"We, who are healers, repair eternal bridges.
Whispering of desire and hope, weaving together lifeprayers, risking love.
Divine sparks refill shattered vessels.
Each moment overflows with bravery, with spirit,
with trust in ourselves and in God."

from Sisterhood: A Covenant of the Soul by Rabbi Rachel Hertzman

This study guide is designed to initiate discussion following
presentation of the video A Panel Discussion on Medical Marijuana.
Jewish commandments (mitzvot) help us make the world a more sensitive,
just and compassionate place. From what the speakers in the video said
and what you know about the following Jewish values, why do you think
WRJ supports making the cannabis plant available as medicine to the sick?

Saving a life - pikuach nefesh - is the most urgent mitzvah in Judaism
"Nothing must take precedence over saving of life" (Talmud B., Yoma 82a).
Do you think medical marijuana can save lives? How?

Jewish mystics count these among the ten Sefirot, attributes or
manifestations of God: Din, the power of God, is manifest through
judgment and the setting of limits; on the opposite side,
Hesed represents the mercy of a patient, forgiving God. Mediating
between these two extremes is Rahamim, the love and compassion of God.

What might be some compassionate solutions between the limits of
current laws against cannabis and the mercy we feel
for those who are suffering?

The mitzvah of bikkur cholim, visiting the sick, has as its object
cheering the sick, to be of service to them, and to give them hope.

And, while Judaism prescribes prayer for and by the sick, it is
not seen as a substitute for competent medical treatment
(Gates of Mitzvah, p. 49).

How do you see medical marijuana as a source of hope for the sick
and as valid medical treatment?

"Justice, justice shall ye pursue" (Deuteronomy 16:20) is the Torah's
abiding prescription. Is there justice when sick people are denied access
to this God-given substance, are imprisoned for using it as medicine
or for growing it or providing it for others who need it?

Cannabis has only been illegal in this country since 1937 when the
Marijuana Tax Act was passed by Congress -- a law of the land passed
by a government of men.

With Tikkun olam, repairing the world, as God's commandment to us,
does the situation with regard to medical cannabis warrant some repair?
If so, what kind of action might we take?

It is a mitzvah to study torah! What lessons can be learned
from these two verses?

In Genesis 1:29 God tells Adam and Eve:

"See, I give you every seed-bearing plant that is upon all the earth,
and every tree that has seed-bearing fruit; they shall be yours for food."
(Plaut, p. 20)

In Exodus 30:23 we are told that the Lord said to Moses:
'Next take choice spices: five hundred weight of solidified myrrh,
half as much - two hundred and fifty - of fragrant cinnamon,
two hundred and fifty of aromatic cane ...
Make of this a sacred anointing oil."
(Plaut, p. 633)

In the text, the Hebrew word for aromatic cane is transliterated as
'kana-besem'. The modern Hebrew word transliterated as 'kanabos'
is translated as "hemp", the English word for cannabis.
(Ben-Yehuda's Pocket English-Hebrew/ Hebrew-English Dictionary, p. 140)


WRJ calls upon its North American Sisterhoods to:

Become informed about the medicinal use of marijuana and its
constituent compounds,

Call for further medical research on marijuana and its
constituent compounds with thegoal of developing reliable
and safe cannabinoid drugs for management of debilitating conditions,

In the interim, strongly urge elected officials to support legislation
to reclassify marijuana as a prescribed controlled substance so that it
can be used to conduct research and prescribed for critically ill patients
with intractable pain and other conditions.


Books of Interest

Marijuana Myths, Marijuana Facts, Lynn Zimmer and John Morgan
(The Lindesmith Center, 1997)

Marihuana Reconsidered, Lester Grinspoon
(Harvard University Press, 1994 - 3rd edition)

Marihuana, The Forbidden Medicine, Lester Grinspoon, M.D.,
James B. Bakalar (Yale University Press, 1993)

References Cited

Ben-Yehuda's Pocket English-Hebrew/Hebrew-English Dictionary,
New York: Washington Square Press, Inc., 1964.

Maslin, Simon S., ed. Gates of Mitzvah: A Guide To The Jewish Life Cycle,
New York: Central Conference of American Rabbis, 1986.

Hertzman, Rachel, "Sisterhood: A Covenant of the Soul" in Covenant of the Soul:
New Prayers, Poems and Meditations from the Women of Reform Judaism,
New York: Women of Reform Judaism, 1999.

Plaut, W. Gunther, ed. The Torah: A Modern Commentary,
New York: Union of American Hebrew Congregations, 1981.

Women of Reform Judaism, In Pursuit of Justice:
Resolutions and Policy Statements,
New York: Women of Reform Judaism, 2000

Internet References

Medical Marijuana - Master Reference

Articles on Medicinal Marijuana (Drug Policy Alliance Online Library)

Avenues for Action

Marijuana Policy Project: Learn about the legal status of
medical marijuana in your state; find out what activists
are doing in other states


Advocate for legislative change.


WRJ Contacts

Carolyn Kunin, WRJ - ckunin@uahc.org

Jane Marcus, Congregation Beth Am, Los Altos Hills, CA -

Cherie Half, Congregation Beth Am,, Los Altos Hills, CA -



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