By A Parent
Recently, a video surfaced of a presumably narcotics-sniffing dog being led around the luggage belonging to Bais Rivkah High School girls, before they embarked on a Shabbaton. The viewers’ reactions varied between being grateful to infuriated and outraged. It is as a result of this, that I decided to share my story.
Normally, I would be loathe to opine on such a sensitive subject without putting a name to it. However, this story involves and affects many other persons, and therefore I am required to remain anonymous. However, I hope it will not diminish from the message I am trying to portray.
It started as an ordinary day, like any other. Some time mid-morning, my cell phone rings and the caller ID shows the principal of my son’s yeshiva is calling. I develop a small pit in my stomach, as it is unusual for him to be calling me. I answer the call.
Your son, he tells me, tried soliciting a couple of friends to smoke marijuana with him a few nights prior. One of the boys was so taken aback, that he reported the incident to the principal out of concern. He told me that he did not have all the details and background, but he wanted my help to get to the bottom of it. Needless to say, he wanted to keep this quiet, for should it become known, he will be left with no choice but to expel my son.
At this point my mind was reeling. I assured him that I will do whatever it takes to get to the root of the matter. I decided that I would drive to the yeshiva then and there, pull my son out of class and have a conversation with him. I hoped that by catching him off guard, he would be more forthright with me.
As I drove to the yeshiva, I tried to absorb what I had just heard. Could this be a mistake? Perhaps an elaborate prank? Could it be that my son, an ‘A’ student, who thought that people who smoke cigarettes were idiots, was involved with drugs? He was never a trouble making kid nor one that I would think to watch out for in such matters. Aside from the occasional wise-guy remark, he always did well in school and got along well with his teachers. As a family, we spoke about drugs and its terrible ramifications on numerous occasions. Where had I failed as a parent? I felt deflated and defeated.
I arrived at the yeshiva, pulled him out of class and went for a drive. I confronted him with the information and he was honest and candid with me. Yes, he had smoked it once before with a classmate, from whom he had purchased a little baggie for $20. After the night in question, seeing his friend’s reaction, he felt stupid for what he did, so he disposed of what he had left in a dumpster.
Hearing this confirmation cut through me even further like a knife. Why wasn’t my son the one trying to talk his friend out of it?
“What were you thinking?!” I blurted out.
What he told me made me take pause. As his words percolated in my brain over the new few days, I decided I could not be quiet about it. I needed to get the message out there.
He acknowledged his mistake. However, with marijuana use being so prevalent, he mistakenly viewed it as nothing more than a social exercise. He had witnessed many a frum adult either smoking it, vaping it, or swapping ‘pot brownies’ on Simchas Torah, Purim and the like, that he figured it couldn’t be that bad and was curious to try it.
Needless to say, I immediately enrolled him with a therapist, one who specializes in such matters. More than anything, I wanted him to get the tools to enable him to make the right decisions when faced with temptation. The therapist did his thing, and after several sessions, felt that aside from the occasional checking in, there was no need for ongoing therapy.
There are a few things I am thankful for. I am thankful that my son’s friend had the wherewithal to withstand the temptation and to make him feel bad about it and to even report it. I am thankful that the principal was willing to work with me and my son on this, as opposed to chucking him out of yeshiva, which would probably lead to a life trajectory we are all well aware of.
But while I am hopeful that this is behind us, I am still scared. My son has shown a predilection for not being afraid to experiment. This greatly increases his chances of trying something new and perhaps harmful in the future. My son has shown that he is not afraid to do things of which I at his age would have been deathly afraid to do. As a parent that worries me no end and requires me to be ever the more vigilant.
But I am just one person. Not to minimize my role and responsibility as a parent in the least, there is a certain responsibility we all carry. When we talk casually about smoking pot, or even lack any shame by publicly partaking in it, we automatically desensitize those around us. Regardless of where you stand in the marijuana-debate spectrum, there is one things we can ALL agree on: the effect that marijuana has on a developing teenage brain, is devastating. Don’t take my word for it. Do the research.
Therefore, we all need to realize that we ALL carry a responsibility. Not just to our own children, but to the children in the community at large. Every joke we make, every blasé comment we assert, and especially every time someone partakes in the use of drugs, or does not protest its use in front of us, we are all complicit in the advancement of drug use in our community. Regardless whether our legislature has passed a law legalizing it or not, we need to set the example for our children. To take a stance and say that we have zero tolerance for any drug use of any kind. Not a stance for the consenting adults. They have made their life choices and will need to live with that. But for the future of our impressionable children. A shul should be a drug-free zone and there should be a zero-tolerance rule implemented should so much as a pot-cookie be passed between one adult to his best friend. That stance will leave a powerful impression on our children, whom, whether we like it or not, see and absorb everything.
To those who were outraged at the ‘abuse of discretion’ of Bais Rivkah using a drug sniffing dog, I say this: we need to take our heads out of the sand! You child can be a Grade A student like mine. They can give you no reason to even suspect that they would partake in drugs. Yet, the external influences are strong and we need to do EVERYTHING in our power to be astute and vigilant. There is no rock that should be left unturned and no duffle bag left un-sniffed. The only winners from such vigilance are our children.
May it be Hashem’s will that they only pungent smell permeating our existence, should be that of the Ketoras being burned on the alter in our Holy Temple, with the coming of Moshiach, speedily, Amen!.