By the Grace of G‑d
20th of Adar 5739 [March 19, 1979]
Brooklyn, N.Y.

Greeting and Blessing:

This is to acknowledge receipt of your letter of the 7th of Adar, in which you write about the problem of smoking.

Needless to say, this is a matter for specialists in this field, namely the medical profession. Herein is also the answer why Rabbinic authorities have not taken a position on this matter, and this too is a basic factor: Even according to those medical authorities who hold that smoking cigarettes is harmful to health, this opinion is based on the quality of cigarettes as they are now manufactured, which contain harmful substances. A great deal of research is being carried on to find a way to eliminate those harmful substances in cigarettes and produce a harmless cigarette, in which case there would be no room at all for issuing an Issur on cigarette smoking. Thus, for Rabbis to issue an Issur at this time would, at best, be premature, but more importantly, any Issur in -accordance with the Torah would be a permanent one, as the) Torah itself is permanent and unchangeable.

As for the general obligation to take care of one's health, there is no need for Rabbis to take any special action, since this is a fundamental Din in the Shulchan Aruch.

Since you have written to me on this matter, I want to take advantage of this opportunity to make a practical point. Noting how concerned you are in a matter which has to do with physical health, even though it is not unanimous, and there are people who think that in certain cases at any rate, it i has a positive aspect and the withdrawal may even be more harmful than the smoking, all of which need not be discussed here - I trust that you are surely much more involved to promote the spiritual health of fellow Jews, namely strengthening their observance of the Torah and Mitzvoth in the everyday life. In this area there is no room for any doubts or differences of opinion about the Torah and Mitzvoth being "our life and the length of our days." It is surely unnecessary to point out to you that this is the obligation of every Jew in accordance with the Mitzvo of V'Ohavto L'Reacho Komocho, as well as הוכח תוכיח את עמיתך Noting the repetition, our Sages emphasize that it indicates perseverance "up to 100 times, which means that having tried unsuccessfully 99 times, there is still the obligation to try once more, certainly if one is just beginning to fulfill this obligation.

With blessing,