Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Shul behaviour and pot smoking

So how exactly should you behave in Shul? I mean on one hand it is fairly simple: Just pick up any standard “Judaism for dummies” book and it will tell you that during service s Shul is a house of prayer, period, and the only conversation that should be going on is the individuals and the congregations conversation with the Almighty. On the other hand we have the facts of reality, maybe best summoned up by the following comment: “Well....Feinstein goes to Shul to speak to I go to Shul to speak to Feinstein.”
I guess at least in small Diaspora communities, there is only so much you can do about it. We tend to have enough problems to get a Minyan together as it is. So as long as people don’t start babbling during the Amidah, babbling is more or less tolerated. Then again, severe conflicts of interest occur, specifically during High Holidays. Because then a lot of people who otherwise never attend Shul turns up, bumping into other more or less secular Jews who they only meet once or twice a year, and naturally they have a lot of catching up to do. On the other hand you have the religious people and the daily minyan people for whom the day is among the most sacred of the year, and the last thing they want is to hear about the bench neighbours new car, or the daughters new boyfrined during Kol Nidre. Last year parts of the Yom Kippur service could hardly be heard because the Chazzen, a man flown in from Israel for Yom Kippur, with a very strong voice, could hardly make this strong voice heard over the crowds incessant chatting. Finally one of the Kohanim had a fit of rage and broke into the service shouting out the importance of this day and asked people to for Heaveans sake stop babbling like chickens. And the crowd quieted down for a while. But basically it is a dilemma because we can not make our Shuls into places reserved for only the Pious, they have to be places for all Klal Israel. So there is really no way of “solving” this problem.

Anyway, I came to think of this because yesterday on Shabbath Shacharit a friend of mine interrupted in the middle of Mourners Kaddish to inform me that he had been smoking weed the other night (after, I hope, saying Shabbes Kiddush) and that it was so great, he hadn’t done it for 10 years, and he really wanted to get his hand on some more. I told him that he actually was 38 and not 15 and left it at that. But it did bug me.
Breaking Shabbes to smoke weed is hardly very kosher, nor is bugging people during prayer to tell of such activities even remotely OK, but my annoyance stemmed also from my deep dislike for drugs.
I haven’t always been religious and I grew up in a tough neighbourhood. And the drug liberals can argue until they are blue in the face about freedom from paternalism, this will always be a question of the strong arguing their rights to have access to drugs they (believe they can) handle over the weeks protection from complete humiliation and degradation. Drug addicts commit violent acts against themselves and the people around them. I have met many potheads who never got hooked on heavier drugs, many of them having smoked every day for many, many years, and believing them to be as bright as they ever were, having taken no damage. But I have never met a non-pothead agreeing with them. But even more importantly: You will find absolutely nobody hooked on coke that did not start out with weed. Nobody smoking brown heroine who did not start out smoking weed. Nobody has ever died in a public rest room with a stained needle in the arm who did not start his or her career with pot. And unfortunately I have known people in all those categories. Some lived. Some didn’t.

There is Hallacha to the effect that you should abide by the laws of the land were you sojourn as long as they do not go against Hallacha and Hallacha certainly do not promote drugs, and hardly any countries allow Cannabis (Including Israel). But I wish I knew of a stronger Hallachic statement against drugs. I suppose one might say that this is the world Hashem created for us, and hence to use drugs that take you very far from how he intended for us to perceive of his Creation is disrespectful. After all he created our senses knowing how and what they would show us of his magnificent world. If he had wanted the trees to fly and the ocean to be yellow, that is what he would have made. But these are just my thoughts. If anyone out there knows of such Hallacha, please inform me.
And if you feel like sharing you drug experiences with members of your congregation, do it after service.

1 comment:

  1. There is one. According to halacha one is not permitted to make oneself patur from mitzvot which means to be in a certain state of mind where you can't do mitzvot. I don't know exactly where this is written in halacha or if it is but that is what I've heard from very frum people actually our friend Mojshe Zacharevsky.