New Haggadah’s Message: Light Up
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New Haggadah’s Message: Light Up

One Portland, Ore., couple has this year issued a Passover Haggadah that clearly is not like all others — it starts with an “Obligatory Legal Disclaimer.”

At the beginning of the “Cannabis Passover Seder Haggadah” by Roy and Claire Kaufmann is the warning, “Consume at your own risk.”

The Kaufmanns, advocates for the legalization of marijuana, have designed a Passover text that features the smoking of leaves of the hallucinogenic plant, based on a pot-smoking seder they hosted last year for a small circle of friends. The Kaufmanns are also founders of the Le’Or Education Fund (Le’Or is Hebrew for “to light”), an independent organization that seeks “to host a conversation among Jews about drugs and drug policy.”

It’s OK to smoke at a seder, but people who do it — especially in states, unlike Oregon, where general marijuana use is still banned — should do it with caution, the Haggadah warns. “Le’Or does not advocate that you break the law. Please use common sense. All Seders should be hosted with consideration and adherence to local marijuana laws.”

Aside from those untraditional words at the Haggadah’s introduction, the Kaufmanns’ product, available only in online PDF format (illuminating.us or jews-and-weed.myshopify.com), breaks from tradition in many ways. It’s a truncated version of a standard Haggadah, with much of the text and many of the rituals omitted.

There’s a fifth question, “How much cannabis do I need per guest?” (Answer: “A minimum of 1-2 grams per guest is best”); four bowls of cannabis instead of the four cups of wine; a blessing over the cannabis (the “borei minei b’samim” brocha, usually recited over fragrant spices during Havdalah); a suggested marijuana leaf on the seder plate; Ten Plagues that includes “the radically undemocratic and unequal application of laws” and “the perversion and erosion of a faithful justice system”; the declaration that in addition to Elijah’s Cup of wine “we also leave Elijah” a little something greener as well”; and some readings about marijuana and inequitable drug laws.

“We kept in as much of the core elements of the seder experience as we could,” Claire Kaufmann said in a telephone interview. “We had to do some editing.”

The Haggadah, she said, can be used as a supplemental reader on the first two nights of Passover, or as the central text at a symbolic seder during one of the intermediate days of the holiday.

A Haggadah and seder built around the movement to decriminalize marijuana — which emphasizes the plant’s medical uses and the unequal application of the laws banning it, which are disproportionately enforced against minority communities — have a sound basis in Jewish tradition, said Kaufmann, a native of Israel who works as a political speechwriter and has dabbled in comedy improv. “It’s 100 percent legitimate. We can relate to being victims of injustice, to being victims of bias.”

Roy Kaufmann said his Cannabis Seders — he and his wife will be hosting a smaller one this year at a friend’s home — follow in the spirit of the civil rights-themed Freedom Seders and Soviet Jewry-themed Refusenik Seders of past decades. “By giving everyone the opportunity to experience a Cannabis Seder, we hope to erode the stigma the Drug War has given cannabis by making the plant part of our religious and spiritual practice.”

Claire Kaufmann, a marketing and branding consultant, blogs at rebrandingcannabis.com.

Kaufmann’s “adults only” cannabis seder is best done with grape juice in place of wine, his Haggadah suggests: “Freedom means choice; give your guests options.”

Does being high detract from participants’ ability to discuss the night’s themes with a clear head?

No, he said. Wine, a seder’s usual drink of choice, “acts as a depressant,” inhibiting sober discussion. “Cannabis doesn’t tend to have the same effect” — it focuses a smoker’s attention. “It allows you to be more engaged.”

steve@jewishweek.org

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