement, it was usually understood that Torah study, especially of complex talmudic topics, took a person away from God-consciousness. They decreased Torah study and increased prayer and meditation. The Baal Shem Tov had said that he reached his awesome spiritual levels not because of his Torah study but because of his fervent praying. Prayer is more face-to-face than is Torah study which relies on the intellect. Rabbi Zusya, more prayer-minded than his brother and Rabbi Shneur Zalman, sought to delicately remind them that their candle was being snuffed out and they should remember to "light their pipe." Various early rebbes, such as the Baal Shem Tov himself, smoked a pipe to prepare for prayer. And the smoke that rose to skyward was considered to be a symbol of prayers rising into heaven. How does this apply to us? Few of us study so much or so deeply that we lose our God-consciousness. But we do study without proper devotion, forgetting that the Torah is not an ordinary book but the words of the living God. When we are studying, we should occasionally pause to remind ourselves and reattach to the Giver of the Torah "

"The Besht's students constantly begged him to show them the Prophet Elijah until he finally agreed. One Friday afternoon, as was their custom, the disciples were hearing words of Torah from the Baal Shem Tov. Suddenly he said, "Hey. I have some grasses. Does anyone have a pipe?"
The Baal Shem Tov's disciples ran around looking for someone willing to lend a pipe, knowing that even the most mundane act of their Rebbe had spiritual ramifications. They returned, however, empty-handed. The Besht looked up and saw a Polish squire walking nearby. He asked his students if they would see if the squire was willing to lend his pipe.

The students approached the squire, and not only was he willing, but he walked over to the Besht to give it to him personally. The squire proceeded to light the pipe, and while the Besht smoked, they discussed the year's harvest, whether there would be enough grain, etc. The Besht's disciples, in the mean time, took no notice of the squire and stood around discussing the latest teachings of their Rebbe.

After the squire left, the Baal Shem Tov declared, "I have kept my promise. I have shown you the prophet Elijah."

The disciples were shocked. "Why didn't you tell us it was Elijah, so that we could ask him to teach us?"

"If you yourselves had understood and asked who it was, I would have been permitted to reveal him to you. But since you did not understand, I could not do so.""

and of course, the classic story:

Eliezer Good Name,
and the
Case of the THE STOLEN PIPE!

During the time of the Baal Shem Tov, a pipe was one of man's
most important possessions. In those days, the Jewish people were so poor,
they barely had enough food to feed their families. So when a man would
come to visit a friend, the host could at least afford to offer his guest a
pinch of pipe tobacco and a cup of tea.

The Baal Shem Tov had a very special tobacco pipe. It was said that
his pipe was so long that he could rest the pipe stem on the back end of the
wagon while sitting on the seat and smoking. (whoa!)

Once, the Baal Shem Tov was traveling in his wagon with several of
his students and his wagon driver, Alexei, at the reins. They were smoking
their pipes and discussing a concept of Torah.
Suddenly, three soldiers of
a local of governor approached them on horseback. When the soldiers got
close to the wagon, they pulled out their swords and planned to steal some
money from the Jews in the wagon.

"Listen up, we are the soldiers for the Governor and we demand twenty
ruples for the right to travel on the Governor's road," the commander of the
soldiers said with a snarl.

"We're sorry," answered Alexei, "but the Rabbi and his students don't
have any money."

Suddenly the soldiers noticed the Baal Shem Tov's pipe.

"In that case we'll take this," said the commander, as he leaned down
from his horse and snatched the pipe out of the Baal Shem Tov's hand. With
that, they galloped off, holding the pipe in the air as if it were a sword.

No one in the wagon spoke. The students just sat, still feeling the
fear from the encounter with the soldiers. The Baal Shem Tov seemed to be
far off in a deep meditative state. As for Alexei, he reached under his
seat and took a little nip from a bottle of whiskey he always kept there.
About an hour passed. Suddenly, the Baal Shem Tov looked around and
said to Alexei, "Unhitch the horse from the wagon so that you can ride it.
Then go (Bo) down the road in the direction that the soldiers went. When
you finally catch up with them, take back the pipe and bring it back to me."
"But Rabbi, they aren't going to give me that pipe and they are
armed!" said Alexei with a lot of concern in his voice.
"Don't worry," said the Baal Shem, "you'll be able to take it."
As Alexei rode of in the direction that the soldiers went, he
wondered, "I sure hope the Master is right."
After riding for about an hour, Alexei saw the three soldiers sitting
on their horses. He slowly approached them wondering how he was going to
retrieve the pipe. But as he got closer, he saw that the three men were all
sound asleep on their horses. Then he saw the Baal Shem Tov's pipe secured
to the saddle of the commander of the soldiers. Alexei rode up as quietly
as he could and snatched the pipe from the saddle. Then, he rode away as
fast as he could. When he returned to the Baal Shem Tov he was nearly out
of breath.
"Well Alexei, what happened? Did you get the pipe?" asked the Baal
Shem Tov.
Alexei handed him the pipe and said, "Rabbi, you won't believe what
happened. They were all sound asleep on their horses."
"Oh Alexei, you know I'm a man of faith, I do believe that happened!"
the Baal Shem Tov said with a warm smile and little chuckle in his voice.
Now harness the horse to the wagon, take a L'chaim and we'll be off."
And so it was.

Freely adapted by Tzvi Meir HaCohane (Howard M. Cohn, Patent Attorney) from
a story in Shivchei HaBesht as translated in In Praise OF THE BAAL SHEM TOV
by Ben Amos and Mintz.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Marijuana is learned out from Shabbos

Bi Qoshi Matru Chachmainu sicha b Shabbat

Only with great difficulty did our sages permit speaking on Shabbos.

(I assmue this is from Gemara Shabbos. any scholar squirrels out there know the specific reference?)

In a high moment or place, speaking often seems inappropriate, even impossible. In such states, we often find ourselves being really economical with our words, using as few as possible to say as much as can be said.

What does marijuana mix with?

Perhaps not a social drug at all, it does however, work very traditionally in social contexts. groups of people, ostensibly working together, but on a common goal, not just shooting the shit. Working to create some music, some art, some relgion, sure. Just catching up... it depends on how much you need the catalyst to take you out of the Babylon you have felt trapped in, into the Present Moment.

Shabbos, the sabbath, for most working folks, is a break. More rules and limitations put over that just distract from their joy at not having to be at work, and it's enjoyed for that, as that.

For people blessed enough not be enslaved by their weeks, instead working at some service that does not plow their selvehoods into hamburger, Shabbos has to be something deeper, more profound, to be worthwhile.

I think this is true about Cannabis also. An accomedating host, much like shabbos is known to be, accepting any of your favorite practices, pleasures and joys, and when introduced respectfully, offering new perspective and delight from and with them. remember when you first started smoking, how amazing it was to introduce it to all your favorite pastimes, and how much it changed your relationship to them? Listening to music, playing video games, walking through the park, eating pizza, dancing at a party, doing math homework... even when it didn't mix, it still enlightened a little bit. Some of those things, we learned to appreciate all the more sober. and some, we now only really want to do while high.

Shabbos though, is it's truest and purest when there's nothing else going on at all. If your whole week is holy and you get to do all the things you love doing all the time, then shabbos has to be about something beyond things.

I heard a Torah this past weekend, that really, there should be no food on shabbos, no torah on shabbos, no words on shabbos. It's shabbos, and that should be enough, in it's unbeing, to alight within us the truest bliss there is.

So too with pot, maybe. It mixes really well with alot of things, i guess, but the deepest clearest psychedelic clarity... maybe comes from doing it alone. Focusing on the experience itself in it's purity, for what it is, with no running to close a window or grab some munchies... some time just for God.

Lord! bless us to be able to appreciate the subtle notes of flavor in all your creations, uniquely, of them selves, and ultimately all together. keep us simple, somehow, and through that, give us the sweetest delight.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

loose like the reed

R' Nachman of Breslov spoke very highly of surrender to circumstance, as in not being too particular about outcomes. Don't push, he said, exampling from his life the time he got to Israel and realized that now he was done, and could come back. His Gabbi (helper) who traveled with him was like, aw maaan, we came all this way, can't we hang out for a while, visit those communities up north and see all the saint graves we've heard so much about?

Ok, fine. surrender.

On the other hand, he also spoke highly of praying until you got what you wanted, and never giving up hope, ever, to the very end. That obstacles in your way were not a sign that what you wanted "wasn't meant to be", the opposite rather, that if something was difficult, it meant that it was especially important.

surrender to that too, the truth of how much what you love matters.

Rabbeinu Alice Frank told me something deep, there's a mishnaic principle, He that enters into Adar, this moon that just started a few days ago, as the spring is sparking, increases joy, just like He that enters into Av, the moon about six months from now, as the summer is ending, decreases in joy. How is one like the other?

We are surrendered to the wisdom of whatever is, in both, either way, and so she said.

Be loose like the reed, "Kal Ki Kineh" (remmember that word? see archives)the sages taught, not stiff like the Cedar, because a strong wind can knock down a mighty tree, but no wind can knock down a loose reed.

good marijuanic principle, and it's true about truths too. If it loosens you up, it's good. If it stiffens and traps you, it's evil.

Lord! loosen the tension of exile from our necks and shoulders! Help us be truly at home, at peace. Amen

Friday, February 11, 2005

new moon adar one

It's really important to be happy
and the only thing more important is to be free

R Shlomo Carlebach, saying over in the name of R' Nachman

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

One of the most frustrating norms in the world is the degree to which we can't be open about our actions and or ideas.

I do appreciate having this outlet, and I do appreciate the sense that anyone who wants can check it out. I still fantasize about translating books and articles into yiddish and distributing them in the charedi-chassidic communities. Cultivate a culture where more open and honest and "flowing" ways of relating to family, romance, theology... I was warned once that to do so would probably invite fire bombing, literally, so alas... If only, if only, I cared enough that I would risk my life and well being, not yet.

One of the fundamental problems with marijuana, anecdotally at least as far as i've experienced, is the alienation from others. I mean that within a toking-tolerant community, the degree to which the revelation of grass is Don't worry about it, It doesn't matter, anyone else doesn't completely, really exist. Much of the lack of short term memory reported could well be attributed to this. Quoth R' Shlomo Carlebach: If you don't remember someone's name, it's because they weren't really real to you.

Heard some years ago by the shabbos table of Yom Tov Glazer, the idea that marijuana was a destroyer of marriages, that some part of it's power was that it made the individual very self focused, and oblivious or neglectful to, or even resentful of their partner. This has been true in a sense in my experience, i've likened it to learning from the inside instead of learning from the outside. For instance, let's say one is sitting down to learn a new page in the talmud or a language or some other detail oriented idea... it's very difficult to learn new things while under the influence of pot.

On the other hand, let's say you've just learned something new, a new page in the talmud, or a new detail about yourself from some different kind of experience... Marijuna is really good for processing it. For taking something that one has already assimilated, and developing it, relating to it, and understanding it more deeply, and/or making a deeper peace with it... learning from the inside, marijuana can be helpful.

I've been listening to a lot of Terrance Mkcenna lately... certainly a jewish drug halacha must be informed by all the wisdoms available in the world, amongst the experts and knowers of the substances involved, and blessed is he who gives his wisdom to flesh and blood. He offered a great way of using cannabis to maximal effect:

"I think the real way to do cannabis, is like once a week, by yourself, in silent darkness, with the strongest stuff you can get, and then immense amounts of it! People call it a recreational drug and a this and a that, hey: done that way, it will catapault into you to places-- Do some homework, read something, talk to your friends, and then hang on Hannah! It's like riding an enormous roller coaster...y'know, once that baby rolls out of the station do not stand up, do not try to climb out your car, shut up and hang on with the faith that most people have lived through this."

I had gotten away from this practice after years of futtering around, notably after a few months of living with a brilliant hardcore penitent well connected friend in nachlaot-Jerusalem, when we had an infinite amount of hashish available through his underworld connections. A bong on the table for a boy who had never been safe smoking up in his own home...

I had a terrible time dealing with my otherwise very tolerant and supportive parents re: my cannabis use. My dad's attitude was more don't ask don't tell, but the fine print was keep it real quiet, or else you're obviously doing too much. {Lord! please! help me not perpetuate the subtle shame and guilts which where put on me on my friends and children.} My mom, on the otherhand, a generally progressive open thinker, but only within the parameters of safety her rugged individualist father had set before her. Hating the catholic church what oppressed our Quetchwa brethren, this was ok, smoking devils weed, this was the province of wastrels and criminals. And so, she has been forbidden from ever altering her ideas about marijuana, no metter what articles or conversations i have ever shared with her.

I could listen to her concern more, that's been my way of dealing with her fear-for-me lately. compassionate listening, to how it must feel to be so worried for your only son, wow, that must be so intense. She is doing her best to tolerate my stranger ways, and i try to keep my excesses on the relative down low, to the degree they ever become excesseses or not... but i do wish I could just trust her with everything I am, somehow. I feel the same way about police, school teachers and other figures in a position of judgement... wouldn't it be nice to be able to trust their judgement, and be real about who we are instead of carefully maintaining vigilance over who we can trust and with how much?


I never got paranoid from weed, because on the inside, i do trust myself, and i'm not sorry. to the degree i'm afraid, it's mostly of being misunderstood, my essence being lost for the details i'm expressing but don't really say everything that I want to say.

Stories are great medium for expressing a larger picture than just one voice. The soul of that voice is infinite and really universal, no matter how particular, because, somehow, all our experiences, while being so different, are accesible by anyone, i tend to believe. That's why stories work, even ones with really foriegn sensibilities, and different taboos, as long as the context is given over.

Another great Terrance Mckennaism: if the truth can be understood, it will be believed.

Lord! bless us with true language! with the will to understand the other in deeper and more liberating ways! To really dig each other out of each other.

The pressure of expression... Marijuna can loosen or tighten this depending on how familiar one is with the tool in "waking" life. Artists don't nessesarily become better in terms of vituosity while high, unless they already know how to express, then the pre-existant ability can express something crazy-wild-weirder than it has before, under the influence.

At least that's been my experience. Can you tell which of these weblogs i've done while high and which ones not? prossibly.

In jewish communities historically, we have kept the information esoteric just by talking about it in our own language, both the literal hebrew-aramaic-ladino-yiddish tongues we have spoken, but also the rather nuanced symbological systems that we take for granted. We tended not to translate these languages for outsiders, unless they came to us to learn them, and by then, you know, it's too late, they've been assimilated into our culture, by virtue of understanding our mythopoetism and relating now to their world in our symbols. Hence the traditional halachic taboo against using the names of deities from other traditions, their names and their stories, unless translated into our own perspective, something that happens in the talmud with a few of the ancienter greek or pagan myths, notably the story of the great phoenix, Oceanus/Rahab, The original universe dragon/leviathan, the story of General Januarius, the great bull, etc.
But basically, the tendancy is to absorb ideas and stories only once they're unavodable, and then, using the medium of shlock, translate out their essence, beyond the cultural assumptions, into their sweet divine truths.

why? Globalization has been going on for a long time, and the main problem with having a dominant culture taking responsibility for the world and all it's produce, is that the culture starts coming down from the top, from the Nimrod, and he wants you to believe to make you better worker on his solar calendar than a culture that grows, from the roots on up, and who's ideas and assumptions, stories and fantasies are tested purely through folk popularity and real animal sense of "hey! that's beautiful!" The rhythm back and forth nowadays between the "cool" subculture, who's values and jokes are to be sought after and trusted and the "lame" mass culture who's distribution is not to be trusted on the basis of not being "real," as the cool stuff becomes bought out by the mainstream, seeking to be validated and believed.. This has been going on along time. Having a rather esoteric and detailed slang goes a long way towards keeping it real... Hip-hop has had it's walls penetrated and it's temple sold to the highest bidder quite some time ago, it's sacred texts translated into the language of theives and slavers, it's high priests are now only the highest bidder, or the patrons of the Roman nobility... it's founding myths and languages have been fully assimilated, and while a fringe of true believers survive, and the culture Kinda lives on...

There's a reason why the gospel biblical images, the reggae code of babylon vs. Zion takes so well. Israel is an archtype, well maintained by internal taboos and psychic structures, to stay on the fringe, and to breed The Fringe out of it's malcontents. Israel has, it's been argued, given America it's extra legal morality, by creating and maintaining in Hollywood, a democratic moral structure that is inherently progressive and open to any vision that will "sell" or be beloved by audiences, a.k.a., humanity. How many of our deepest ground values, both conservative and liberating, have been built and shattered by media? My inherent relgious homophobia, and that of my entire family, from my grandmother's on down, have been broken largely by television and movies. So too have my senses of piety and moral devotion been re-inforced by seeing these values given grace--

Part of the problem with translating culture-- it only really comes across right if you really love me. I've imagined, let's say i translate a R. A. Wilson book about the secret of religion and how reality sublimely both informs and adapts to our culutral assumptions into Yiddish, and distribute it to the Satmar Chassidim I know... Will the language make it believeable? Or will it only warn potentially threatened egos of Threat to everything I have believed therefore Am (chas v shalom)
and encourge stronger defenses preventing people from coming any closer ot anything less threatening I might want to communicate.

This is the sad problem with feeling safe expressing freely in my own language. It might just be me teaching "enemies" (internal protective structures) the secret code of how to get Us before we get Them. What if they should rise up and join our enemies, Pharoh muses.

Can I feel safe xpressing my truth to you without fearing you using my own language against me? And yet, watch as I do that to you, as i intentionally listen only to the outside of what you're saying and defend against it by ridiculing the details. Lord, have mercy on Israel, help us to see ourselves reflected in all other tribes, and help uis really want to listen, even more than we want to protect. Because you are one, and, worse comes to worse, there really is no need to protect that which is truly eternal.