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What exactly is "sorcery"? Also is cannabis ok to use?


Rabbi David Sperling

Adar 11, 5781
Hello, a question i have if you dont mind is regarding "sorcery". What exactly is "sorcery"? In the greek it is "pharmakia" and that sounds like "pharmacy". Also if you look the word "sorcery" up in a strongs concordance where it gives you the hebrew definition for the definition it uses words like "drug" and "poison". Ive also heard people talk about how things like cannabis a mind altering drug can open your mind up spiritually to demons, and also how some use mind ultering drugs to communicate with spirits/demons. Ive also seen a rabbi that said cannabis was kosher and ok to use and have heard of rabbis saying that medication is ok. So idk im trying to understand. If sorcery does have to do with drugs does that mean certain types of drugs or all drugs?  Only mind altering drugs? or Only all man made drugs including pharmacutical medication hence pharmakia? Is cannabis ok to use/smoke? are phychiatric mental health medications ok to use? Their may be a few questions in here which i am wondering but mostly i want to understand, what exactly is "SORCERY" aka pharmakia? Thank you, i really appreciate this service.
Shalom, Thank you for your question. As far as I know, the prohibition against sorcery is not connected to drug use. It is connected with acts used in idol worship. It also covers belief in powers other than G-d, and looking for “fortune telling signs”. As for using drugs, we can define drug use three categories. Firstly, medicinal. Jewish law rules that recognized main stream medicine is not only allowed, but a positive thing. Therefor, whatever drugs are recommended by the medical community – whether they be simple pain-killers, or dangerous drugs needed for medical conditions – they are allowed. This includes drugs needed for psychiatric conditions. Next, there are “recreational” drugs that have an effect on people – such as alcohol etc. Jewish law sees these things as permitted, but only when used in permitted ways. So, alcohol, for example, is allowed, but drunkenness is not. Addiction is also a major problem – and usage that will lead to addiction is also forbidden. Even though there are minor health risks with these products, most Rabbis rule that is a certain level of health risk is generally accepted by a society, then Jewish law also allows it. Because of this, the rulings on cigarettes has changed over the years, and as the medical establishment has gotten stronger in it’s warnings against smoking, so too has the Rabbinic world gotten more critical of smoking – with some Rabbis outright forbidding it, and others just recommending to refrain. Thirdly, there is drug use that causes addiction and has major mind-altering effects – such as cocaine etc. Judaism sees it as forbidden to enter into a mind altered state that would lead a person away for the ability to preform the commandments, or guard against sinning. Therefor these drugs are forbidden (unless for medicinal reasons as we wrote above). Together with this, Jews must follow the law of the land, and if a substance is illegal, it is also forbidden by Jewish law. Where does this leave us in relation to cannabis (in a location where it is legal)? There are various opinions, as you quoted. In general, it is better to serve G-d with a clear mind and a strong heart, and find joy and happiness in Torah and mitzvot. Blessings.
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