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Psak Halacha: Rav Ovadia Yosef and Tobacco

Published on Thursday May 9th, 2019

Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, president of the Council of Torah Sages, spoke frequently during his lifetime about the dangers of smoking and stressed the absolute necessity of quitting smoking.

This Psak (halakhic decision) is not new. Already decades ago, as soon as Rabbanim became aware through the medical world of the very serious dangers to which smokers and their relatives are exposed, they asked that people stop smoking, and they also ruled that it is forbidden to "start".

This is in order to respect the Mitzvah of "Ushemartem Meod Lenafshotechem" (be very careful not to harm your health).

It is even said that Rabbi Shach, director of Yeshivat Ponovezh (in Bnei-Brak) and leader of the past generation, stopped smoking, as soon as his doctor had asked him to, while he had been used to smoking throughout his youth, unaware of the dangers of tobacco.

What was new in Rav Ovadia speech was the solution he suggested to stop completely.

Coming from a Torah-Giant, one can reasonably expect wisdom.

Indeed, based on a verse describing how Hashem was gradually driving out the enemy of the Jewish people, he recommended attacking the "enemy" gradually by cutting cigarettes in half, without resorting to any medical treatment.

He recounted an anecdote regarding this:

"My father-in-law, Rav Avraham, smoked two packets a day. I told him it was dangerous. He said, "What can I do, I'm used to smoking."

I then advised him to gradually reduce his consumption but when he was able to limit himself to 10 cigarettes he said to me "I cannot restrain myself more". I suggested to him to cut each cigarette in two, so he would have the impression of having 20 cigarettes. Then he managed to settle for 5 cigarettes but he had trouble going further. I told him again to cut the cigarettes in 2, and finally, he managed to stop completely."

In fact, more generally, it is clear that the Torah forbids anything that can endanger an individual, but besides for that, even the enjoyment of the pleasures of this world are to be analyzed: will this pleasure (authorized) help me in my divine service by procuring me good health or on the contrary, will it tire me, diminishing my capacities of reflection, etc.

It is good to realize that Torah wisdom, several thousand years old, and its mitzvot, protect us from many dangers, some of which tear apart the so-called "modern and evolved" societies.

The Torah-Box Team - © Torah-Box

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