(c) 2000 Dr Hendel; 1st appeared in Torah Forum (c) Project Genesis

Date: Sun, 16 Jan 2000 22:10:37 -0500 (EST)
From: Russell Hendel <  rhendel@mcs.drexel.edu>
Subject: Re: Smoking

QUESTION: Is smoking permitted according to Judaism? If not what is the
difference between (a) smoking regularly (b) smoking occasionally
(c) eating Chop liver (which might lead to obesity).

ANSWER: The basic question above asks
Is there a clear cut way to prohibit that which is harmful and permit
that which is not".

I answered this about 2 years ago in Torah Forum. It first appeared in a
letter to the Editor of Tradition in the 70s.  I basically posited that we
ask 2 questions (1) Is there immediate danger possible (2) is there any

I then suggested that anything with immediate danger is prohibited in any
amount. Similarly something with long term danger which has no side benefit
is prohibited in any amount (this is based on Rambam Murder 12--- sucking
coins is prohibited because of sweat bacteria on them-- even sucking one
coin is prohibited). If however there is long term danger but there is also
benefit then we cannot prohibit it (I base this (like Rav Moshe on Rambam
Character 4, who advises against eating certain bad fruits but does not
prohibit them).

So now we see that smoking even one cigarette is prohibited (the same way
smoking one coin is) because there is long term danger and no benefit. On
the other hand occasional chop liver is not prohibited since besides the
long term danger of obesity there is benefit of nutrients (like the bad
fruit in Chapter 4 of Character).

I believe that this 2-parameter approach can be successful in answering
most questions reasonably.

Russell Hendel; Phd ASA; Math Towson;
Moderator Rashi Is Simple; http://www.shamash.org/rashi/