Journal 17- Jewish Responsa to Smoking

For our Journal this week, we were asked to write a response to smoking based on Jewish texts and our own opinion. I used the responsa of many different Torah sources, quoted by people such as Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon and Rabbi Moshe Feinstein. Now, I shall begin my responsa, based on Jewish sources and my own opinion.

Dear Wannabe a Smoker,

The Mishnah says (Bava Kamma 8:6) that one is not allowed to harm him/herself. Recent studies (and in fact, studies since 1964) have shown that smoking is harmful for you. So then, why do some observant Jews still smoke? They say that G-d will protect them from the dangers of smoking, but the Talmud says (Megilah 7b,  Pesahim 50b,  Kiddushin 39b, Shabbat 32a,Ta’anit 20b) that one cannot rely on miracles to save him. The Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De’ah 116:5) also says this.

In the Mishneh Torah (De’ot, Chapter 4), many activities to be avoided for medical reasons are listed. The introduction of the chapter says: Seeing that keeping the body healthy and whole is the way of God, for it is impossible to understand or know anything about the Creator if one is sick, therefore a person must distance himself from things which destroy the body and accustom himself to things which heal the body. It’s basically saying that we can’t study Torah and do the mitzvah’s if we’re sick. We should try to stay healthy and in prime condition. Smoking weakens you.

     Devarim (Deuteronomy) 4:9,15 says that one should “Take utmost care and watch yourself scrupulously”. Smoking does exacly the opposite. You are purposely harming yourself. Pekuach Nefesh is the highest mitzvah you can do, saving a life. You should save your life by not smoking! Rabbi Moshe Feinstein said that marajuana causes unnecessary craving simliar to food, it is harmful to the body, and that it destroys the body. However, he said that smoking shouldn’t be prohibited, but he was wrong. He wrote it in the 1980’s, and probably wasn’t aware of the dangers of smoking. He believed that since earlier Rabbis and Sages smoked, it was acceptable. They did not know the dangers of smoking.

Jews are made in G-d’s Image. By smoking, we are given bad traits such as a bad smell, bad breath, yellow teeth, and weakness. You are also prone to get sickness easier and die much earlier. Do we want to give off a bad image of Jews to the world by smoking? Do we want to hurt ourselves, become sicker, and die earlier then we were supposed to? I have given you many Torah sources, opinions of Rabbi’s, and my own opinion. Now, make your decision, and I hope it is the right one.

Sincerely,

Smoking Researcher

Credits to: G-d, Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon (Maimonides), Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, Talmud, Mishnah, Shluchan Aruch, responsafortoday.com/moment/4_2.htm

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