JewwannaIt has been brought to my attention by a friend outside of Israel that some of the ‘goings on’ that are taken for normal here are, in fact, noteworthy.

Specifically, Orthodox Jews who smoke pot.

I guess I’ve just been here too long to think of it as strange. But yes, there is a significant sect within the religious population who do not view the use of cannabis as contradictory to religious behavior, and sometimes even in line with the service of God.

These people, this group, is made up largely of old-school hippies who were followers of a certain famous, influential and controversial rabbi, and members of the younger generation who found religion through nature, hippy ideals and following Phish. These groups are primarily located in the small village established by the followers of this rabbi that still thinks it’s 1973, and in the enclave of Nachlaot in Jerusalem.

This is hippy-religious Israel. Musicians, artists and rabbinical students. These people are all serious about God and Torah and living Halachic lives. Some are raising families, a few have jobs, many study in Yeshiva.

Within this group, not only is marijuana occasionally used as a recreational drug, it is also brought into the realm of the spiritual experience. Much like the innocence of drug-experimentation in the American 1960s, many view it as an exercise in ‘Tuning in’ and achieving higher consciousness. Sacrilegious? Not in this Chevre.

I was doing some field research for this article on a rooftop in the Old City the other night. I sat there, looking at the stars over Jerusalem, contemplated the month of Elul and the absolute awe of looking out over Har ha Bayit. Then the discussion turned to the tragic decline of the fries at Burgers Bar and how good Reeses Peanut Butter Cups would be. But nonetheless, once our munchies subsided with some (regular) brownies, we decided to be quiet and try to hear the worlds prayers as they flowed through us on their way to the spot where they ascend to heaven.

I consulted with a Kabbalist for his take of the issue. With the right kavana (intentions), he told me, there is nothing wrong with doing what you need to do to connect into the divine energy flow, as long as you are keeping with Torah values of not screwing with anyone else and not messing yourself up. Everything with love and moderation.

Another Rabbi told me that it can be used as a source of revelation for our time, to show us small openings into deeper worlds that we can then incorporate into our consciousness, and then asked if I had any contacts, cuz his supply was running low.

Every opinion I got in favor of it stressed personal responsibility and self honesty. The question you have to ask, they concurred, is “is this bringing me closer to or further from God, is this giving me clarity or confusion?” If by smoking you are going to become lazy, forget your learning and ignore your responsibility as a citizen of the world, then it is forbidden for you. But the same should clearly be true of drinking which bears no such stigma.

The main source people point to against it is a Tshuva by Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, who, I assume has never tried the drug. Based on whatever information was given to him he groups marijuana in the broad category of “drugs”, and assumes that its users will quickly become addicted and do anything to maintain their habit in a sweeping generalization reminiscent of 1930’s anti-marijuana propaganda. He also brings up the issue that it causes distress to parents, but what about for those of us whose parents do more drugs than we do?

As for the argument of bodily harm, there is something to be said for keeping smoke out of your lungs. But you cannot single out this smoke as worse than nargila, tobacco, or liver damage caused by too many L’chaims, all of which are allowed. And there is always the option of eating it (hash hammentashen anyone? I’m not even kidding).

The only solid argument against it I have encountered is dina deh malchutei dina (the law of the land is the law) which nobody I talked to really has a solid answer for (thanks for killing my buzz “rabbi” ck). Although the one that was the most intersting is the opinion that the real law in the land of Israel is the Torah, and by Torah law, according to this opinion, it is not forbidden. Some even hold that it may have even played a part in the ancient service of God, as the original hebrew in Parasha Perek (30, pasuk 23) might imply.

This group of people I am speaking of is comprised of mainly Baal Tshuvas, who as one friend pointed out are really the truest modern day hippies. Flowy skirts, rainbow kippas and vegetarianism aside, these are a group of people who have left behind the misguided social value system of their parents to pursue truth peace, love, justice and world redemption through Torah. They bring with them the good remnants of original hippydom – passion, brotherhood, and “kind bud” when they come from British Columbia or that coveted stopover in Amsterdam, and incorporate it into a sect of Judaism that seems to be evolving into a modern-day neo-Hasidic movement.

About the author

Laya Millman


  • Smoking in general has been declared forbidden by a number of rabbis for “bodily harm” reasons — the explanation I’ve heard is that R’ Moshe Feinstein issued a responsum that declared smoking [tobacco] permitted “because it is not known to be definitely harmful.” That worked perfectly fine in previous decades, but now that we know for sure that inhaling smoke injures you, some rabbis make the claim that R’M.F. himself would have declared it forbidden.

  • Steg: In that respect, smoking marijuana is actually healthier than smoking tobacco. Having said that however, I am opposed to smoking marijuana because of its association with patchouli and hippies. When I think of hippies I think of Reagan – I mean that’s who voted him in right? Grown up hippies? Even today, I meet the crassest yuppie types who will invariably look back fondly on their wild year after college when they drove cross country with a couple of buddies and nothing but a beat up mini van, a second hand guitar and Daddy’s amex to give them sustenance. “Dude, it was so cool, so spiritual … I even hooked up with a chick who didn’t shave her armpits!” Yuppie then takes a sip of his champagne and I think “Godammit, I het f*cking hippies.”

    Rav Cartman held strongly against hippies and that’s good enough for me.

  • Hippies should not be associated exclusively with their pot-smoking behaviors. They were also the pioneers of the sexual and feminist revolutions. Even though this may make it more difficult to raise daughters in the new millenium — raise them to know they can competently and capably do any job, but not to sleep with just any good lookin’ dude (just because they can) — hippies also protested strongly against war and lived for peace.

    Going even more off-topic — look at the music of the 60’s & 70’s too. Any Dead-head will tell you that Jerry & the gang represented more than just getting high.

  • Whatever hippie – why don’t you go back to San Francisco with all the other hippies?

    Heh. I hope you all realize I’m being err… facetious. Just delving into a little South Park inspired irreverence. The Rav “Cartman” reference alone should have alerted y’all to that.

    Really, the topic is Orthodox Jews who get high, a concept that I think is interesting on so many levels. I mean Skylar also mentions the influence of hippies in the advent of feminism and egalitarianism – I wonder how that particular manifestation of hippiedom uh… manifests itself amongst this group of Orthodox Jews. Clearly their hippie synagogues have separate seating, yet conventional wisdom would dictate that such seating flies in the face of egalitarian ideals – so what’s up with that? Anyone?

  • Oh yeah… I recall some mention of that in the past on Jewschool. So uh… I’ll be in Jerusalem in a couple months. Think you can like… hook me up?

    With a draft of the book I mean….

  • How do you and your ostensibly frum gang deal with the libido loosening effects of marijuana and other narcotics? One cannot ignore those effects. My guess is that there is a lot more going on, unseen, than this post lets us in on. That is just my guess. Perhaps Laya can enlighten us?

  • “d.” was that a guess? Nice try. But you are totally clueless in that respect. Events swirl all around you, things happen, people are doing stuff while you remain blissfully ignorant. Despite my anonymity, my question was sincere. We both know that the image projected by pot smoking religious Carlebach style jews is one of piety where marijuana use is justified as some kind of spiritual tool. We both also know that there is another hidden reality, one that takes place far from judgemental eyes, where nice “religious” girls and boys do not so religious things with each others bodies. Some deal with it by getting married as soon as possible. Others deal with it…. how Laya?

  • you know, no, this little game of yours started out as slightly curious, but i’m getting rather bored.

  • “We both also know that there is another hidden reality, one that takes place far from judgemental eyes, where nice ‘religious’ girls and boys do not so religious things with each others bodies.”

    Really? I’m not sure I know many people who could get it up enough while high to do “not-so-religious” things with each other’s bodies.

    Besides, really, who cares enough about high people touching each other to dig up and comment on four month old blog posts? You seem frustrated. I hear ganja works wonders for that. You might even get some not-so-religious action in if you’re lucky. Fun!

  • this article appeared over a year and a half ago, so i don’t know if my comments are relevant. however i cannot accept the idea of dia de malchutei dina. in this or any case of injustice. wasn’t it “the law of the land” that drove our people into ghettos and eventually to their deaths. the “law of the land” can be seriously flawed. the law of the land here in the US allowed unbelievable treatment of people as slaves. and it is well known that the jews of baltimore as well as many other ports used this excuse to become part of that terrible history. when the law of the land denies a jew something which HaShem has given him, it is his right and even duty to protest.

  • im a born hassidic (not BT) doing pot and i find it to be a real gateway to spirituality and broad thinking

    i very much agree with what they basically said: if its going to bring u closer to god than its ok but if not u better stay away

  • I am so glad to hear it from so many people.

    Pot has been smoked for a very long time indeed, long before “they” said it was illegal.

    Kosher Weed? ROFL