Courtesy of Lift Magazine
If you’re going to Roy and Claire Kaufman’s Passover Seder, the annual feast commemorating the liberation of the Jews from Egyptian slavery, the ceremony will include sipping Manischewitz and smoking marijuana.
“During the Seder, we traditionally ﬁll, bless and drink four cups of wine,” reads the Kaufmans’ Official Le’Or Cannabis Passover Seder Haggadah. “At tonight’s Seder, we are also free to ﬁll, bless and consume four servings of cannabis or more, either to substitute for the wine, or to complement it. Why wine and/or cannabis? For the same reason we lean when we eat and drink: because as slaves we could not rest, not even when sating our hunger and thirst. And we could not drink wine, the beverage of the ruling class.”
Jewish weed enthusiasts can also try Seder recipes for potzo brei and potzo-ball soup or they could even pick up kosher medical marijuana products from Hydropothecary in Gatineau, Que. – the only licensed producer in Canada offering rabbi-blessed bud.
But is there a cultural cannabis connection to Judaism beyond bad jokes about the High Holidays?
Well, it was in in Israel that Dr. Raphael Mechoulam isolated and identified THC and discovered the human endocannabinoid system. And in the 1990s, Israel was among the first countries to legalize medicinal weed and is a cannabis R&D hub while a recent survey demonstrated that 27 per cent of Israelis aged 18 to 65 have used marijuana in the last year.– one of the world’s highest rates of consumption.
“The fact that it’s happening in Israel doesn’t mean anything for Judaism,” Montreal-based Modern Orthodox rabbi Avi Finegold tells Lift News. “Ten years ago a lot of great, experimental jazz was coming out of Israel. It doesn’t mean that the jazz had anything to do about Judaism!”
Weed and the Old Testament
Jewish publications The Forward and Haaretz have published stories about the plant’s biblical roots with cannabis used for textiles, medicine and rituals. (Haaretz reports that the Book of Numbers has a reference “where Aaron the High Priest, no pun intended, probably burned marijuana as an incense offering during a time of turmoil.”)
Alongside these cannabis-infused interpretations of Jewish texts and Israel’s booming medical cannabis industry there are, sigh, the usual anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.
In 1971, President Richard Nixon was recorded saying to an aide, “You know, it’s a funny thing, every one of the bastards that are out for legalizing marijuana is Jewish. What the Christ is the matter with the Jews, Bob? I suppose it’s because so many of them are psychiatrists…” That sentiment endures to the present day. Neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer ran an anti-weed lobby editorial that claimed that “most of the marijuana industry, I can assure you, is run by Jews.”
Discriminatory tropes aside, some scholars trace Judaism’s cannabis connection back about 3,500 years. They believe that ‘kaneh-bosem,’ an ingredient in a holy anointing oil given to Moses from God in Exodus, is not the medicinal root calamus, as previously thought, but cannabis. This theory was first established in 1936 when