NO SMOKING!

Written by Rabbi Yehoshua Alt, 14/9/2019

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NO SMOKING!

Many Gedolim- including R Chaim Kanievsky,[1] R Elyashiv,[2] R Moshe Sternbuch,[3] R Aharon Kotler, R Yaakov Kaminetzsky, the Beer Moshe,[4] the Tzitz Eliezer[5]- have already expressed their opinion[6] that it is forbidden[7] to smoke.[8] Some Gedolim even referred to smoking as suicidal.[9]  

 

When R Chaim Kanievsky was asked if smoking is prohibited on Yom Tov, he responded, It is biblically prohibited on Yom Tov as well as on any other day of the year for a Jew to smoke.

 

The Chofetz Chaim[10] (1839-1933) writes, isnt it said that one is not permitted to harm himself because of . Additionally, the world belongs to Hashem and He gave everyone strength according to his needs. So how can one do to himself as he pleases? And if because of his smoking his strength is weakened, he will assuredly pay the ultimate price at the time of judgment since he did this of his own free will and not because he was compelled. The Chofetz Chaim also writes there that smoking costs money. How much does one spend on cigarettes yearly? So in the end, smoking causes a loss in health, money and Mitzvos (This is besides the waste of time it causes. If one smokes a half-hour daily, this comes out to be close to 200 hours annually. Imagine how many Mitzvos one can do with this time!). When one contemplates the damage it causes, it can strengthen him not to accustom himself in this. If he is already accustomed in this, then he should minimize smoking a little each day until he eventually stops completely.[11]   

                         

When R Avigdor Miller (1908-2001) was asked whether smoking was forbidden by the Torah, he cited the Alter of Slobodka who, responding to a query to name the primary Mitzvah of the Torah, replied that the principle Mitzvah is, Dont be a fool. R Miller explained: The first command is to use your head. God gave us brains- we should use them Anyone who picks up a pack of cigarettes and reads (the notice on the package) of the danger of smoking and disregards it, is a ; an absolute fool.

 

R Asher Wiess said that in his eyes smoking cigarettes is like eating . R Menashe Klein[12] (1924-2011) concludes a Teshuva that there is no reason to make a decree to forbid smoking since [13]; we stand under oath from the time of the Revelation at Har Sinai to fulfill all the Mitzvos,[14] as the Torah already tells us ,[15] adding that he would never give a cigarette or even a light to anyone, not to transgress .[16]

 

In " ,[17] R Chaim Dovid HaLevi (1924-1998) prohibits purchasing cigarettes for others, even parents! R Gershon Edelstein, current Rosh Yeshiva of Ponovitch, remarked that a Rebbi or Maggid Shiur who smokes cannot set a proper example for his students and shouldnt be teaching.

 

It is related that Dayan Yisrael Yaakov Fischer[18] (1928-2003), who permitted smoking year-round (including Yom Tov), at the end of his life, when he was dying of lung cancer and the doctor said he has about a month to live, gathered ten men together to publicize in his name that smoking is truly unequivocally forbidden.[19]

 

R Shach (1899-2001) who was a heavy smoker stopped smoking immediately when informed by a physician that the practice was dangerous. Similarly, it is also said R Yaakov Kamenetsky (1891-1986) as well as R Leib Bakst (1915-2003) quit cold turkey after doctors personally explained to them the health risks of smoking.[20]

 

R Shlomo Zalman Aurbach (1910-1995) also stopped smoking when he learned that tobacco causes the infamous sickness. R Shlomo Zalman called on smokers to stop and for those who continued not to do so in public where others could inhale the smoke. R Shlomo Zalmans proclamation was signed by R Elyashiv, R Aharon Leib Shteinman, R Nissim Karelitz and others.

 

According to a recent study, smoking kills two-thirds of smokers.[21] Cigarette smoking is responsible for more than 480,000 deaths per year in the United States alone- including more than 41,000 deaths resulting from secondhand smoke exposure.[22] This is about 1,300 deaths every day. Research has shown that each cigarette makes the smoker die 11 minutes earlier. Smokers lose an average of 13-14.5 years of life. People who consistently smoked an average of less than one cigarette per day over their lifetime had a 64% higher risk of earlier death than never-smokers. Those who smoked between one and ten cigarettes a day had an 87% higher risk of earlier death than never-smokers. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that tobacco caused 100 million deaths in the 20th century.

R Alt merited to learn under the tutelage of R Mordechai Friedlander Ztzl for close to five years. He received Semicha from R Zalman Nechemia Goldberg. R Alt has written on numerous topics for various websites and publications. He lives with his wife and family in a suburb of Yerushalayim where he studies, writes and teaches. The author is passionate about teaching Jews of all levels of observance. 

[1] Sheailas Rav pg 92  

[2] According to the Jerusalem Center for Research- Medicine and Halacha (headed by Rabbi Yaakov Weiner), R Elyashiv later even prohibited advertising for cigarettes!

[3] , 4:115

[4] " 6:160:9

[5] " 17:21, 22. This was from 1984. See also the Tzitz Eliezer 21:14 (from 1995) for an interesting discussion on whether those who sell cigarettes and tobacco products are considered to be actively violating prohibitions.

[6] R Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe, Yoreh Deah, 2:49. Also see Choshen Mishpat 2:18, 76), in a letter dated several months after the Surgeon Generals initial report (in 1964), wrote that although it is certainly appropriate to abstain from smoking, nevertheless, one cannot say that smoking is outright forbidden, as there are many people that smoke. Therefore, smokers fit into the category of '; Hashem protects the simple (Tehillim 116:6. See Shabbos 129b, Yevamos 12b, 72a among other places. This statement is raised by the Gemara to explain how certain dangerous activities that have become common practice were not outright forbidden.). He adds that especially since many Gedolim smoked, it is impossible to say that such an act is truly forbidden. Recently, his son, R Dovid Feinstein was quoted as saying that with the current knowledge of the harm smoking causes, it is obvious that if his father was still alive, he would have absolutely prohibited smoking. R Moshes dispensation was only based on the fact that smoking endangered only a small percentage of smokers. In fact, in a newly discovered and recently published Teshuva of R Moshe, dated Elul 5732 (1972), he himself wrote that his famous lenient ruling was based on the facts as they were known at the time (Kovetz Hamaor, volume 480, Kislev-Teves 5778, pg 7). He added that if the reality would change and the percentages of those proven harmed by smoking would increase, then certainly it would be prohibited to smoke, at least the amount the doctors considered harmful to ones health.

[7] R Shlomo Zalman is even quoted (Sefer Mishpat HaKesuva, 6:52:6 and footnote 10, Kashrus HaEidim, pgs. 326-328) as holding that one who smokes while knowing the health risks involved is ; invalid for testimony. 

[8] See also R Ovadia Yosef in Halichos Olam 1, pgs. 265-266, 4, " 2:58,6, Shevet HaLevi 10:295, " 3:487 and 8:586,  1:159, and 316, the Minchas Asher Haggada, Shaarei Teshuva 23.  

[9] The Tzitz Eliezer (15:39, 1, s.v. ) says since smoking is deemed enough of a health risk that in every civilized country cigarettes are exclusively sold with a warning printed on the package that it damages health, smoking can no longer be classified under '.  

[10] Likutai Amarim, 13. See also the Chofetz Chaim in , chapter 23, s.v. .

[11] The Dayan R Yaakov Blau (1929-2013. He grew up in the home of the first Dushinsky Rebbe, who raised him after his father died when he was a young child.), who was a heavy smoker, attempted to cut down in his later years.

[12] " 18:302. He was also known as the Ungvarer Rav. He authored 18 volumes of responsa, spanning over 50 years, entitled Mishna Halachos in addition to authoring some 25 other Sefarim. During World War II, he was incarcerated in Auschwitz-Birkenau, and later in Buchenwald. On June 2, 1945, he was evacuated by train to France with 427 other former Buchenwald inmates ages 7 to 17- among them Yisrael Meir Lau and Elie Wiesel. He immigrated to the United States in 1947.    

[13] See Nedarim 8a

[14] The entire Jewish nation- including those unborn- entered a covenant and took an oath at Har Sinai to observe all the Torahs precepts.

[15] and (Devarim 4:15, 4:9), although seemingly not actually referring to guarding ones physical health but rather religious beliefs and Torah learned, are still quoted as such, even by early authorities such as the Rambam (Hilchos Rotzeach UShmiras HaNefesh 11:4), Maharsha (Brachos 32b, s.v. ) and the Minchas Chinuch (Ki SeitzeiMitzvah 546:11).

[16] Vayikra 19:14. The simple meaning of this is, Dont place a stumbling block in front of a blind person.

[17] 6:58. He was a Sefardi Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv-Yaffo.

[18] Dayan Fischer who was a close student of R Isser Zalman Meltzer, was a leading Posek, Av Beis Din of the Eidah HaChareidis and Rav of the Zichron Moshe neighborhood in Yerushalayim.   

[19] 3:354

[20] R Lord Immanuel Jakobovits (1921-1999) would receive the latest volumes of the Tzitz Eliezer sent by the author, R Waldenberg. When he saw that R Waldenberg categorically forbade smoking, he stopped immediately. He reasoned that if he turned to R Waldenberg for life and death questions, then he must also accept his decisions regarding smoking.

[21] Smoking causes cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung diseases, diabetes, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis.

[22] More than 16 million Americans are living with a disease caused by smoking. 



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