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Why do many orthodox Jews smoke?

by Rabbi Shlomo Chein

  

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Question 

why do so many Chassidim smoke? it is obviously bad for you , in this day and age...oy vey! did the Rebbe ever say anything about smoking? - Bari

Answer

It's a good question. And there is no good answer. Chassidim try very hard to be good, but even they are not perfect.1

I don't recall anything from the Rebbe about smoking. However, it is known that his father-in-law, the previous Rebbe, used to smoke. At the time (1880-1950) smoking was not known to be harmful. One day during a regular checkup, his physician mentioned matter-of-factly that studies are coming out suggesting that smoking might be bad for your health. After the visit the doctor (who presumably smoked himself) offered the Rebbe a cigarette. The Rebbe declined and said that he doesn't smoke. The doctor countered, but what do you mean, everyone knows you smoke?

I have heard of Chassidim who smoked for many years, until they made a deal with another Jew that if the latter commits to a particular Mitzvah, they will stop smoking in return.
The Rebbe replied, I used to smoke, but I just learned it might be unhealthy, so as of now I don't smoke. And just like that he stopped.

At the time he prohibited smoking for his followers under the age of 20, and made a "personal request" from those above 20 to refrain from smoking.

I will conclude with a little secret: sometimes extra motivation through something that is very important to you, can really help you kick the habit. I have heard of Chassidim who smoked for many years, until they made a deal with another Jew that if the latter commits to a particular Mitzvah, they will stop smoking in return.

Try it.

Approach a Chassid you know and see what Mitzvah you are willing to commit to in exchange for his sacrifice. The two of you will work hard, but the two of you will have enhanced your own and each other’s lives tremendously.

Footnotes

  • 1. Smoking is not necessarily forbidden according to Jewish law, but is unequivocally considered an unhealthy habit, and discouraged. See http://www.askmoses.com/en/article/587,2262376/What-is-the-Jewish-view-on-smoking-cigarettes.html

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RELATED CATEGORIES

Miscellaneous » Health Issues » Medical Ethics

Mitzvah
(pl. Mitzvot). A commandment from G-d. Mitzvah also means a connection, for a Jew connects with G–d through fulfilling His commandments.
Chassid
(Pl.: Chassidim; Adj.: Chassidic) A follower of the teachings of Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov (1698-1760), the founder of "Chassidut." Chassidut emphasizes serving G-d with sincerity and joy, and the importance of connecting to a Rebbe (saintly mentor).
Chassidim
(Pl.: Chassidim; Adj.: Chassidic) Following the teachings of Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov (1698-1760), the founder of "Chassidut." Chassidut emphasizes serving G-d with sincerity and joy, and the importance of connecting to a Rebbe (saintly mentor).
Rebbe
A Chassidic master. A saintly person who inspires followers to increase their spiritual awareness.