Rabbi’s Reflections – Sunday,June 11, 2023 Shavuah Tov,

“It’s Just a Little (Harmless) Weed” – Part 2by Raymond Finney

INTRODUCTION: I continue this two-part series on the rampant, growing use of mind-altering drugs in America and throughout the world. I concentrate on a common drug (marijuana) because many users consider it harmless. Marijuana is not harmless. Other commonly used drugs (alcohol, for example) are not harmless. A new, deadly threat (fentanyl) lurks in every American community.

What is happening to us? America is a sick nation intent on self-medication and self-delusion. Our society is being destroyed by the social upheaval and family disruption caused by drug usage. Using drugs for non-medical reasons in order to live in a stupefied haze is contrary to the will of God. Widespread drug use without shame or interest in repentance is a sign of the end of the Age of Grace.

I strongly recommend that you do not start using any drug of abuse (marijuana, alcohol, opiates, and others). If you are using such drugs, I recommend that you stop. There are agencies in your community which will help you stop a drug habit.

WHAT ABOUT MEDICAL RECOMMENDATIONS? As a retired physician, I do not automatically believe everything my fellow physicians and pharmaceutical companies claim. You can check questionable claims by reading the original published (research) papers in Google Scholar ( https://scholar.google.com ). Google Scholar is an invaluable resource, and is free to use. I use it several times weekly. Some day, I may write for RR readers the criteria necessary for research data to be accepted as valid.

“Medical marijuana” has gained popularity. We obtain many drugs from plants, and Cannabis products are plant-based. Some persons swear by marijuana’s  beneficient effects. A brief summary (Mayo Clinic) of medical marijuana may be read at: Medical marijuana – Mayo Clinic .

I make no comments about claims of this drug’s usefulness, but I do know “medical marijuana” is abused in states where it has been legalized. How many “potheads” in, say, California have prescriptions to obtain marijuana legally? Most communities of any size have a “’Doctor Feelgood” who will prescribe “feelgood drugs” for a fee. Medical and governmental agencies have been too slow to root out these prescription factories.

The well-known Hippocratic Oath is of historical interest only. Medical school graduates may take a modernized oath on a voluntary basis. The ancient Hippocratic Oath has some clauses that today’s physicians should take to heart. The Oath speaks against abortion. From the Oath comes a paraphrased injunction for practicing physicians, usually quoted in Latin– Primum non nocere (translation: “First, do no harm”). Prescribing mind-altering drugs to satisfy a drug user’s addiction very much is harmful, and all “Doctor Feelgood” practitioners should permanently lose their licenses in all states. It is time to stop coddling drug use in America. Permanently removing the licenses of all misbehaving physicians is a good first step. Practicing medicine should be a privilege, not a right.

Let me say something about advice to drink wine “for health.” Some physicians and others may recommend drinking a little red wine daily “for the heart.” A good recommendation is: do not start drinking, if a person does not drink; or, drink very modestly, or stop drinking (preferably), if a person already drinks.

Medical researchers have noted the “French paradox.” Even though the French eat fat-laden food, smoke excessively, and follow other unhealthy practices, many enjoy long lives. Most of them follow the Mediterranean diet, which is probably the best diet for most people, Must be the red wine they drink– right? Well, red wine does contain health-guarding substances, including resveratrol.

Resveratrol is a remarkable substance. There is relatively little resveratrol in wine, though. I take daily an antioxidant capsule, with resveratrol (from Japanese knotweed) and extracts from grape skin, grape seed, and Maritime pine bark. From this capsule, I obtain much more resveratrol than if I drank a serving or two of wine. The capsule costs a few pennies, much less than a single glass of wine. The capsule neither intoxicates me nor damages my liver.

Latest research suggests there is no safe limit to drink any alcohol-containing beverage (World Health Organization, The Lancet Public Health, etc.). Is that daily glass of red wine a glass of life-enhancing “medicine” or a glass of delayed-onset poison? Pregnant women have long been advised not to ingest any alcohol (to avoid fetal alcohol syndrome in their babies). Pregnant women should clear any drug or supplement use with their obstetricians. There are safer, cheaper, non-addicting ways of obtaining resveratrol than by drinking wine.

There are absolute prohibitions (complete no use) against drinking alcohol for certain groups of people:

> A person taking another medication which may interact with alcohol

> A person managing a medical condition which can be worsened by drinking

> A person under at least age 21 years (unless emancipated) – illegal to do so

> A person recovering from alcohol use disorder (AUD) or unable to control the amount of alcohol consumed

> A woman who is pregnant or may be pregnant

> A person, especially an older person, planning to operate (drive) an automobile or other motorized vehicle that requires skill, coordination, and alertness.

The legal limit for operating a motor vehicle is too high (too lenient). This limit is a compromise, set more to appease the drinking (voting) public and alcohol distributors than to guarantee public safety.

WHAT IS WRONG WITH US? Many citizens of the United States and other developed countries live in drug-induced stupor every day of their lives. Consider the tent cities in many large American cities (San Francisco, Los Angeles, etc.). Some of the people living on the street are mentally ill (due to drug use or nervous system malfunction), but a large contingency of drug addicts are also present. Large city governments combat this drug use by looking the other way while their cities become open-air drug markets, refuse to prosecute or provide alternative housing, and make excuses for drug-seeking, drug-using behavior.

Nearly 110,000 Americans died of drug overdose in 2022. This death toll is the same number of deaths, as if every person sitting in every seat of Neyland Stadium on a Tennessee-Alabama football game day (plus 8,000 more fans waiting outside trying to enter the stadium) died. Envision another example. The 2023 population of Knoxville is estimated to be 196,823 persons. If more than one of every two Knoxvillians died in 2023, surely someone would be alarmed. We are so jaded by drug overdose deaths, though, that we barely notice.

Drug use in Americans aged 12 and over show: 45.7% have used marijuana, 14.2% have used cocaine, 10.2% have used LSD, 7.4% have used ecstasy, 5.6% have used methamphetamine, and 2.3% have used heroin.

Fentanyl, a deadly opiate (up to 300 times more potent than morphine), is  manufactured in China and Mexico and carried/ driven across our open Southern border by Mexican cartels. Two milligrams (2 mg) of fentanyl (the equivalent of a few grains of table salt) causes certain death. Fentanyl smuggling is essentially unimpeded. Fentyanyl causes more than half (53%) of all American overdose deaths. For reasons known only to Joe Biden, the Biden Administration chooses to turn a blind eye to this practice of fentanyl smuggling.

WHAT’S A BELIEVER TO DO? In my opinion, a Believer should not use (abuse) alcohol or any other mind-altering drug. My wife Linda and I have never used any mind-altering drug. We have had a long, happy, faithful marriage (61.5 years and counting), which will end only as our marriage vows dictated (until we are parted by death). By forgoing alcohol and other recreational drugs, our bank account is much richer, than if we were frequently disposing of numerous empty wine and liquor bottles, beer cans, and other drug wrappers. We have avoided fighting, domestic abuse, and other sequelae of drug-altered minds. We have set an example for our children and grandchildren that one can lead a productive, happy married life completely free of drug usage. Importantly, we follow God’s Word by avoiding these drugs.

Early in my career, I provided medical care for people in severe drug intoxication and overdose conditions. Delirium tremens (DTs) is an especially degrading consequence of chronic alcohol use. More recently, I performed autopsies on alcoholics and other drug addicts, and the beautiful organs God gave these people at birth were terribly transformed and destroyed by scarring, atrophy, hemorrhage, and other disease processes.

The human body is a beautiful, remarkable creation (Psalm 139:14): I [David]  praise You [Adonai], for I am awesomely, wonderfully made! Wonderful are Your works– and my soul knows that very well. Any advocate of abortion should study in detail human embryology. What a master plan Creator God laid out for the human body. I thank God that I have been privileged to study embryology. My eyes have been opened to the Master Creator. I unequivocally value all stages and ages of human life from conception to grave.

SIDELIGHT: Because I am a disorganized person, I wander off on tangents in the RRs I write. Today’s RR is no exception. So, let’s travel on another path for awhile. I know these paths may confuse a reader, but I enjoy my little walks.

We should all read Ecclesiastes, chapter 12– Ode for the Aging, written by the Kohelet (Solomon). Solomon poetically and beautifully described the shattering of the earthen jug (the body at death), with its dust returning to the ground from whence it came, and the snapping of the silver cord (the soul at death), with it returning to the Creator from which it came. God created men and women with a soul (the spirit– the image– of Elohim) and He loves us so much that we must take care of the soul He entrusted to us.

Importantly, the body is God’s temple (1 Corinthians 6:19-20): Or don’t you know that your body is a temple of the Ruach ha-Kodesh who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you were bought with a price. Therefore glorify God in your body. Paul told us that we try to intoxicate (pollute) God, when we intoxicate (pollute) His temple (our body).

Holy Scriptures warn that drug abusers may have difficulty entering Heaven, unless they repent (for example, 1 Corinthians 6:9-11): Or don’t you know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Don’t be deceived! The sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, those who practice homosexuality, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, slanderers, swindlers– none of these will inherit the kingdom of God. That is what some of you were– but you were washed, you were made holy, you were set right in the name of the Lord Yeshua the Messiah and by the Ruach of our God.

In the previously quoted Scripture, Paul gave us quite a list of persons excluded from Heaven. Paul probably could have continued listing sinful practices of humans. I believe Paul was telling us that not one of us is worthy to enter Heaven, as he stated in another letter (Romans 3:23): … for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Left to humankind’s own devices, Heaven would look like a ghost town. I would not be there. Would you?

The Triune God works to transform us imperfect, sinful creatures to be worthy of being in the presence of a perfect, sin-free God. Adonai’s grace is extended to us through the blood sacrifice of our Passover Lamb, Yeshua HaMashiach. The gentle urging of the Ruach ha-Kodesh calls us from sin to salvation. With the Godhead working together (the Father’s grace, the Son’s blood sacrifice, and the Spirit’s conviction of sin), you and I can achieve salvation and enter Heaven some glorious day! If you are saved, you have experienced firsthand the marvelous working of the Three Persons of the Godhead.

The Bible outlines a Believer’s God-pleasing behavior around alcohol and drugs. One-hundred Bible verses about the use of mind-altering substances may be read at: https://www.openbible.info/topics/drugs_and_alcohol  . Concerning the use of mind-altering drugs, these verses may be distilled into one word: “Don’t.” Don’t start using these substances. Don’t continue using these substances, if you have started.

There are numerous resources in every community to assist a user in stopping the use of alcohol/ drugs. Good people want to help any drug user to become a sober, useful citizen. Divine help should be invoked, because freedom from drugs is God’s will. END sidelight.

EXCUSES TO USE MARIJUANA AND OTHER DRUGS: Drinkers argue that Yeshua and His apostles drank wine. Why, then, should we not also drink wine (alcohol)? I could write several RRs on reasons to avoid drinking alcohol (or using other mind-altering drugs), but I will condense these comments to this section. Alcohol is toxic. There may not be any amount of alcohol that is safe to consume to avoid liver and other organ injury. Alcohol should be strictly avoided in pregnancy and lactation. Also, alcohol is addicting. Many drunkards become alcoholics from the first drink.

As a father, I never relaxed until my teenage children returned from dates. I was always apprehensive one of them would be involved in a traffic accident. I did not fear that Yeshua or an apostle would be driving an oncoming vehicle, but I did fear that some ignorant, selfish, drunk bubba would collide with the vehicle carrying my child. A Believer should not justify his/ her shameful action by beginning, “But, Yeshua….” Yeshua is part of the Holy Trinity (Three Persons), not the Holy Quartet (with you as the Fourth Person).

Users also argue that marijuana, alcohol, morphine, and some other drugs occur in Nature. Since they are natural, they must be made by God and must be useful (acceptable) for consumption. Nonsense! Arsenic, for example, occurs in Nature, but only a fool would eat this “natural” substance.

Is marijuana a gateway drug? “Gateway drug” means a drug, such as marijuana, opens the door (the gate) to use/ abuse other licit (legal) and illicit (illegal) drugs. At least a minority of marijuana users go on to use “harder,” moire dangerous drugs. Since many Americans begin smoking marijuana in junior high/ high school grades, the implication for graduating to a lifetime of even more dangerous drugs is frightening.

CONCLUSION: These are many reasons not to use “recreational’ (illicit) drugs. Drug use harms the body, the family, and society. Drug use is contrary to the written Word of God. Drug use is a sign of the end of the Age of Grace. And,  drug use is just stupid. I hope you are too strong in your faith, wish to please God too much, and are too smart to begin or continue using “recreational drugs.”

You may never be tempted to use any of these drugs. However, evil people are beginning to slip fentanyl into party foods and counterfeit candy. Are you and your children/ grandchildren safe from fentanyl? Never accept “candy” from a stranger. “Rainbow fentanyl” look exactly like popular candy products, and would easily fool you or a child. A party-goer might slip fentanyl into punch. And so forth. Evil people will always be a step ahead of good people.

I probably have been “preaching to the choir” in this RR. I suspect there is little to no illicit drug usage among Shomair’s RR readers. Even so, all of us should  stand strongly against such drug usage. If you have a friend or relative whose life is being ruined by drugs, please encourage him/ her to receive help. A person strongly addicted to alcohol or other drugs should consult his/ her physician for measures to reduce withdrawal symptoms.

If a measure to legalize drugs (recreational marijuana, for example) is brought to a vote in a referendum, fight hard and vote against such measure.

Fentanyl is brought into the United States in huge quantities and only a minuscule amount can cause death by respiratory paralysis. Children and grandchildren should be warned never to eat candy from a stranger or if found outside the home. All food should should be approved by a parent, grandparent, or other trusted relative.

Until next Sunday, Shalom and Maranatha.

Daily Bread, reading plan by Lars Enarsson (https://www.thewatchman.org/)Sun 11 June-2023 22nd of Sivan, 5783