Rabbi Bentzion Kook, Prominent Disciple Of Rabbi Elyashiv: For a Choleh Sh’yaish bo Sakanah – Medical Cannabis Can Be Smoked On Shabbat


JERUSALEM (VINnews) — Rabbi Benzion Hacohen Kook,  the director of the Jerusalem institute for Jewish law (Beit Hora’ah Haklali), has ruled that a wounded IDF veteran who is categorized as a choleeh sheyaish bo sakana and suffers from chronic and severe pain is permitted to smoke medical cannabis on Shabbat, according to a report by Yediot Aharonot.

The ruling is surprising given that the veteran’s need is not strictly defined as life-saving, which is the usual criterion for permission to desecrate Shabbat.

The question was referred to Rabbi Kook by the soldier’s family, who described their relative’s plight, due to injuries he sustained in the recent Operation Guardian of the Walls. They told Rabbi Kook that the soldier suffered such severe pain that he said it was better to die than to continue to suffer, and that painkilling medicine did not help him at all, whereas medical cannabis did ease his pains somewhat.

Rabbi Kook, a close disciple of Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, responded in the Shoalin V’Dorshim newsletter that “even though he is not in mortal danger, his halachic definition is that of “a sick person in danger” since he has an “internal injury”. This is the ruling of the Shulchan Aruch (OH 328:4) and the Mishna Berura and even though others dispute this and say that there must be a threat to the person’s life to allow desecration of Shabbos, this is just a “stringency” but halacha effectively permits in accordance with the Shulchan Aruch. In such a situation where a person is suffering so severely there is no reason to be stringent and therefore such smoking should be permitted.

Rabbi Kook stressed that for a healthy person, there is no justification whatsoever for using drugs in any case at all, either on Shabbat or during the weekdays.

Responding to the ruling, Rabbi Menachem Perl, head of the Tzomet Institute which researches issues of halacha and technology, said that “This ruling permitting [the smoking of medical cannabis] stems from the fact that the device operates independently without being switched on or turned off [on Shabbat]. It is important to note that the device is permitted for any suffering patient to use in order to benefit from medical cannabis, but not on Shabbat.”


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