The Jewish Community & Drug Addiction: Al Cheit for Not Listening, Not Learning and Not Acting

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by Rabbi Efrem Goldberg

This week, our community joined too many others who have confronted the impossible task of saying goodbye to a young person stolen from this world, robbed from us by the dreaded illness of addiction. In her 23 years on earth, Miriam made an indelible impression on so many who already miss her terribly. While we were coronating God, Miriam’s soul ascended to join Him on Rosh Hashana.

The faces of the countless people who attended her funeral carried immense grief, profound loss, but also great fear. For many of her peers, this was not the first time saying goodbye to a friend who had succumbed to addiction—a challenge which can be managed, but never fully conquered. Some looked frozen by the realization that this could be them, that it may just be a matter of time until their family gets that dreaded call or makes that horrific discovery. There were parents who have given every form of love and support to their children who were or are struggling and yet looked so helpless and even hopeless. One described to me the stress and anxiety of waiting every moment of every day to get a phone call that will turn their lives upside down forever.

In just a few days, when we confess al cheit on Yom Kippur, I will be adding a few more this year.

Al cheit for our ignorance.

Al cheit for our indifference, even if unintentional.

Al cheit for not showering enough love, care and support to those gripped by the terror of a life of addiction.

Al cheit for not looking out for those falling between the cracks, those that may struggle to excel in the ways that our society has defined as successful, but who have so much to offer in other ways.

Al cheit for not being there for our young people or their family members who are suffering from their loved one’s disease more than we could ever know.

Al cheit for not listening, for not learning, for not acting.

The Jewish community must do more, we must do better. I don’t know what the solutions are yet, but I do know it begins by acknowledging the problem and vowing to solve it. The first step is to increase awareness and it is in that spirit that Miriam’s parents asked me if I would share the eulogy I delivered for their special daughter. May Hashem give them strength.

May 5778 be the year that we all do our part in our schools, shuls, communities and in our homes to help our young people be safe, healthy and prosperous.



  1. All talk. Articles and more article. Death and more death. As long as the frum system idolizes the few who are “destined for greatness” (in their minds) and ignore and shun and don’t accept those who are underachievers (in their minds) this trend will continue and get worse.

    The elites make speeches and give “hadracha” while not understanding the masses, and not really caring about them, beyond a cursory fake smile and a feigned sadness at a shiva call, if that.

    Wake up frum society, wake up. It isn’t smartphones that are costing us thousands of neshamos, rather it’s a dumb system that misplaces its priorities daily.

  2. Prevention!
    Prevention must include education of our children about drug and alcohol addiction and providing them information about their danger. 
    I think that not only parents should talk to their children about this subject, but Yeshivos and girls schools should organize classes ones or twice a year to educate children and provide information. Of course I’m not talking about first or second graders, but about teenagers.
    There could a concern that if we talk about addiction to children we may expose them to the ideas that they never heard about.
    one of the reasons teenagers start smoking marijuana (I guess it’s very unusual that somebody starts using heavy drugs before getting used to smoking or drinking) and then other drugs is exactly because they are not aware of consequences and dangers, they might think it’s adventurous and they can stop at any time, and using drugs today will not efect their lives tomorrow. Give them information, show them facts.
    How many people know responsa from Rav Moshe Feinstein about smoking marijuana he wrote in 1973? – Igros Moshe, Yoreh De’ah Vol. 3, Siman 35 (read english translation on that smoking marijuana is violation of few Isurim (prohibitions) from Torah. That, even if marijuana doesn’t kill and isn’t addictive unlike other drugs (there is still very strong psychological addiction to marijuana), it has bad effect on brain and mental health (proven by many researches).
     Informed person is armed person, he is ready to protect himself and others. Children should be aware that somebody offering marijuana or other drugs to try for free isn’t friend he is enemy. They should be aware that addicted person becomes enslaved to drug dealers, that girls are being raped (don’t use politically correct – mistreated). They should understand that, if they have problems in home or school, then using drugs doesn’t help to solve those problems, drugs make everything worth and even could kill.
    Every person, especially young, want to look good and nice, so search on google “drug addicts before and after” images. These pictures usually show young people, I think before or just when they start using drugs – nice, healthy and then next – their pictures after few years or as soon as few month after they used drugs – ugly, faces showing signs of mental degradation, look like zombie.
    There is one more point. If we – parents will talk to children, Yeshivos will organize classes and invite experts, professionals to educate young people about dangers of drug abuse (and may be addiction to internet, pornography, social media) and children will not be afraid of asking any questions or discussing any problem, then, besides immediate benefit we will give them lesson for life – that they may and should consult Torah about any aspects of their lives.

  3. As the rabbi wrote above, we can start by no longer supporting our rigid, cold, unfeeling, one-size-fits-none, no Plan-B society which has uprooted Jewish life over the past 60 years. As we move ever rightward, we will be killing souls which don’t fit in. I hope you’re all happy with the monster you all created and are so proud to support.

  4. Baruch, you write about prevention and education while misleading and misinforming with very a very uneducated tirade.

    You would be well served to research the veracity of your claims regarding marijuana.

    And don’t research it in foolish forums where anecdotal experiences reign supreme.

    Read all the research and case studies found in reliable medical journals.

    You will be shocked by you learn.

    And while I agree with much of what you said, it is also important to revise the archaic views of many people regarding how terrible marijuana is and how not terrible alcohol is.

    • Wrong to consider alcohol as the gateway drug for all other drug disorders. Marijuana is.

      We must not allow in good mind an ever encouraged marijuana addiction. The outcomes minimize the mind of Torah attention.

      Drinking a beer once a day can wear off. The mind is outwardly preserved in most cases except alcoholism.

      Your argument is the “Unclaimed War” of one is more harmful to a wandering soul.

      We often drink responsibly.

      Thank you.


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