Is God Really Cool with Cannabis?
The subject of our teaching is the article “‘God is Cool With Cannabis,’ Says Orthodox Jewish Cannabis Expert” by Eliana Rudee posted by Breaking Israel News on 21 March 2018.
What does Rabbinical Judaism say about cannabis?
In her article the author Eliana Rudee quotes Sarah Zadok, Content Marketing Manager for CannaTech and iCAN Israel Cannabis concerning the use of cannabis (marijuana). According to Sarah Zadok, “the use of medical cannabis among those who need it is not only permitted under Jewish law. It is also a mitzvah (commandment). “God is cool with cannabis,”” Sarah Zadok told Breaking Israel News.
Sarah Zadok continues, “Even more, the Jewish tradition of “pikuach nefesh” (saving a life) says that preservation of human life overrides nearly any other religious consideration. Thus, smoking medical cannabis is even permitted during Shabbat and holidays if this is the most effective way to ensure one’s health.”
Eliana Rudee also quotes Saul Kaye, founder of iCAN, that “the use of cannabis dates back to the Bible and is documented in the Old Testament. He claimed that cannabis is referred to as “kaneh-bosm” in the books of Exodus, the Song of Songs, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel. “It is mentioned in the Bible, in Gamara (Talmud), and was used to create smoke in the temple.” To give credit to Sarah Zadok, she questions whether “kaneh-bosm” is referring to cannabis, or at least it is debatable.
Zadok told Breaking Israel News that a significant portion of her job involves trying to highlight the legitimacy and undermining the stigma of the use of medical cannabis.
But first what is cannabis or as it commonly known as marijuana? According to the science marijuana is a strong-smelling plant from whose dried leaves a number of euphoriant and hallucinogenic drugs are prepared. Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug; considered a soft drug, that consists of the dried leaves of the hemp plant, smoked or chewed for euphoric effect. This definition of cannabis (marijuana) is, of course, rejected by proponents, like Sarah Zadok and Saul Kaye, who call the drug “recreational or medical cannabis.”
However, according to Sarah Zadok, supporting the use of medical cannabis is about “social justice and having the basic human rights to access the medicine.” She maintained that at its core, supplying medical cannabis just like any other medical drug is about “finding the medicine that allows you to be the person you’re supposed to be.” Zadok also said to Breaking Israel News, “It’s about living your purpose, living it well, and living it healthy. And if that happens to be what one needs to engage with God’s creation, then use it and enjoy it.”
In summary, as quoted by Eliana Rudee from Breaking Israel News, for Sarah Zadok the use of cannabis (marijuana) is all about “social justice and basic human rights; the person you’re supposed to be.” And because Sarah Zadok is an Orthodox Jewess, she involved God saying that one needs to engage with God’s creation, and use cannabis and enjoy it.
Cannabis or caneh-bosem?
The present author will not discuss in this article the use of cannabis (marijuana) for “recreational” and “medical” needs; not will he discuss whether this drug is about “social justice and basic human rights, the person you’re supposed to be.” The social justice and basic human rights, and the person one is supposed to be, were discussed in the Covenant of Salt thousands of years ago at Mount Sinai.
What the present author will discuss, however, is whether cannabis can be found in the Bible. And more particularly, whether it was used in the Temple service, as some cannabis experts like Saul Kaye and others claim. Actually, the present author has already discussed this issue and wants to encourage the reader to refer to the article “Is Really Marijuana in the Bible?” posted by Time of Reckoning Ministry on 3 November 2016. But, it suffices to say now that קְנֵה־בֹשֶׂם kaneh bosem, in Exo 30:23, has nothing to do with cannabis. We read:
Take thou also unto thee the chief spices, of flowing myrrh five hundred shekels, and of sweet cinnamon half so much, even two hundred and fifty, and of sweet calamus (Heb. kaneh bosem) two hundred and fifty, (Exo 30:23 JPS)
As Saul Kaye claims, cannabis is referred to as “kaneh-bosem” in the books of Exodus, the Song of Songs, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel. Actually, the phrase “kaneh-bosem” appears only in Exo_30:23 and is translated by Jewish Publication Society as sweet calamus. In all other appearances in the Hebrew Scripture, we can find only the word “kaneh” whose plain meaning is “cane” or “reed.”
Below are the appearances of “kaneh” as found in the Hebrew Scripture, in which Saul Kaye claims cannabis was meant:
calamus, 3 times
Exo_30:23, Son_4:14, Eze_27:19
cane, 2 times
“Kaneh” appears also 29 times as “reed,” 24 times as “branch,” one 1 time as “bone” in Job_31:22. In Gen_41:5 and Gen_41:22 it is translated in JPS as “stalk” in Joseph’s dreams.
Where did the confusion come from?
Breaking Israel News is a respected publisher that offers Biblical perspectives on the latest news from Israel and the Middle East. By heading Eliana Rudee’s article ‘God is Cool With Cannabis,’ Says Orthodox Jewish Cannabis Expert” with the verse in Gen 1:11, the present author assumes that Breaking Israel News considers Sarah Zadok’s opinion Biblical, or at least it is not in disagreement with her.
But, what does Gen 1:11 really say on this issue, because this is the most quoted verse along with Exo 30:23 to justify the smoking of cannabis.
Gen 1:11 says thus:
And God said: ‘Let the earth put forth grass, herb yielding seed, and fruit-tree bearing fruit after its kind, wherein is the seed thereof, upon the earth.’ And it was so. And the earth brought forth grass, herb yielding seed after its kind, and tree bearing fruit, wherein is the seed thereof, after its kind; and God saw that it was good. (Gen 1:11-12 JPS)
And further in the Creation story we read:
And God said: ‘Behold, I have given you every herb yielding seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed – to you it shall be for food. (Gen 1:29 JPS)
The cannabis proponents interpret the verses above to mean that since the Creator created every herb yielding seed, which is upon the face of all the earth to be for food, and cannabis (marijuana) is a plant yielding seeds, then it is acceptable to smoke it. One important thing, however, has been missed here.
YHVH Elohim said to the man who listened to his wife and ate of the tree of which He commanded them not to eat.
Cursed is the ground because of you, in toil you are to eat of it all the days of your life, and the ground shall bring forth thorns and thistles for you, and you shall eat the herbs of the field. By the sweat of your face you are to eat bread until you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken. For dust you are, and to dust you return. (Gen 3:17-19)
What has been missed by the cannabis proponents, when they quote Gen 1:11-12 and Gen 1:29, is that the Creator did create all kinds of grass and herbs yielding seeds, and trees bearing fruit to be for food, and He said, “It was good.” But that was before the fall of the man and the woman. All those plants were created to be for food, because the Creator saw that it was good. However, after the fall of Adam and Chavah (Eve), He cursed the ground to bring forth thorns and thistles (i.e. inedible weeds) along with the edible plants. The thorns and thistles are not for food, but for curse to make men toil all days of their lives. Before the curse of the ground the first humans had to just walk in the garden and eat the seeds and the fruits freely. After the curse, they had to work hard to make the ground produce its fruits, as before. The weeds were part of that curse.
The Hebrew words for “thorn” and “thistle” are qots and dardar and have never been used throughout the Scripture to mean edible foods. While the word esev for “herb” in you shall eat the herbs of the field is always meant to be for food. Esev, herb, as found in Gen 1:29 above, was created before the curse of the ground, when everything Elohim created was good for food. He never said about the weeds, “It was good.” Therefore, we can say that the Creator created cannabis after, not before the curse of the ground.
Here is the place to say that there are two kinds of cannabis: male and female plants. The female plant is the one that is toxic for the brain, and it is the one the marijuana advocates promote for smoking. The male cannabis, aka “hemp” is harmless and useless for “recreational smoking.” This is not the plant they mean when they say “medical marijuana.”
Is there anything medical in “medical marijuana?”
In conclusion, the present author’s opinion is that the whole movement for legalizing marijuana is all about making money. He is not a cannabis expert, nor is he a medical person. But one thing is for sure: the word “cannabis” cannot be found in the Bible.
Whether one will smoke cannabis is between him/her and God. And whether “God is cool with cannabis” is entirely up to Him, not to the cannabis experts. But it is irresponsible for an Orthodox Jew to twist the Scripture for a personal gain and claim that cannabis is in the Bible.
Unfortunately, there are many who believe that cannabis is in the Bible. They make everything possible to find a justification to smoke marijuana by twisting the Hebrew language and the Bible. As the hallucination this drug causes, they “see” what they want to see: “kaneh-bosem” as cannabis.
But, as far as the medicine is concerned: there is nothing medical in “the medical marijuana.” And as far as law enforcement is concerned: there is nothing recreational in “the recreational marijuana.” It is all about the deception of the deceiver to deceive and harm as many as possible.
May we merit seeing the coming of our Mashiach speedily in our days