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Besides for the health (and possible chometz) problems involved with smoking, is it possible to define smoking, in this day and age, as a davar hashaveh lechol nefesh, a universally imbibed pleasure, which would make it permissible on Yomtov? Is it something that is determined by the locale? By the world?

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I assume you are talking about lighting it from a pre-existing flame? –  SAH Aug 25 at 7:12
I'll check it up when I have time, but I believe smoking is discussed in kitzur. Not about your point exactly. There's one time it has to be in private. –  user613 Aug 25 at 12:43
IIRC R. Moshe writes in IM that it is. –  mevaqesh Aug 25 at 16:32
שו"ת אגרות משה אורח חיים חלק ה סימן לד –  mevaqesh Aug 25 at 16:42

3 Answers 3

As you've said, first of all you should never be smoking. Secondly, you have no idea what they're putting in those cigarettes so you shouldn't use them on Pesach.

As far as davar hashaveh lechol nefesh: the Talmud says you can cook fresh food on YomTov because freshly-cooked food is something universally appreciated. The Talmud then says that mugmar, some form of post-meal incense, is an acquired taste of the upper-class and not something universally appreciated; it doesn't pass the bar and therefore can't be done on YomTov.

I'd seen an article on the question of smoking a few years back, I believe in J. Halacha & Contemporary Society.

The simple argument would be that if "high class, acquired-taste" incense isn't universal enough, why should cigarettes be?! Non-smokers find them utterly noxious!

Calvin & Hobbes on smoking

In earlier times, when smoking was believed to be non-harmful and perhaps even healthy, there were different views. One argument was: "any smoker would tell you it's shaveh l'chol nefesh", which to me is an addict's reasoning if I've ever heard any. Another was: "smoking helps you digest your food better, and good digestion is universally appreciated" -- again, today we know it doesn't help you digest your food better (though if you're addicted and it calms you down, the calmness may aid your digestion; but it's certainly no better than the Talmud's case of mugmar.)

Rabbi Hershel Schachter recalled giving a shiur about yomtov and someone asked him about smoking cigars, he said it was prohibited based on the above. People smiled as a prestigious rabbi of yesteryear in that community used to hand out cigars on yomtov; all I can say is that people used to think some very different things about smoking than what we know today.

The best thing to do, by far, is just not smoke at all, ever!

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Shalom, I love your answer. However it does not address what I feel is my main issue "Is it something that is determined by the locale? By the world?" What is bothering me is how it could be that Rabbanim in Eretz Yisrael or for that matter in certain communities in Hutz La'Aretz, have not come out publicly decrying smoking on Yomtov and proclaiming the truth, that it is hillul Yomtov. Is it because Davar Hashaveh is determined by locale? Eretz Yisrael has a very high smoking rate in its population. –  Yahu Apr 11 '11 at 20:59
Shalom is suggesting that it's dependent on era. The jump from that to being dependent on locale is not a great one. –  Isaac Moses Apr 11 '11 at 22:08
Isaac, You mean to tell me that even though the whole educated world knows how potentially harmful smoking has been conclusively proven to be, if in one locale people choose to ignore reality it can be Shaveh Lechol Nefesh? –  Yahu Apr 12 '11 at 0:18
I suspect there are elements here of Shomer Psaim Hashem (which is relative to a given time, place, and culture); and Mutav sheyihyu shogegin. It takes many smokers a tremendous amount of sacrifice to go for 25 hours without a cigarette on Shabbos; an extra 25, 49, or 73 hours may be nearly impossible. (Again, best thing is just to never smoke in the first place ...) –  Shalom Apr 12 '11 at 12:19
@Yahu, I suppose you could make that distinction between time and place. I would imagine, though, that "Shaveh Lechol Nefesh" is determined by what people do rather than by what the experts say. If so, and if it's possible to define "people" as "people in this locale," then it shouldn't matter what people in other countries do or say. (FTR, I'm arguing lishmah here. I tend to accept R' Rakeffet's position that smoking is assur every day thanks to "Lo Tirtzach.") –  Isaac Moses Apr 12 '11 at 18:28

Rabbi Moshe Feinstin writes in Igros Moshe (OH vol. 5 ch. 34) writes that it is shaveh l'chol nefesh.

More accurately, he writes that the custom is for smoker to smoke on Yom Tov as well. Although he notes that it could be argued that this is not shaveh l'chol nefesh since people avoid smoking due to health concerns, he concludes that it is difficult to prohibit given its ubiquity. Furthermore, one could argue that in the past not everyone smoked yet it was considered "shaveh lakol" so the halacha ought to stay the same even though now there is an element of danger. He also notes that since millions of people smoke perhaps this alone renders it "shaveh lakol". He concludes that although it is certainly better to refrain, it is difficult to prohibit.

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From the Biur Halacha in siman 511 it seems to not be dependant on a particular statistic, but rather on general regularity of use. Concerning smoking he writes:

והרבה מקילין, ועיקר טעם כולם משום דעכשיו שהרבה רגילין בזה נעשה שוה בכל נפש.

Notice his use of the word הררבה, many, he did not write רוב or מיעוט המצוי. Simply הרבה, meaning many.

Another closely related issue which you have dismissed as unrelated is seemingly intrinsically connected. The health factor plays a big role here.

See maseches Ksuvos 7a. This is a quote mid sugya: אלא מעתה מותר לעשות מוגמר ביו''ט דמתוך שהותרה הבערה לצורך הותרה נמי שלא לצורך אמר ליה עליך אמר קרא {שמות יב-טז} אך אשר יאכל לכל נפש דבר השוה לכל נפש אמר ליה רב אחא בריה דרבא לרב אשי אלא מעתה נזדמן לו צבי ביו''ט הואיל ואינו שוה לכל נפש ה''נ דאסור למשחטיה אמר ליה אנא דבר הצורך לכל נפש קאמינא צבי צריך לכל נפש הוא.

Rashi explains: לצורך. אוכל נפש כגון שחיטה: מוגמר. בשמים על האש לגמר את הכלים ואת הבגדים: עליך אמר קרא לכל נפש דבר השוה לכל נפש. מותר ובעילה שוה לכל אבל מוגמר אינו אלא למפונקים:

We see the close connection between שוה לכל נפש and צריך לכל נפש, with צריך being the more accurate criteria, even though most codified halachic works continued to use the phrase שוה לכל נפש.

A useful, normal act is allowed. Something which is not normally useful is not allowed.

This is important because many of the early rulings to be lenient to smoke on Yom Tov focused on the laxative effect of smoking. (This was not meant to be viewed as a רפואה, this was meant to be viewed as a צורך לכל, שוה לכל). Nowadays, the knowledge of the health risk serves to dismiss any argument that smoking is a צריך לכל/ שוה לכל being that there is no צריך for it.

This is the way the argument of Reb Elyashiv, and possibly Reb Shlomo Zalman acc to some quotes, was explained to me. The basic point is the fact that something is so obviously unhealthy means it is in no way a צריך.

(And just to preempt any argument, the difference between the health risks between smoking and red meat and wine is quite obvious.)

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