The secret Jewish Cannabis History and Wisdom teachings of all ages

Sunday, August 06, 2006


mail bag! Today, I get to play advice columnist, encouraging people to destroy their lives and souls with drugs, as opposed to sex.
Kidding! Right?

Hey Yosef,
I really like your blog a lot ,and I have a question for you.

It might be kind of heavy.
I just started becoming observant (like 3x a day tefilah observant) and I have run in to a problem. I'm also pretty observant of getting high all the time.

BUT. I've been having trouble really praying from my heart when I'm stoned. Do I just need to get used to it? Do you pray whilst high? Or is it meant to be interfering, because your thoughts should be clear blah blah blah. Funny thing is, I can daven just fine when I'm drunk. I don't really like being drunk so much though. I haven't yet tried while on hallucinogens. That seems like it might be a little scary.

I really like the stuff you have to say. I find it very insightful (at first I wrote "inciteful" which isn't a word, apparently, but I think it might be kind of also what I meant) and inspirational. I hope you maybe have some advice for me. If not that's okay, and you should be well anyway.

The prohibition of R' Moshe Feinstein on smoking grass depends on three things:

It damages your health

It's illegal

It takes you away from Torah learning.

TO THE DEGREE that these three things are priorities, marijuana would have to be contraindicated.

We were looking at the text of the early cheremim (bans/excommunications) against Chassidis, which some in the community have said should be studied as halacha, to see what chassidus was about, and how we should live. One of the major gripes that one of the cheremim lists is the fear that the Chassidim were making it out as if davening and cleaving to G-d was more important than learning Torah, which, they dare say, is only for the sake of making davening and cleaving to G-d possible!


One would have to follow then, by that priority, al pi chassdut, if marijuana makes davening hard for you, then it's assur for you. Buut, if you wanna be a Litvak like Rava in the gemara, ridiculing those who spend much time in prayer, then it's not a problem, as long as it doesn't inhibit your learning.

Some "rabbis" have even gone so far as to say that any Torah learned while stoned "doesn't count" because it's "not real" whatever that means. I really don't hold like that, but it's important to recognize the natural limits and powers of different medicines. As much as we'd like to treat it as all redeeming, all improving, marijuana is not nessesarily good for everything, though intention can be very powerful in guiding what it can do for you.

I've had some powerful hodaah/praise/appreciation moments from smoking grass, usually as the clouds of however ?I was feeling lift off, and some new clarity sets in. But for me, it's always been a little unpredictable. I've known people who really liked smoking either right before hallel, or, alternately, right before the reading of the incense offering, either at the beginning or the end of the service.

Some say only at the end of davening, being careful not to "eat" (smoking is a form of consumption) before shacharis, though there are lots of stories of Alter Chassidim smoking after birchos hashachar, after morning Shma but before ketores and Psukei D'zimra. One might want to assume that may have been Levi Yitzchak's style, though maybe not.

Marijuana tends to make whatever one is doing while smoking more interesting, but makes it harder to switch from one action to another. Chrissie Hynde from The Pretenders of days of yore says smoking while vacuuming makes vacuumoing better, but smoking while sitting on the couch makes vacuuming harder. Hamayvin Yaavin.

I like davenning stoned sometimes, though it's a great breslov discipline to daven under the influence of nothing, satisfied by nothing, firstish thing in the morning, without even have drunk any tea or coffee.

One of the major effects of being High is a profound sense of satisfaction, which naturally can make davenning less compelling. While one might get benefit from playing the game of getting stoned, and then rallying the conciousness back into sensitivity through strong effort, it seems rather besides the point to me: If getting high makes davening difficult, don't get high before davening sounds like good advice to me.

It might depend what you mean by davening, I guess. Davening a proper Shmoneh Esrei is assur when one is drunk according to the shulchan aruch, and probably the gemara. How drunk? So drunk that one can't stand before a king.
Get it? Ganja, though often treated as such, is not a pancea, and demand to be used only in it's right time.
I like making L'chayims on hits, setting intentions on what the healing to come from this smoking should be. Some Native American tribes are very into praying over the pipe or cigarrete, and if it can be holy, great. But no reason to force it to work together.

Marijuana has been good for me in processing information, not in receiving new information, so I avoid it when doing things that i'm not used to, or learning how to do better. I'd gotten in some trouble in High School getting stoned before a film criticsm that I was to present, in the hopes of stoney insights coming. Instead, it just made it hard for me to remember what I was talking about.

Drinking is a different whole trip. Drinking opens the heart to be willing to express truth without fear, even to itself, and as such can help with hisbodedut, with living interactive telling-g-d-how you really feel prayer sometimes.

Although, i've had charedi friends who for years would make themselves pattur (absolved) from all mitzvos by just being drunk all the time.

I have a practice of rarely smoking during the day, unless it's way cloudy and i don't need to use my straight head. Being high all the time, ideally, maybe shouldn't have to depend on any substrate to set it off, although i'm told it's very difficult for any one who doesn't eat brown rice at all to be really happy.

Now, davenning while tripping is something else. I have a thing sometimes of doing shma while tripping, to set the trip off a bit or just to make soemthing cosmic happen. I have had really good succes with this a few times, opening up profound insight into the different things Shma is saying to the children of Israel, and relating differently to the voice of G-d revealed therein. But that's probably because i'm very comfortable and familiar with the Shma, though I am kind surprised to get to it in davenning sometimes, and see what it actually says. It seems radically new and powerful in some of those ritual moments, so...

R' Zalman Schechter Shalomi wrote long ago about his first trip, where he opened up a siddur expecting the words to jump off the page, and was disapointted in how dead the davening felt to him. He lalter atributed that lack in inspiration to a lack of relationship to his davenning, a lack of real developed connection with the words he'd been saying his whole life. Welp, better late than never...

It might be scary, especially if it's new, the davenning, and mystically dangerous. Once you start the bracha, you're locked in for the ride, and it might even be possible to exempt someone who's already tripping from davenning, because one is not chayuv to say a full shmoneh Esrei on the road, for fear of theives or attackers, be they internal or external. I heard from R' Shaul Nelson some years ago a gemara saying that one is puttur from davening for three days after a trip, because their daas, their awareness is not yet settled. On that basis, if you wanted, you could skip davening in order to focus on the trip, if davening isn't part of it. Except for krias Shma, which you could only skip on your wedding night, or at a grateful dead show, as learned out from the Meis Mitzva described in the first mishna in brachos. Look it up, you'll see what I mean.

Shma while tripping is pretty harmless, I'd have to say though. It's not so long, it can lead you into more davening if you want it, or be a nice place to get off and focus on each letter and how it feels on your tongue, and hear the sound of the language first forming and spinning off in different directions, from settled in a place to going on the road, with little signs by your heart and mind to bring you back home whenever you're lost.

Which, it occured to me one time, might be alot of why davening in a minyan and wearing tsitsis is so important: If someone's lost from their people, it's an easy way to find one of us again, and be able to get help to find their way back home.

But yeah, bottom line, we don't have to smoke weed all the time, and maybe the less we do the more powerful it is when we do. Like sex, not having any can be terribly frustrating or terribly liberating, depending on how much we though we needed it to feel whole doing anything. And taking time off, especially regularly, makes the time on so much more meaningful.



Blogger Yitzchak said...

Hey rebbe, shkoyach on the blog and great to hear you are still going strong in your quest. Ever hang out with Rav peretz? I was alway curious about his take on the whole subject

Shavua Tov

9:12 AM

Blogger yitz.. said...

hey yosef.. didn't know u had a blog.. found u through mobius' post of your discussion on 'minds of silk, stomaches of iron'(youtube) .. you said you didn't understand where they could get so much beer if they didn't work? Just wanted to answer that one: all the chassidut says that bracha only really falls upon things which are hidden from the eye.. so if you did know where all the beer came from, it wouldn't have been there ;)

4:16 PM

Anonymous Devin said...

" I'd gotten in some trouble in High School getting stoned before a film criticsm that I was to present, in the hopes of stoney insights coming. Instead, it just made it hard for me to remember what I was talking about."
Dude! I remember that! In Alex's Hitchcock class! That was fucking hilarious. A funny example of marijuana not giving one the powers that were asked for in the moment.
I agree with the stuff about grass smoking and praying. For me, getting high is better for things that are more open ended. Like, solving a problem. I might smoke, and start journeling about what I was feeling. Then something would strike, and I might need to do something physical, or make something, or call someone. If I had to keep writing though, it would have been hard, having already seen the next thing I could do. So yeah, it's not great for disciplined action of any kind.

3:47 AM

Blogger Dr. Richard Weissman said...

I think Zimmerman showed that rats suffer stimulus-control decrement in the context of chain schedules from pot.

4:19 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...


Cannabis is the cornerstone of most religions. If you look at Exodus 30:23 you will find that you have to use 250 sekel (16,34 grams) of "calmus" to make myrrha. The word "calamus" is a mistranslation, in hebrew it is KNH BSM. Kannabus is still the world for pot and so on in hebrew...?

2:55 AM


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