Smoking in Halakhah

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[Thanks to Protocols, who in turn thanks The Town Crier, for bringing this to my attention.]

A new book has been published, titled Hayim le-Lo Ishun Al Pi ha-Torah by R. Yehezkel Ishayek of Bnei Brak, in which the author argues that smoking is absolutely prohibited.

The Jerusalem Post summarizes some of his arguments:

Preserving one’s health is an important positive commandment; smoking in public involves desecration of God’s name by acting counter to the rulings of the Hafetz Haim (Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan) and many other greats who came out against smoking; the late Rabbi Moshe Feinstein declared that smokers who expose others to their smoke must compensate them financially for the damage they cause; that smokers are a bad example to youth; and that saving people from smoking may be a greater mitzva than redeeming Jewish captives.

I am no fan of smoking and I used to think that it is absolutely assur to smoke. But after a brief private conversation with a prominent rav I began to question whether it really is assur. After all, each cigarette is only marginally dangerous. Is such an incremental danger really prohibited, even if the cumulative impact of smoking over an extended period of time is certainly harmful? I’m not so sure. This is, of course, an incredibly complex question to answer and I am unqualified for such a difficult task. But the question is intriguing.

However, I am certain that smoking is stupid and that alone should prevent a ben Torah from doing it.

About Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of TorahMusings.com, a leading website on Orthodox Jewish scholarly subjects, and the Book Editor of the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Action magazine. He writes a popular column on issues of Jewish law and thought featured in newspapers and magazines, including The Jewish Link, The Jewish Echo and The Vues. In the past, he has served as the President of the small Jewish publisher Yashar Books and as the Managing Editor of OU Press. Rabbi Student serves on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America. He also serves on the Editorial Boards of Jewish Action magazine, the Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society and the Achieve Journal of Behavioral Health, Religion & Community, as well as the Board of OU Press. He has published five English books, the most recent titled Search Engine volume 2: Finding Meaning in Jewish Texts -- Jewish Leadership, and served as the American editor for Morasha Kehillat Yaakov: Essays in Honour of Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.

3 comments

  1. Rabbi Avigdor Miller, at one of his Thursday night lectures:
    Any yeshivah man who smokes cigarettes is a behemah [beast].

  2. “The Halachah Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) said that Jewish Law is opposed to smoking.”

    SOURCE: The Jewish Press, 2006/07/14, page 38

  3. Rabbi BenZion Halberstam, a Rebbe of Bobov, smoked cigars.
    When his doctor told him that smoking is unhealthy, he quit smoking immediately and never smoked again.:

    SOURCE: Gut Voch by Avrohom Barash, year 1998,
    Mesorah Publications, ISBN 1-57819-273-9(paperback);
    Paragraph entitled: Will Power To Live,
    found in chapter 7, on page 84.

    MINIBIOGRAPHY: Grand Rabbi Ben Zion Halberstam
    (born 1874, died 1941) succeeded his father as the
    second Rebbe of Bobov at the age of 31.
    He wrote a commentary on the Torah called Kedushas Tzion.
    He was murdered by Nazis, שמם ימח.

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