Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

10 Ellul 5761 - August 29, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Significant Drop in Smoking Among Chareidim
by Betzalel Kahn

A recent survey reveals that 17 percent of Israel's chareidi population smoke, as opposed to 28 percent of the general sector. The survey was conducted at the request of Rabbi Yechezkel Eschayek, who is involved in efforts to explain the hazards of smoking to the chareidi public.

The survey encompassed 500 chareidi families; 265 people from the sample (51 percent) were interviewed. Data indicate that 11 percent of the avreichim interviewed smoke regularly, along with 16 percent of all yeshiva students and 27 percent of working men. The statistics are both surprising and encouraging, since a study published four years ago in the British Journal of Medicine indicated that the percentage of smokers in the chareidi sector was 28 percent higher than that of the overall population. This would mean that in that period, 35 percent of the chareidi sector smoked. Rabbi Eschayek notes that the significant drop in the percentage of chareidi smokers stems from its compliance with the mandate of gedolei Yisroel and informative activities conducted during the past year on the issue of smoking.

Rabbi Eschayek, whose efforts are being encouraged by HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, visited maranan verabonon last year. They issued a letter in which they warned against taking one's health lightly. The letter, addressed to nonsmokers and published for the first time a year-and-a-half ago, states: "Please, my brothers, don't harm yourselves and your surroundings, and don't accustom yourselves to smoking, because our sacred Torah is Toras Chaim, as it is written, `vechai bohem.' Hashem wants each and every one of us to safeguard his health so that we can serve Him. No one may make light of the matter of preserving one's health, especially by an activity that doctors have determined is a dangerous practice. Whoever can refrain from smoking and prevent others from smoking is obligated to do so."

In their appeal to those who already smoke, maranan verabonon wrote: "Such people must make every effort to stop smoking, and particularly to refrain from smoking in public places, where others inhale the smoke." The letter was signed by HaRav Yosef Sholom Eliashiv, HaRav Aharon Leib Steinman, HaRav Moshe Shmuel Shapiro, HaRav Michel Yehuda Lefkowitz, HaRav Nissim Karelitz and HaRav Shmuel Auerbach.

Concomitant with this letter, a letter was issued by HaRav Shmuel Halevi Wosner, av beis din of Zichron Meir, stating, "It is obvious that according to halocho it is absolutely forbidden to begin smoking at a young age, and parents, teachers and mechanchim have a distinct Torah obligation to prevent them from adopting this habit. Whoever has accustomed himself to this bad habit should make every effort to stop gradually, for the sake of his future, and he will benefit from doing so. One must not smoke in public places because cigarette fumes are very harmful."

Letters culled from the seforim of the Chofetz Chaim warning against smoking were published around the same time, as was a letter by HaRav Ben Tzion Abba Shaul, also decrying the bad habit of smoking.

In the wake of the survey results, on Shabbos Parshas Re'ei, 80,000 leaflets containing the letters of maranan verabonon the gedolei Yisroel about the hazards of smoking were distributed in synagogues all over the country. These leaflets are addressed to youth, students of the yeshivos hakedoshos. Throughout Elul, 20,000 additional leaflets will be distributed in the yeshivos.

Similar activities were conducted last year in the chareidi sector, and as indicated by the survey, the results were excellent. The appeals of maranan verabonon were distributed in the Hadassah hospitals in Jerusalem and to chareidi members of the Maccabi, Klalit and Leumit sick funds, as well as in all Jerusalem synagogues, through the Religious Affairs Council.

A law forbidding smoking in public places was recently passed. Rabbi Eschayek says that he hopes that the widespread efforts to explain the hazards of smoking to the chareidi sector will result in an additional drop in the number of smokers, and in the curtailment of smoking in public places.


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