The secret Jewish Cannabis History and Wisdom teachings of all ages

Monday, May 30, 2005

responsa pt2: You are the Law

Dude, you have got to be kidding about marijuana and the halacha. Where is it forbidden? Where is it permitted? What about following the "law of the land". I personally don't care one way or the other. It would be nice to see a proof though.

I'm surprised I haven't brought this up before, maybe it's because it's such a dead point to me in my community. In Jerusalem, in New York, in Ecuador, who respects the law of the land? All the important Torah thinkers of my generation either smoke grass or don't for other reasons, but I don't have anyone in my extended circle of people that I know who only don't because of what's really, apparently an important law on the books, that is to say, the notorious and skanky Dinah D'Malchuso, a.k.a.
The Law of the Land is The Law. The implication being, seemingly on the surface, that secular is akin to sacred law and to be respected as such.

And if you don't like it, leave the country and move to Amsterdam, because it's really easy to do that, for your average non-wealthy religious person. Because otherwise, you're going to Gehenom for every dollar you made that didn't get reported on your taxes, right?

There's an interesting psak made years ago, by the much beloved R Moshe Feintstein. No, not the one forbidding marijuna smoking to Yeshiva Bachurim, that one isn't so interesting to me, nor is it nessesarily halachically binding to ANYONE at all, and i'll explain why soon. The interesting psak is the one about speeding.

Lets say
on the road
is driving seventy, eighty miles an hour
and the written speed limit
is sixty five

Do I have to go sixty five
or fear divine judgement?

The Law of The Land is The Law
and if Everyone on That Road
is going eighty
The Law is Eighty.

The Law is not some immortal monster, sitting on it's throne, watching for breakers of it's boundaries. The Law is People. The Land is People. If your community pays little attention the Law, said law actually stops existing. This may have physical consequences, such as floods or other transformations of nature around you, and that too is the law. With ancient statutes, there might be some more mysterious danger with ignoring, with modern prohibitions, established rather sketchily there might be less of a cosmic imbalance struck, especially if around 141 million people around the world, including 47% of Americans are already into it. Maybe not! Sure...

But here's two reasons why no law made by man can ever truly prohibit marijuana consumption:

A) It's God's first law, if you're one of those Bible trusting people (Christian missionaries favorite question: Don't you believe in the Tanach?)

Breishis 1/27 "I shall give unto you all the seed bearing herbs (Kol Aisev Zoreia Zera)

What for Lord?, Adam might have asked

"They shall be to you for consumption (Li Achlah)"

And we recognize smoking as a form of consumption, because God almighty uses that word "achlah" to describe burnt offerings and, notably, the Burning Bush, that "burned but was not consumed" (Ha Sneh Boer, Wi ha Sneh ainenu Oochal)

There is a halachic principle, decrees made by God cannot be revoked by Rabbis. Contextualized out of practice, certainly, but not revoked. Is this true, not only for requirements, but for rights?

Now, if we wanted to strongly regulate marijuana or other herbs in halacha, much like we have sex, food and other dangerous pleasures, sacramentalizing them into safety, that might be viable. Anyone is welcome to try. I personally have accepted upon myself a general prohibition on smoking grass on mondays and thursdays, in addition to Shabbos, of course, revokeable by holidays, Rosh Chodesh, Siyums, Bris Milahs, Weddings, and the entire months of Adar and Nissan. I am also noheig (accostumbrado as my mom would say) to only smoke at night, and not less that two hours before I go to sleep. I try not to smoke socially, or if it's in almost anyway avoidable, I tend not to hit a joint if it's passed to me, although I will usually take a bong hit if offered, offering it up with a l'chaim, proper blessing and prayer for whatever the moment demands, and will use it to shake Torah out of teachers, or to reprogram myself into believing something I choose to believe.

and this is an important thing to remember in this generation: There is no way to impose halacha so much anymore on communities. Excommunicate somebody, it's more of a real risk that they'll just take off and do something else, find better community, than be humbled into obedience. This is the problem with Law, and the problem with Drugs. They don't solve the problem, they just keep it out of the way so that we can get something else done.

This is the secret of the famous response to God's "offer" on Sinai mountain. God said, do you want it, and we said "Naaseh W Nishma"

We will do
and we will hear.

The legendary rabbinic praise for those who obey the law without understanding it is rooted in this line. It's compared to the subjects of a King of flesh and blood. He makes a decree one day, from now on, everyone has to wear their underwear on the outside, and no one understands why, but it's the law, so they do it anyway.

The Mei Hashiloach says that back then, we took care of the doing, and in the days to come, we'll hear/understand what is was all about. He cites the old legend that when the messiah comes, all the Law will be fufilled, not through the actual practices, but through the intentions behind them that have finally been revealed, and that the practices, the mitzvos, were only made to be vessels for burning the intentions into our hearts unconciously, setting the "good heart" in everyone, and that is the essencial function of Israel. One day, we'll understand, and until then, we'll do

Also heard from Josh Lauffer, through Yaakov Sack, on shevii shel pesach this year.

When we said "We will do"
It was still true.
It was still honest.

When we said "We will hear/understand"
We became liars
Because once we understand
and are willing to admit that we understand
The game is over
The religion is over
Our lives our over.

God tried
to give us his truth
and we started to see it
and we said stop!
or we'll die
or we'll die.

It says in Midrash Rabba
That the apple tree
mentioned in the song of songs
is the proof that All Israel heard the Torah on Sinai
Why is Israel likened to an apple tree?

because it gives it's fruit (we will do)
before the leaves have even finished growing (we will hear)
And it takes fifty days for an apple to give forth it's fruit

Apples are so sweet
So are sacred lies
We are chosen.

When we are oppresed
It feels good to know
that at least now
we are not the bad guy.
We are chosen.

This is the taste of the charoset
the reminder of how sweet the mortar we made in egypt
that kept us out of responsibility
for The Problem

Can we go back to the freedom from our concience
and the whispering, nagging voice of God
that we had under slavery?

Only through Law.

So God did us a favor
He hid his truth from us
and buried it in Our Law
and even let us call it his.

And now we are free once again
to rejoice together
under the oppresion of a master
just good enough
that we'd never have to be leaders again.

Because redemption is illegal
and the Law is such a great reason
to not have to do

oh yeah. And the other reason no psak can prohibit marijuana... to be continued

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Law is Drugs pt 1: Sweet like honey from the rock

I heard a Gevalt Torah today, from Josh Lauffer. I had to share it with y'all.

Law is drugs.

Tachat ha tapuach hitorarticha, under the Apple tree, I aroused you. This line is mentioned in Song of Songs, and, inexplicably, in the Passover Hagada.

Why do we have Charoset, the Dee-lightful compound of wine, apples, dates, nuts, and asst. regional spices and/or fruits as part of the seder plate and ritual, the rabbis of the talmud ask?

Some say, as a remedy for the harshness (kapha) of the maror. If not for it's sweetness, the bitter herb would be too toxic to survive.

Others, counter, no! that's not it! If that's all it was, JUST SOME WATER WOULD BE FINE. We need the charoset for something else.

So finally, one older Rabbi comes and says, it's Zacher La Tapuach, in memory of the Apple tree.

What apple tree?

So Rashi tells the story of the apple tree. Cue romantic guitar:

"Under the apple tree
I aroused you"

Back in Egypt, things were bad, right?
But they were also so intense, so alive, in a way that things are only when they're bad.

There's an old Israelite legend, that, back in Egypt, one of the thing the Egyptian corporate power did was make the work so exhausting, that the workmen didn't have time to ever go home at the end of the day. They would just crash there in the fields, and wake up in the morning, get back to work. To boot, all the male children who were to be born had a decree of death upon them, right? So, not so much motivation to come home to your wife much.

So the women, they were really excited by the situation, the midrash records that our people were saved by the acts of the Nashim Tziddkanios, the righteous women. What would they do that made them so righteous? They'd come out to visit their husbands in the night, and make love out there in the fields. And then when the time came to give birth to the prodigy of those unions, they'd come back to the fields, to give birth under the apple trees, that they once copulated under.

The births, the legend goes, were FREE OF THE CURSE OF CHAVA(EVE) that is, they were utterly painless, taken gently from the womb by administering angels, the babies were then nursed from pools of milk and honey flowing from rocks nearby.

The Egyptians soon found about the whole thing, and promptly came to the apple orchards, ready to kill the babies, no worries! Our women just buried them under the ground, to come back for later when the danger was over.

The Egyptians caught on to this, and plowed the ground, dicing the newborn infants into like eight pieces each...

And Aha! A miracle happened so that each piece of baby grew into a full new baby! You can't stop us, Pharoah!


Now, generally, when your child is killed, it's treated as irreplaceable, right? Don't worry, a new baby is on the way, a bunch of new ones, is not really much of a consolation, if individual life matters at all.

But, sometimes, there's a perspective that sets in, where the tribe and the movement is this more important thing, right? Where he individual loss is eclipsed by the life of the community, when it's happening, when it's real.

If the Maror is the harshness of oppresion, the charoset is the romance of it, the wild awesome party that only happens in the face of an enemy, in the heat of a revolution. What happened to rock and roll after Vietnam ended? What happened to the movement?

It get's worse, this Torah. Because the Tapuach is the testimony that we were on Sinai, too, and it might be the secret of the Omer counting.
to be continued...

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

secret origin

Enough theology: Let me tell y'all the story of Jerusalem's one and only Million Marijuna March, how it succeeded, and why it failed.

I had been a relatively militant Ganja activist in New York for some time before I came to Israel. I was active with New York's Cures Not Wars throughout high school,
studying the secret and ongoing history of Yippie! activism and the science behind How Pot Works, along with Just How Bad Heroin Is, and such. CNW remains one of the best countercultural refuges in NYC, along with one of the few reliably consistant ones. From the building at 9 Bleeker that was once the headquarters of Yippie international, the international annual marches for the liberation of cannabis are organized and promoted. 200 cities and counting, with more every year, it was a fun place to come and hang out. Initially, I would only go for the sunday meetings, then, once I felt safe being around more, it was pretty much where I'd go after school, to voluteer in whatever way they'd have me. Dana Beal, who essencially is Cures Not Wars, is in my eyes the most under appreciated soldier fighting back against the drug war, probably because of his confrontational style and mad-on intolerance for ego-games and bullshit.

A refreshing change of pace from the uptight revolutionary communist ethos that I had previously associated with political activism, It was there that I learned how to organize a rally, how easy and how difficult it ultimately would be.

It's really easy, because unlike most causes, you really don't need to work too hard to convince folk to get into it, unless they have a professional career at risk or something. Kids love a party, for a cause they pretty universally support, and even getting local dealer friends to help donate money for the thing was cake.

It's really difficult because, well, no one was really helping me too much. The Aleh Yarok people in Tel Aviv had their own march to organize, and didn't really need anyone in Jerusalem to do any kind of an event per se, and they had enough stoner causes trying to bum money off them, whatever. Plus, I wasn't really living anywhere. Based in the dorms of a tiny one room Yeshiva, given a bed in a room with alternating crazy old men, somewhat reformed thieves, and super-anal ba'al Tshuvas, there was kinda nowhere for me to do anything. I had a fantasy that Aleh Yarok, Israel's afformentioned marijuana reform party, owned property in Jerusalem that they could spot me for an office, yeah right.

And so, from nowhere, with like nothing, I went to "work."

The Million marijuana march is traditionally on the first saturday in may. Problem for I, because the sabbath day you shall do no labor. My vision for the march included music being jammed out by local musicos, along with, like, a mega phone or something. Couldn't do this thing on Shabbos, and risk being responsible for encouraging joint smoking on the day of rest, certainly not. So how about Saturday night?

Sounds good. There's a park behind the center of town called "independance park" sounds perfect! Later I would learn it has/had a reputation for really sketchy sexual activity late at night, whatever, it free, open, public, and easily accessible from town. Meet there after shabbos for rally and whatever.

Now, the most important part: The aesthetic and promotion. Some time earlier, like, back in the day in high school, just as i was becoming really passionate about the redemptive powers of cannabis, I was in Shul as they were returning the Torah to the ark sabbath morning. One of the few very dramtic moments of the service in your average orthodox shul is both the taking of the Torah out of the ark, with some lovely invocations of the chazan to the ark, taking out the Torah, and telling the congragation that God is One and so one, before they respond in kind, followed by him, very awefully, walking the law down to de' people, going around so both the men and the women can embrace the crowned and bejeweled scroll followed by the Rabbi and the president of the shul on his walk.

Get close to the ark, and notice the mystery of the design on the curtain. Ostensibly made to imitate the curtains in the Holy Temple, there are a few common patterns in most synagogues: Lions, with their tongues sticking out, on either side. Leafy plants, somewhere in the middle, flanking the Tablets with the 10 commandments on 'em. Above the Tablets, usually a magnificent crown. In my synagogue, growing up, the crown had a seven leafed plant sitting above the crown.

In Jerusalem, by the western wall, almost all the curtains over all the arks have two letter initials on them. Khaf on the left side, Thuf on the right. Ostensibly short for "Kheter Torah," the Crown of Guidance, in hebrew numerology Khaf is twenty, and Thuf is four hundred.

ha, ha, ha.

weird, huh? Sealed in front of the holiest arks in the world is the number
that stoners all joke about.

The returning of the Torah Scrolls to the ark is done with equal fanfare and dedication, after the reading of the weekly portion, after the Rabbi's speech, with a solemn and passionate song:

A Tree of Life she is
and we are strengthened by her
and all her paths
are peace

whoa. I thought one sabbath, that sounds... familiar.

Bring us close to her
oh-h-h Lord
close to her and back we'll come
Make new!
Make new our days!
Make new our days, like from the very begining!

At the time, the major innovation that marijuna was bringing inot my life was very much that: restoring my soul to feelings and an experience of play that i had not known since toddlerhood, a renewal of soul to this very elementary place of pure being that i had fallen from through years of education and struggle with controling myself.

I would later on that really good Torah could do that to me too, without grass. And for that matter, really great meditative and athletic experiences too. But at the time, it was pretty surprising. surely, which ever sage wrote that song had been in smoke once too, and wanted me to know the secret.

And so, an image came to mind, some years later, at the peak of my Kabbalistic education. The tree of life is a euphemism for, amongst other things, the Kabbalistic map of creation and relationship, the steps from pure undiluted being, through different stages of relating to an-other, until the other is all that is, and all the dialectics in between. An Image came to mind. In lieu of Tablets, a Tree of Life glyph juxtaposed inside a cannabis leaf, corresponding sephiroth in all the right places. the two lions on the sides, and the crown above, surrounded by the words, in hebrew and english "Kannabis Kabbalah!" This would be the flier, and also the tee-shirts, and the neighborhood graffiti if i could get a stencil made right. I had an artist friend shape it out, make a flier with the time and place and, a few stencils with supportive lines from bible and later writings, and went to work.

Noted graffiti slogans, with a simplified cannabis-tree-of-life logo alongside each one, in green hebrew ashurite script, include:

exodus 30:12 (and get said to moses, get yourself some head spices)
Rashi on " (head spices = important)
genesis 1:27 (I give unto you ALL the seed bearing herbs for your consumption)
proverbs 3:18 (A Tree of Life she is, and we are strengthened through her)

That last one was written by King Solomon, incidently. Ha, ha, ha.

Sidenote on the rastafarian tradition of the Ganja growing on King Solomon's grave, and it's relationship to Jewish Midrash... King Solomon is the only old testament figure associated with cannabis in Rasta culture, which I think is connected to lines like these, and the gift of Spice (Bosem) given Shlomo by the queen of Sheba upon his success at impressing her. Spice, better than there ever was, I think it says.

Anyone wanna look that up for me?

Anyhow, I had a pretty solid march set up, as much two weeks before. Flyers went out, with pretty good response. Musicians lined up included the American Rabbi of my Yeshiva, who will remain nameless, along with a few other guys (first mistake: not getting very specific commitments) and speakers besides me, were gonna include Moish Geller doing Havdalah and, well, anyone else who wanted to say anything.

Mistake two, and Moishe caught me on this early. Imagine exactly what you want to hapen way before hand, an then play it by ear, not the other way around, he said.
The week before the march my girlfriend broke up with me, hitting me really suddenly and hard. I was in this very pious and faithful state of mind before, and was so shooken up by the dumpage, that I lost focus for a week just to wander the desert and cope a little bit. When I came back, ready to march, there just happened to be a ganja drought.

ut oh.

No herb at the cannabis march? whatever, probably safer that way. Maybe less fun, but...

When the night came, Me and Moishe took a cab down to the site, to meet up with some other friends in town who were gonna help set up. We get to the spot, and... it's dark. We set up some candles in cut open soda bottles very haf assedly, and set them around. we had maybe fifteen people at this point, some heping set up, and some asking, "hey. when's it gonna start?"

And some how, I just lost it. I really had nothing to say. we had no instruments or grass. Moishe asked fro permision to take off, as "the vibe" was "too weird." I smiled and sent him off and stood around with some friends for a while, until it hit me that i really had no idea what i was doing.

So i left, after like an hour and a half. we had around a hundred kids around town wandering about, in and near, and i just passed on word that it was already over. One friend of mine did have some dutch grass, which he smoked me out with once we came back to town. Defeated, and somehow OK, I went home to think about it.

Now, looking back, I realize that my only realest faliure was to have a coherent message. I didn't do much of a march for years afterwards for lack of a specific thing I was saying. I don't think it's gonna be a problem this year.

This is the announcement: Marijuna march Jerusalem is ON this year, location and details yet to be released. I'm thinking the 15th of Iyar, the month of healibng, where R' Nachman says that all the herbs and grasses touched by it's moon will have special healing powers... still working out the details. wanna help? volunteer? play? deal? call 0545 344 859, and leave a message, we'll work something out. I have some ideas, and no girfriend who can possibly distact me as of yet, and maybe a more coherent message to give over...

Tell the people.