cigarettes displayed at the open market.
(photo credit:MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Instead of taking a courageous stand declaring that smoking tobacco violates Jewish law because it kills, Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef has said on satellite TV to his followers that there is “nothing wrong” with smoking either American or Israeli cigarettes during Passover.
In the Hebrew broadcast, the chief rabbi was apparently responding to queries on whether American cigarettes have to have a kashrut certificate, as do some Israeli manufactured or imported smokes.
He quotes a variety of rabbis from centuries ago – before the serious health dangers of tobacco were proven indisputably by thousands of scientific studies – who said that even if there is leaven in cigarettes, they can be smoked during the intermediate days of the Passover festival. One doesn’t need a hechsher (Kashrut certificate) to smoke cigarettes during Passover,” he declared.
“You can take any cigarettes, even American ones. All of them are permitted. There was one [rabbinical authority] who said all were forbidden [because of hametz]. But it is not so. He added that if the cigarettes were in contact with beer or other food that is clearly leaven, one can smoke them on Passover.
Forbidden leaven is determined whether a dog would eat them, he went on. “If you put a cigarette in front of a dog, who is always hungry – he will eat anything. But put a cigarette in front him, will he smoke it? He won’t touch it.” Thus, Yosef reasoned, even if there is leaven, a Jew can smoke cigarettes during Passover.
At the end of his ruling, the chief rabbi said that it’s best not to start smoking. If one doesn’t smoke, one will get “1,000 blessings,” but if a person is addicted to tobacco and “can’t stop, cigarettes or a nargila, he can smoke them. “One doesn’t need a hechsher.”
His late father, Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, used to tell his family members not to start smoking and if they smoke, to quit. But in public, he said only not to start smoking. Apparently, concern that followers would not heed his call deterred him from forbidding smoking outright for everyone, even if other prominent rabbis have said so clearly.
Tobacco kills some 9,000 Israelis each year.
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