Monday, May 03, 2004

Smoking in Halakhah

[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.

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