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.
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.
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