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    Smoking – Ask the Rabbi

    Q. What is the Jewish attitude to smoking?

    A. There has been a sea-change in attitude. When tobacco first became known, the pleasure it gave led the rabbis to ask whether smoking was like smelling sweet spices, for which a b’rachah was required, or like tasting food but not swallowing it, which needed no b’rachah (Magen Avraham to Shulchan Aruch Orach Chayyim 210:2). The general view is not to say a blessing.

    The Chassidim felt that smoking tobacco was like offering incense in the Temple and it is said that the Baal Shem Tov smoked a pipe (and in fact said a blessing first). But all this was before the medical profession began to warn people about the health risks of smoking, and the tendency these days is to deem smoking prohibited on the basis of the rule in the Torah about protecting one’s health (Deut. 4:15).

    Orthodox Jews who smoke presumably imagine that they will be safe because “The Lord protects the simple” (Psalm 116:6). But since they cope with not smoking on Shabbat out of respect for the Torah, should not respect for Torah persuade them not to smoke even on weekdays?

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