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August 30, 2015 / 15 Elul, 5775
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Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities

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Dor Yeshorim’s take on a reader’s argument…
(See Chronicles July 20)

Dear Rachel,

We at Dor Yeshorim saw your response to the recent letter about our program and appreciate your thoughtful answer.

As you stated, we have upheld our rules for over 29 years, and as you discerned, the rules are based on experience and care. While some would accuse us of being self serving, we would only point out that serving the program to make sure it works as well for future generations as it works today would be described as “serving klal Yisroel.

Due to genetic screening and shidduchim being such sensitive issues, you can imagine how someone who doesn’t understand why we have a particular rule would tend to believe that there couldn’t be a good reason for it. Rather than go through all the reasons for the many rules the program must impose, we would like to ask that Torah observant Yidden at least give us the benefit of the doubt – even if they cannot “think favorably” – and assume that in light of our vast experience and knowledge of our program, we are doing the best we can, in their best interest and in the interest of klal Yisroel.

With regard to your reader’s specific concern, please know that it pains us not to be able to break the rules for him, but the program’s integrity and its confidentiality for all participants are at stake.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Sincerely,
Rabbi Yosef Ekstein
Dor Yeshorim Inc.

Marijuana: A menace in our midst

Dear Rachel,

With sadness and distress, I wanted your opinion and advice about the terrible predicament – the rise in marijuana abuse within the frum community. I believe that this abuse has come about due to the mistaken notion that the use of marijuana is, firstly, not against halacha, and secondly, not harmful to one’s health. While to me it seems obvious that both of these notions are completely wrong, I feel that many find being a Torah Jew and drug addict not contradictory.

The use of marijuana is a violation of halacha. As Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l writes in Igros Moshe, Yoreh De’ah Vol. 3, Siman 35: “smoking marijuana is in violation of many of the basic laws of our Torah.” He explains that marijuana (1) causes physical harm to the person, (2) mentally affects the person by destroying the mind (one cannot properly perform any mitzvos, and doing them mindlessly is considered as if they were not done at all).

Rav Moshe also explains that a marijuana abuser has similar attributes to a Ben Sorer U’Moreh (the rebellious son), since they cannot control their addictions. He also sees marijuana abuse as a violation of the mitzvah of Kedoshim Ti’Hiyu (You shall be holy) and the mitzvah of Kibud Av v’Aim (respecting parents).

Marijuana is very harmful to one’s health as it damages the cells in the bronchial passages which protect the body against inhaled microorganisms and decreases the ability of the immune cells in the lungs. Regular smoking has been shown to weaken the smoker’s various natural immune mechanisms, affecting the body’s ability to defend itself against infection.

As someone who knows many Torah Jews who justify the abuse of marijuana, I was curious what we as individuals can do about this horrific plight. I realize that your column is a forum for important issues facing our community, and it has been a source of inspiration and help to many in need.

What do you think is the most effective way to combat this pervasive problem facing the young Orthodox Jewish community?

Concerned…

Dear Concerned,

You certainly have right and reason to be concerned. As you so persuasively point out, the habit of smoking pot is detrimental to one’s physical and mental wellness. Are our young smokers aware that the cannabis plant contains over 400 chemical compounds and that use of its dried flowers, leaves and stems (marijuana) is known to affect not only their brains but their lungs as well — that marijuana smoke is more than twice as carcinogenic than cigarette smoke?

Furthermore, as cited by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), there is a proven link between chronic marijuana use and increased rates of anxiety, depression and schizophrenia.

The hard reality is that marijuana slows down and alter one’s thought processes, causes loss of concentration, impairs coordination, and weakens verbal and communication skills. The young and developing brain is especially at risk of suffering long-lasting structural and functional impairment.

Lest adults and seniors feel complacent about their “weed” indulgence: Marijuana can increase one’s heart rate, alter one’s blood pressure and increase angina; reduce the size and birth weight of a fetus in the pregnant smoker, and increase the risk of non lymphoblastic leukemia in children whose mothers indulged before or during gestation.

Symptoms that may be indicative of marijuana use: breathing difficulties, nausea, headaches, decreased coordination, increased appetite, bloodshot eyes, sleepiness, memory loss, anxiety, paranoia, tremors, confusion, hallucinations, increased heart rate, and dry mouth.

So what measures can we exert on the young and foolish (and the not-so-young but foolish) who would waste their G-d given potential and trade quality of life for some fleeting and meaningless artificial highs?

There are yeshivas today that drug-test their students and execute a no-nonsense approach toward positive testers. Perhaps it’s time for other learning institutions to follow suit.

The heads of some orthodox Jewish communities have lately taken matters in hand, determined to thwart the growing menace in their midst. They have formed committees that make it their business to track down the weed peddlers — who are then summarily warned to stay away or find themselves facing the serious consequences of conducting illegal activity.

As has been repeatedly emphasized in this space, the best defense against external influences getting the better of our youth is for parents to cultivate open communication with their children, and teach by example. (One can hardly blame the child of a parent who smokes for lighting up.)

We must also see to providing our children with enough mind stimulation and physical recreation, via wholesome and positive activities and pastimes, so that they are less motivated to wander off in search of a fix to allay their boredom and frustration.

No, there are no guarantees in life, but confronting the problem rather than pretending it doesn’t exist gives us at least the chance to keep it in check.

Thank you for being concerned and speaking out.

* * * * *

We encourage women and men of all ages to send in their personal stories via email to  rachel@jewishpress.com  or by mail to Rachel/Chronicles, c/o The Jewish Press, 4915 16th Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11204. If you wish to make a contribution and help agunot, your tax-deductible donation should be sent to The Jewish Press Foundation. Please make sure to specify that it is to help agunot, as the foundation supports many worthwhile causes.

About the Author: We encourage women and men of all ages to send in their personal stories via email to rachel@jewishpress.com or by mail to Rachel/Chronicles, c/o The Jewish Press, 4915 16th Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11204. If you wish to make a contribution and help agunot, your tax-deductible donation should be sent to The Jewish Press Foundation. Please make sure to specify that it is to help agunot, as the foundation supports many worthwhile causes.


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3 Responses to “Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities”

  1. As the founder of Jews Against Prohibition, I want to point out that this article is a perfect example of anti-drug hysteria and the perpetuation of falsehoods and ignorance about marijuana that, presented in the pursuit of a zero-tolerance drug policy, increases the likelihood of drug abuse. Marijuana, if vaporized rather than smoked, is not harmful to the body (it is the smoking that is harmful, not the marijuana), nor is marijuana harmful to the mind, as no evidence exists to show that marijuana kills brain cells, as alcohol does. Clearly, one may be somewhat impaired while under the influence, yet the impairment and harm to the individual is proven to be far less severe than alcohol, which is perfectly acceptable to use in both halacha and secular law. Furthermore, quoting the National Institute on Drug Abuse about marijuana is like quoting an antisemitic tractate about Jews — it is not a neutral sources that seeks to illustrate the pros and cons of a given issue. Indeed, numerous studies funded by European governments, the Israeli government, and even some funded by the NIDA that have been discarded for not serving the organization's agenda, have found marijuana to be far less harmful than some would have us believe. The true reason for marijuana's illegality is not its potentially harmful effects, but its value to the prison industrial complex. 85% of America's 2.5 million prisoners are there for non-violent drug offenses, which generates a pretty penny for the state and law enforcement agencies. That is the only genuine danger marijuana poses to our youth: That they might get arrested for it. Spreading zero-tolerance anti-drug propaganda in order to discourage them from indulging in marijuana will only lead them to distrust your opinions when they smoke for the first time and discover that it is not nearly as harmful as you have been telling them.

  2. As the founder of Jews Against Prohibition, I want to point out that this article is a perfect example of anti-drug hysteria and the perpetuation of falsehoods and ignorance about marijuana that, presented in the pursuit of a zero-tolerance drug policy, increases the likelihood of drug abuse. Marijuana, if vaporized rather than smoked, is not harmful to the body (it is the smoking that is harmful, not the marijuana), nor is marijuana harmful to the mind, as no evidence exists to show that marijuana kills brain cells, as alcohol does. Clearly, one may be somewhat impaired while under the influence, yet the impairment and harm to the individual is proven to be far less severe than alcohol, which is perfectly acceptable to use in both halacha and secular law. Furthermore, quoting the National Institute on Drug Abuse about marijuana is like quoting an antisemitic tractate about Jews — it is not a neutral source that seeks to illustrate the pros and cons of a given issue. Indeed, numerous studies funded by European governments, the Israeli government, and even some funded by the NIDA that have been discarded for not serving the organization's agenda, have found marijuana to be far less harmful than some would have us believe. The true reason for marijuana's illegality is not its potentially harmful effects, but its value to the prison industrial complex. 85% of America's 2.5 million prisoners are there for non-violent drug offenses, which generates a pretty penny for the state and law enforcement agencies. That is the only genuine danger marijuana poses to our youth: That they might get arrested for it. Spreading zero-tolerance anti-drug propaganda in order to discourage them from indulging in marijuana will only lead them to distrust your opinions when they smoke for the first time and discover that it is not nearly as harmful as you have been telling them.

  3. As the founder of Jews Against Prohibition, I want to point out that this article is a perfect example of anti-drug hysteria and the perpetuation of falsehoods and ignorance about marijuana that, presented in the pursuit of a zero-tolerance drug policy, increases the likelihood of drug abuse. Marijuana, if vaporized rather than smoked, is not harmful to the body (it is the smoking that is harmful, not the marijuana), nor is marijuana harmful to the mind, as no evidence exists to show that marijuana kills brain cells, as alcohol does. Clearly, one may be somewhat impaired while under the influence, yet the impairment and harm to the individual is proven to be far less severe than alcohol, which is perfectly acceptable to use in both halacha and secular law. Furthermore, quoting the National Institute on Drug Abuse about marijuana is like quoting an antisemitic tractate about Jews — it is not a neutral source that seeks to illustrate the pros and cons of a given issue. Indeed, numerous studies funded by European governments, the Israeli government, and even some funded by the NIDA that have been discarded for not serving the organization's agenda, have found marijuana to be far less harmful than some would have us believe. The true reason for marijuana's illegality is not its potentially harmful effects, but its value to the prison industrial complex. 85% of America's 2.5 million prisoners are there for non-violent drug offenses, which generates a pretty penny for the state and law enforcement agencies. That is the only genuine danger marijuana poses to our youth: That they might get arrested for it. Encouraging widespread drug testing will not reduce drug use, but only create resentment for the violation of individual privacy. Are these students or prisoners? Spreading zero-tolerance anti-drug propaganda in order to discourage youth from indulging in marijuana will only lead them to distrust your opinions when they smoke for the first time and discover that it is not nearly as harmful as you have been telling them.

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