Beyond the dreidels, the latkes, and the bad Adam Sandler songs, Hanukkah—or Chanukah, or however else you prefer to spell it—is a holiday that celebrates the miracle of oil.
Thousands of years ago, the Greek-Syrians outlawed the practice of Judaism in Jerusalem and seized the Holy Temple. In retaliation, a group of Jews known as the Maccabees led a revolt against this oppressive government—and they won. When it came time for the Maccabees to rededicate the Temple, they only had enough candle oil to burn through one night.
Somehow, it ended up lasting for eight nights instead, and 21st-century Jews now commemorate this inexplicable phenomenon by lighting candles and, in the tradition of American consumerism, exchanging gifts for eight crazy nights. With some form of marijuana now legal in 29 states, plus D.C., there are plenty of opportunities to include cannabis in the celebration.
Rabbi Jeffrey Kahn, owner of the Takoma Wellness Center in Washington D.C. and a congregational rabbi for 30 years, sees parallels between the sacred oil burned at the Temple all those years ago and the cannabis oil so many of us rely on in current times.
“Of course, there are more important reasons for celebrating Hanukkah,” he says. “But the miracle of oil—CBD Oil, THC oil, Rick Simpson oil, etc.—is appropriate for many patients whose lives have been restored by cannabis oil.”
In his book The 420 Gourmet: The Elevated Art of Cannabis Cuisine, JeffThe420Chef calls cannabis oil “medical manna,” comparing our modern medication with the all-purpose food substance God gave the Jews to eat as they wandered the desert for 40 years. Just like cannabis, manna could be made to taste like anything.
Though he’s now known as the “Julia Child of weed,” Jeff was raised an Orthodox Jew and even went to Yeshiva University, the New York college with a foundation in Jewish scholarship. (In fact, he told the Forward that his first experience with cannabis occurred at his Jewish summer camp.) In addition to the secular dinner parties and other foodie events he’s become known for, Jeff has hosted a number of traditional “pot shabbat” meals in observance of the weekly Day of Rest, complete with infused challah, matzo balls, and more.
Jeff will cater at least one Hanukkah party this holiday season, and he has a great latke recipe that he partners with an infused pear creme fraiche. Jeff says it’s important to let the diner dose as they see fit, which is why he infuses the creme fraiche instead of the latkes. “You’re not locking anybody in,” he explains. He also has plans for a menorah-shaped, canna-Nutella-filled peel-apart bread, plus sufganiyah, a traditional filled doughnut that is, not surprisingly, fried in oil and eaten during the holiday.
And cannabis oil can set the stage for another important miracle: As any Jew will tell you, familial Hanukkah gatherings can be just as tense and awkward as their Christian counterparts. Fortunately, as Jeff points out, cannabis can really help to move the party along.
“When I do an infused dinner, whether it’s a holiday dinner or a party or a pot shabbat, the cannabis helps people to communicate a lot easier,” he says, which is crucial for surviving the holiday season. “Depending on the strain you use, you can actually direct which direction your party goes in.”