Monday, June 13, 2016

Cannabis on Sinai?

NO. NEXT QUESTION? Was Smoke on the Shavuot Mountain a Sign Ancient Jews Used Marijuana? (Susie Davidson, The Forward).
The upcoming festival of Shavuot, which means “weeks,” marks the end of a seven-week period that begins during Passover, and the receiving of the Torah under a cloud of smoke at Mount Sinai.

“And all the people saw the thunder and lightning, and the sound of the shofar, and the mountain in smoke; when the people saw it, they became uneasy and stood far away” (Ex. 20:15)

“According to an interpretation of Exodus 19:18, on Shavuot, Mount Sinai began to burn and smoke,” said Orthodox Jewish geriatrician Yosef Glassman.

What kind of smoke is the question.

This is a ridiculous over-reading of the smoke on Mount Sinai in the biblical narrative. I have commented on a similar claim here and I stand by my comments there.

That said, I don't know whether the ancient Israelites knew of medicinal or ritual uses of cannabis. There is evidence for such use from ancient Near Eastern archaeology, and it seems entirely possible that they did. There is also evidence that the ancient Philistines used psychoactive drugs, apparently in a ritual context, although I have seen no mention of cannabis specifically.

Likewise the rabbis in late antiquity may well have known of medicinal and ritual uses of cannabis, but I would like to see a peer-reviewed argument for it before I accept that they did.

PaleoJudaica takes no position on the modern debate over the legalization of cannabis.

Possibly related post here?