Volume 34 Number 21
                 Produced: Fri Feb  2  6:14:48 US/Eastern 2001

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Smoking in Halacha (5)
         [Andrew Klafter, Yisrael & Batya Medad, Josh Backon, Leona
Kroll, Rachel Swirsky]
Women and Gemara (2)
         [Gilad J. Gevaryahu, Mike Gerver]


From: Andrew Klafter <andrew.klafter@...>
Date: Wed, 31 Jan 2001 08:56:26 -0500
Subject: Re: Smoking in Halacha

> From: Dani Wassner <dani@...>
> Does anyone know of any good articles (in Hebrew or English) that
> summarise all of the main rabbanim and their objections to smoking?
> (Particularly Israeli sources). Any help would be appreciated.

Yes.  There is a periodical called "B'Or HaTorah" published
simultaneously in English and Hebrew Editions.  In the early 1990's
there was a she'elah (request for halakhic guidance) written to Rabbi
Eliezer Waldenberg, who is one of today's most prominent Jewish Legal
authorities in the world, and certainly the single most published
halakhic authority on issues of Jewish medical ethics.  The question was
written by an Orthodox pulmonologist accompnied by up to date
information about the health hazards of smoking.  Rabbi Waldenberg's
response, also published in this article, summarizes the halakhic issues
and stances by previous rabbanim, and deals as well with the issue of
"second hand smoke".

Another article, which may be more up your alley, is actually a book
chapter in the book, "Jewish Values and Modern Medicine" by Dr. Fred
Rosner, english, published by KTAV.  He has an entire chapter devoted to
smoking.  There is a more recent update of this book since I purchased
mine, and perhaps his update includes the above mentioned, well
publicized teshuva by Rabby Waldenberg.

Asya (a hebrew periodical) and Journal of Halacha and Contemporary
Society (an english periodical) have treated this subject on many
occasions, but I don't know the volumes, offhand.

Finally, http://www.jlaw.com/Commentary/smoking.html has a brief piece
by Rabbi Chaim Steinmetz.  That website, btw, is a great resource for
scholarly english articles on various issues in jewish law.

-Nachum Klafter

From: Yisrael & Batya Medad <ybmedad@...>
Date: Wed, 31 Jan 2001 22:41:01 +0200
Subject: Re: Smoking in Halacha

Well, this is "any help".  In 1963 or 1964, the Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat
Chofetz Chaim in Queens issued a specific p'sak for the Beis Medrash
boys (another colloquial term) ordering them to quit smoking as a
result, I recall, of the Surgeon-General's report.  There may have been
a written record of it and there may have been some discussions in
Halachic journals at the time.

Yisrael Medad

From: Josh Backon <BACKON@...>
Date: Wed,  31 Jan 2001 13:43 +0200
Subject: Re: Smoking in Halacha

Halachic sources on smoking include:

Iggrot Moshe YD II 49: can't prohibit m'din Torah but a Ben Torah
shouldn't take up smoking. In another place, the Iggrot Moshe Choshen
Mishpat II 18 categorically prohibits smoking in a Beit Midrash if the
cigarette smoke bothers anyone. Rav Valdenberg (Tzitz Eliezer) as quoted
in the Nishmat Avraham Orach Chaim 511 # 1 categorically prohibits
smoking al pi din Torah. See also the articles in ASSIA 5744;37:83 and
5744;37:21 for the articles by Rav Nebentzal and Rav Halperin. See also:
Chafetz Chaim in Likutei Amarim 13 who castigates those who take up
smoking, and the Birkei Yosef in Machazik Bracha Orach Chaim 210 s"k 13
(as quoted in the Nishmat Avraham).

I would suggest another reason to prohibit (at least an issur
d'rabbanan) based on Even ha'Ezer 5:12 (see Beit Shmuel) and 5:13 where
even a temporary reduction in ferility (e.g. by placing somone in ice
water) is assur. Recent research (British J Obstetrics and Gynecology
2000;107:55-61) has shown immediate detrimental effects on male
fertility after smoking a cigarette. This is in tune with prior studies
(Fertility and Sterility 1993;59:645; Fertility and Sterility
1996;65:835-42; J Assisted Reproduction and Genetics 1995;12:217) which
showed that within 10 minutes of smoking, cotinine, the nicotine
metabolite, induced decreases in sperm motility, morphology, viability
and count.

Dr. Josh Backon
Faculty of Medicine
Hebrew University of Jerusalem

From: Leona Kroll <leona_kroll@...>
Date: Tue, 30 Jan 2001 23:27:16 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Smoking in Halacha

There is a book about this! It was published two years ago and I've seen
it here in Israel. It is in English and its about 100 pages long. Sorry-
I don't remember the title, author, or publisher. I saw an article on
the subject about three years ago in either Yated or The Jewish Press-
this article mostly discussed second hand smoke and the laws of damages.

You should try contacting the rosh yeshivah at Yeshivat Hakotel, the
hesder yeshiva in the Jewish Quarter, because he is known to be very
anti-smoking and is probably familiar with the sources.  When the
dangers of smoking became known, both Rav Feinstein and the Lubavitcher
Rebbe issued statements that whoever smokes should try, if possible, to
quit and whoever doesn't smoke shouldn't start.

From: Rachel Swirsky <yu211366@...>
Date: Wed, 31 Jan 2001 20:46:04 -0800
Subject: Smoking in Halacha

Please find below a short paper I wrote on the topic in my first year of

In the year 2000 more and more people of all ages and backgrounds are
lighting up.  Many observant Jews believe that there is no halachic
basis that forbids smoking cigarettes.  This is not the case.  Although
it is not clear from looking at the earliest biblical sources smoking is
forbidden according to Jewish Law.

The earliest sources are unclear.  There is no question that human life
is considered to be a precious commodity that is to be looked after.
Our halachic journey begins the earliest source for Jewish law.  The
Torah tells us that we should "guard your [our] life carefully,"
(Devarim 4:9) and that we should "be careful with our lives." (Devarim
4:16) The Torah is also concerned that a person "should not bring blood
upon your house" (Devarim 22:8) by being careless and allowing someone
else to die on their property.

None of these texts from the Torah itself elaborate on how one is to
guard his or her life carefully.  There is no reason from any of these
texts to assume that this applies to the practice of smoking.  The
Mishna below bases an idea on the biblical texts above that one must
passively avoid doing things that might harm oneself.  "Three liquids
may not be imbibed if they have been left uncovered [peradventure a
poisonous insect or reptile drank from them and poisoned them]: water,
wine, and milk."  (Mishna, Terumot 8:4) The gemarah continues this
though and connects it directly to the biblical texts.  "From whence do
we know that a man should not keep a vicious dog in his home, or keep an
insecure ladder in his home?  Because it is said, 'Thou shall not bring
blood upon your house.'"

The Rambam elaborates further on the biblical sources adding that there
is an active component to guarding ones body.

Similarly, regarding any obstacle which is dangerous to life, there is a
positive commandment to remove and beware of it, and to particularly
careful in this matter, for scripture says, "Take heed unto thyself, and
guard thy soul diligently" if one does not remove dangerous obstacles
and allows them to remain, he disregards a positive commandment and
transgresses the prohibition "bring no blood upon thy house" many things
are forbidden by the sages because they are dangerous to life.  If one
disregards any of these and says "if I want to put myself in danger,
what concern is it to others," or "I am not particular about such
things," disciplinary flogging is inflicted upon him. (Maimonides Mishna
Torah, Hilchot Rotzeach)

According to the Rambam's opinion in his legal code, the biblical
requirement to protect oneself is interpreted that one should avoid
actively a situation that is dangerous.  He says that one who does not
do so is transgressing a positive commandment and that he or she should
be punished accordingly.  Neither is one allowed to relinquish the

Rabbi Yosef Caro continues to expand on earlier ideas.  He adds that
requirement that until this point has only been seen passively.  One
needs to careful for things that are not likely.  Although the tasks
mentioned in the Shulchan Aruch are not active, thought and care does
need to be put into not doing any one of them.  One should take care
never to put money in ones mouth, lest it be covered with dried spittle
of a dead person; one should not place ones palm under ones arm, lest
one had touched a leper or a dangerous drug. one should not leave a
knife inserted into an etrog or vegetable, lest a man unknowingly fall
on its point and be killed.  (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 116:5)

Rabbi Moshe Isserles (the Ramah) clarifies many of the issues in his
commentary on the Shulchan Aruch.  It is at this point in halachic
journey that one can start to see the application to forbiddances of
smoking.  One should avoid all things that might lead to danger, because
a danger to life is more serious than a prohibition, and one should be
more concerned about a possible danger to life than a possible
prohibition.  Therefore the sages prohibited one to walk in a place of
danger, such as near a leaning wall [for fear of collapse] or alone at
night [for fear of being attacked].  They also prohibited drinking water
from a river at night, or placing ones mouth on a flowing pipe of water
to drink.  For these things may lead to danger. they also said that one
should flee from a city where there is a plague at the outset of the
outbreak.  All these things are intended to avoid danger, and one who is
concerned with his health will avoid them.  And it is prohibited to rely
on some saving miracle, or to endanger oneself in any similar fashion.
(Rema on Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 116:5)

What if one closes ones ears to the information that is filling the
media that smoking is hazardous to ones health?  One idea that is seen
in many places throughout rabbinic literature is that God preserves the
simple.  Why is bloodletting permitted on Fridays, if on Fridays the
planet mars predominated at even hours of the day [hence rendering those
hours unusually dangerous]?  The answer is that since the multitude are
accustomed to doing this at that time, it may be considered permissible,
since, "The Lord preserves the simple." (Shabbat 129B)

In the quote above a question regarding what is though to be a medical
procedure is asked.  Is this the same as asking about something where
there is no issue of looking after the body and may, in fact harm it?
Does this allow leading Torah authorities in the world to say that
ignorance is an excuse?

The following is taken from the writings of Rabbi Moshe Feinstein during
the mid-20th century (1964).  At this point the information about
dangers of smoking have begun to be made public.  There was still a
great deal of doubt as to the long-term effects of smoking cigarettes.

One should certainly take care not to start smoking, and to take proper
care in desisting.  But should one conclude that it is forbidden as an
activity dangerous to ones health?  The answer is that because the
multitude are accustomed to smoking, and the gemarah in such a case
invokes the principal that "the lord preserves the simple" and in
particular since some of the greatest torah scholars in the present or
previous generations do or did smoke [there is no prohibition]
consequently even someone who does take the stringent view and does not
smoke out of concern for the health danger may properly offer a smoker a
match and not be concerned about the prohibition against facilitating a

The following is taken from a comparatively recent piece written by Rabbi
Abraham Twerski M.D.  The piece takes into account the new and relevant
information that has become known about the hazards of smoking cigarettes.
The rabbi in question is also a physicians and bases his opinion not only on
past halachic rulings and responsa but also on medical knowledge if the
present.  He also discredits the claim made above that God protects the
fools by saying that, when it comes to smoking, the category of a fool no
longer exists.

I cannot understand, I really cannot, how people who claim to be
observant of Torah. can allow themselves to smoke cigarettes when it has
been established beyond a shadow of a doubt that cigarettes are
poisonous and have many destructive effects on the body. . Halacha
states clearly and emphatically that your body is not your own to do
with as you please.  It is absolutely forbidden to inflict any injury on
your body. With the overwhelming evidence on the danger of smoking now
available, we can no longer invoke such statements such as "God protects
the fools."

A group of rabbannim including the current Gerer Rebbe has recently come
out with a ruling in Israel that it is absolutely forbidden for a person
to pick up their first cigarette.  If one is already a smoker then one
should do everything in ones power to quit.  This relates to the
biblical phrase that one should guard ones life carefully.  One is never
allowed to smoke in public due to the danger of second hand smoke.  This
applies even if the other people around are smokers as well.  This
hearkens back to not bringing blood upon ones house.  One should not
give another person lung cancer because of a habit they refuse to work
on.  Under no circumstances may one smoke in front of children.

Thus our halachic journey comes to an end.  After a brief tour through
the sources pertaining to the topic at hand it should be clear that
smoking is not permitted within the realm of halacha.  Although the
subject no longer seems open to debate halacha is a constantly evolving
legal code and new information may once again open the debate.


From: Gilad J. Gevaryahu <Gevaryahu@...>
Date: Wed, 31 Jan 2001 09:13:18 EST
Subject: Women and Gemara

 I.H Fox asks (v34n16)
<<The current prohibition is based on a teshuva by Rabbi Moshe Feinstein
"Igrot Moshe," but other prominent rabbis disagree.>>

<Can you state what tesuva I belive that his position was more complex>

Three of R. Moshe Feinstein teshuvot printed in "Igrot Moshe" deal with
limud Torah by women.

In one he states that a father has a halachic obligation to teach his
sons, but not his daughters, although, he states that since today the
law of the land is mandatory education for girls as well, and according
to the rule of "dina demalchuta dina" one is obligated to educate his
daughters as well.  Yoreh Deah, vol. 2, siman 113, page 186.

In the second one, where women participated in a social gathering and
the question was: Are they allowed to stay for the part where dinim,
divrei Torah and Shulchan Aruch were taught. R. Moshe Feinstein ruled
that it is good for women to listen to divrei Torah, dinim and
mussar. Yoreh Deah, vol. 2, siman 109, page 180.

In the third answer that pertain to the issue of teaching Talmud and
Mishnah to the girls he said that it is prohibited to teach in school
Mishnah (except for pirkei avot) because if you teach them "ke'ilu
limdum tiflut" (=as if you taught them vanity). This indicates clearly
that Talmud is certainly prohibited on a kal-vachomer.  Yoreh Deah,
vol. 3, siman 87, page 329.

Gilad J. Gevaryahu

From: Mike Gerver <Mike.Gerver@...>
Date: Wed, 31 Jan 2001 08:30:22 +0100
Subject: Women and Gemara

Janet Rosenbaum says, in v34n19,
> I'm not sure who were the main proponents in
> Israel, but it seems like gemara is nearly universal in the dati leumi
> (national religious) schools for women.

I assume you are talking about post-high school learning programs.  It
is not at all true on the high school level, at least in my experience.
We visited several dati leumi high schools last year, when we were
looking for a school for our daughter, who is now in 9th grade.  I don't
think a single one of them taught gemara.  I remember that one of them
had an after-school gemara chug for the girls who were interested, but
we decided against that school for other reasons.  And we did hear about
one girls' school in Jerusalem that taught gemara, but unfortunately my
place of work is too far from Jerusalem to commute, and our daughter
does not want to board with another family.  But after learning gemara
at the modern orthodox school she went to in the States in 7th and 8th
grade, she finds it extremely frustrating that it is not taught at her
school in Israel.  And even worse, that none of her classmates (who grew
up in Israel) seem to care!

If anyone knows of, or would like to start, a girls' gemara chug in or
near Raanana, please let me know.

Mike Gerver
Raanana, Israel


End of Volume 34 Issue 21