Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Smoking and the yeshivishe velt

A guest post by Hadassah Sabo Milner

Why is smoking acceptable in most yeshivot? Ok, maybe not acceptable, but not banned. Not actively discouraged. Why is it that there is no hue and cry over this dangerous pastime? My son who is entering Grade 9 has informed me that most of the boys in his class have smoked at least one cigarette, while others are well in the process of nurturing a full blown nicotine addiction. My son thank G-d has a head on his shoulders and has told me that it’s a disgusting thing to do and he would never smoke. Ever. (Yeah I know you are laughing, but you wait till you have teenage kids, you will desperately want to believe them too).

He has even told me the lengths his school chums go to to get hold of cigarettes, as they are all underage. Money changing hands for goods in front of Montreal Kosher. Older bochurim procuring for the younger ones.

Many of the rebbeim and roshei yeshivah smoke, and if they do, it stands to reason that the young men they are overseeing will copy them. But interestingly enough if you are a frum yeshivishe woman, you will never be seen smoking. The women will be excommunicated if they so much as touched a cancer stick. Obviously us women have far more sense than some of the menfolk. We know smoking kills. (although we had a French teacher in high school, totally frum and bewigged, and we saw her smoking a time or two – scandalous! Her wig coulda caught on fire!!!)

I have read that some Rebbeim have outlawed smoking due to the harmful effects, and others have discouraged it as it is bitul zman, a waste of time. Didn’t Rav Moshe Feinstein of blessed memory himself say (Teshuvot Igrot Moshe Choshen Mishpat 2:76) there was an issur against starting smoking?

My son told me that the boys in his yeshivah explain that learning full time is stressful and smoking eases the stress. Then why are they not smoking marijuana, for the spiritual high it could bring? (I am not seriously advocating drug use…just making a point)

Walking my son to school sometimes we pass by the beis medrash entrance. We see a ton of cigarette butts outside. There is never a time when it is free from this disgusting evidence of death waiting to happen. Where are the “no smoking” signs? Oh wait, I should be thankful they are not allowed to smoke IN the beis medrash?

SMOKING KILLS! Hello? Anyone know that in white shirt black shiny suit world?

These people would not even dream of putting a slice of ham in their mouths, but poison is ok?

According to this website there are over 4000 ingredients in a cigarette including wine and yeast and chocolate – all kosher? I never saw a hechsher on a cigarette pack in my life…. Here is a list of 599 ingredients in a cigarette - - smoking a stick of treife pepperoni would probably be better healthwise than smoking a cigarette. But the pepperoni would be treife…and cigarettes aren’t?? What’s the halachic ruling on that? Anyone?

On pesach they even certify as kosher for Passover products that don’t go near the mouth – toilet paper, cleaning products etc. Yet these odious pieces of death are inhaled and ingested and need no certification? It makes no sense. As far as I am aware (and I have four boys in the yeshiva world) our educational establishments are doing nothing to deter the young males in their care away from nicotine. The rest of the world knows it is not cool to smoke. Yeshivish boys apparently still think it is.

Venishmartem meod lenafshoteichem (Devarim 4.15)– “you should carefully guard your soul”. Smoking is the total opposite to this mitzvah. You can be as learned and as “frum” as you like, but in my book, if you smoke you may as well go out and eat treife. You have no respect for you body that was created b’tzelem elokim – would you blow smoke in G-d’s face?

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