High Holidays: Cannabis and Judaism

Avatar Maria Calabrese |

During this year’s High Holidays, we’ve decided to explore Cannabis and Judaism.  Of course, there’s the decorating, the candles, the music, the planning, the feasting and fasting, the family, the friends, the self-reflection, the resolutions.  It is a time of renewal, spiritual awakening, community and giving, beginning with Rosh Hashanah and concluding ten days later with Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish year. How does cannabis fit into this picture? Is cannabis an unorthodox tradition?  To the contrary, according to Retired Orthodox Rabbi and Cannabis advocate Simcha Green, his wife Margie and son Elie, Co-Founder, Green Topicals. 

The History of Cannabis and Judaism

For the religious, the High Holidays offer a chance to strengthen their faith and bond with community. So, what does this have to do with cannabis, you wonder? As religion pertains to the history of cannabis, its roots date back to the Bible, explained Margie Green.  Evidence was established in 1936 by an etymologist named Sula Benet, from the Institute of Anthropological Sciences in Warsaw. Benet discovered that the word for cannabis (once originally thought to be of Scythian origin) appears to have first been noted in the Semitic languages, such as Hebrew. In traditional Hebrew, it is known as kaneh or kannabus. The root kan in this construction means “reed” or “hemp,” while bosm means “aromatic.”  Benet demonstrated that the ancient word for cannabis is Kaneh-Bosm and that it is mentioned at least five times in the Old Testament! It is said to be a “fragrant cane,” designated as kaneh-bosum (bosem, bosm).  As well, it was written as part of the holy anointing oil – as evident from Exodus 30:22 -33. When prophet-shaman Moses goes to speak to the Lord, he goes into an enclosure called “the tent of the meeting” where he covers himself in this (hemp) oil and places some of it in the incense altar.  He then burns it and speaks to the Lord through a pillar of smoke over the incense altar.

From the Old Testament:

GENESIS 1:29-30

While [consumable] cannabis with psychoactive effects isn’t for everybody, topical cannabis with no psychoactive effects is really for anybody with sore muscles, aches, pains and even certain skin conditions.

“You don’t have to get high to be a cannabis user,” echoes Elie Green, in an article in The Jewish News of Northern California, and the son of retired Orthodox Rabbi Simcha Green and his wife, Margie, who has taken on the role of company spokespersons.

One Couple’s Journey with Judaism and Marijuana

The couple, who are in their 70s, are cannabis advocates. Among their activities, they run workshops and counsel parents of sick children on the risks and benefits of medical marijuana uses and options; they also speak at retirement communities and are passionate about spreading the word about the medicinal benefits of cannabis.  They attribute their outreach to ancient Jewish text, and pointed out to me at least a dozen instances where the Bible mentions the healing properties of what they believe to be a marijuana plant.

“I grew up in a time when it was taboo,” says the rabbi. “But when you see how many seniors, how many people [medical marijuana] has helped … it’s so impressive. After our son introduced us to it, I went with him to a dispensary for the first time and I saw firsthand how clean it was, how well run, and I realized it was on the up-and-up.

Cannabis in Jewish Law

In Jewish law, as I understand it, it’s a very simple question: Does the medicine have healing effects? And what are the risks of using the medicine?” he says. “If the healing effects outweigh the risk of using the medicine, use the medicine. Not only use the medicine, but doctors are also required to prescribe you the medicine. That’s our legal and ethical responsibility to each other, to Jews, to anybody in pain.”

“Of course, as Jews we are also required to follow the law of the land,” Rabbi Green adds. “But the law of the land is changing.”

As Margie Green says to parents struggling with kids with cancer when chemo alone is not working or is causing more harm than benefit, “Open up your mind to try cannabis. If you’re not happy you can go back to chemo, but give the kid an opportunity not to be sick. And, everybody, let’s get Washington to jump on the wagon!”

Evidence of medicinal cannabis use goes back thousands of years and spans cultures. On the Doc Green’s website, docgreens.org, users have reported that topical cannabis products improve conditions ranging from eczema and other skin problems to repetitive stress injuries, migraines, fibromyalgia and more. Lavender, vanilla and unscented varieties are available for purchase at dispensaries throughout California; the company also ships directly to consumers who can provide proof of a prescription.

Warmest wishes from all of us at Green Bee Life for A Happy and Healthy High Holiday and New Year with the responsible and sensible use of plant medicine!

Written By: Maria Calabrese, Founder & CEO


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