When Rav Shach Quit Smoking

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rav-shachIn Hagaon Harav Elazar Shach’s younger years, he was a heavy smoker. He even used to say that he cannot stand being without a cigarette, and that he doesn’t understand how a person can create chiddushim in Torah without a cigarette, for the smoking helps one concentrate and focus on the depths of Talmudic discussions. This is how he conducted himself for many years, until he once had to undergo a serious operation, and his doctor instructed him to stop smoking during his recuperation period.

After recuperating, he asked the doctor if he could start smoking again, and the doctor answered, “If you have already stopped smoking, it would be better for you not to begin again.” (This was before it was known how injurious smoking was to one’s health). Rav Schach’s reaction was, “If smoking is dangerous for my health, even slightly, I will stop completely.” He took the pack of cigarettes that had been waiting for months on top of his dresser, and threw it away immediately and forcefully.

Long afterwards, he recalled that from the moment he made the decision to stop smoking, he instantly ceased to feel any need to smoke, and he did not miss it at all. He often recounted this incident to members of his family and talmidim as a demonstration of the fact that “nothing can stand in the way of a man’s will. Making a decision itself may be difficult, but when one decides with full conviction to change a habit, it is possible to stick to a decision.”

{Coversations With Rav Shach/Dovid Bernstein-Matzav.com Newscenter}

18 COMMENTS

  1. “(This was before it was known how injurious smoking was to one’s health)”

    You should have put this way up at the top of the article, so people shouldn’t jump to conclusions and not read the rest.

  2. The Chofetz Chaim writes about smoking in 2 places that if one smokes it’s a known fact that it damages the health, and “usid litain ess hadin” and there is no “taanehs oinus”.

  3. In the book harav mibrisk, you can see pictures of r’ shach smoking as an older man. He did not stop as a young man. He stoped when he was older.

  4. Maybe he stopped smoking as a result of the “…. pack of cigarettes that had been waiting for months on top of his dresser”. I wonder how stale those cigarettes would have been.

  5. Smoking is a horrible habit and dangerous to one’s health which affects ones soul. We should ban smoking and alert the Jewish World that Smoking is for the goisha world not for The Yids.

  6. To number 2- the Chofetz Chaim writes about smoking is chapter 23 of Zachor LMiriam (as well as the dangers of newspapers in that chapter, which is ironic posting this on a news site), and in chapter 12 of Likkutei Amarim:

    Here’s a link to the Zachor L’Miriam excerpt. It’s toward the bottom in the paragraph beginning with “v’hinei nimtza’im…”

    http://www.hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=14237&st=&pgnum=47&hilite=

    He says cigarettes and pipes damage one’s body and the soul, that it’s difficult to stop once a person starts. They’re addicting.

    Which makes the story above about Rav Shach that much more impressive.

  7. Let’s not try and make Rav Schach the measure of the rest of smokers. Rav Schach zatzal was Rav Schach. Most – almost all – people who smoke find it very, very hard to quit, because nicotine is severely addictive, as much so as heroin or cocaine.

    Most people need at least four or five attempts to stop smoking – it’s usual to relapse that many times.

    Don’t mislead people – it’s not easy to quit smoking and relapsing is the usual course of progress, not an iron will with instant success.

    The best thing is – DON’T START. NOT EVEN ONE. NOT EVEN ON PURIM. (A lot of young people have that first fatal cigarette on Purim for a “joke.” It’s not a joke – it’s like taking rat poison. DON’T TRY IT. NOT EVEN ONE.

  8. #3, how old is older? He passed away at about 107. so if he quit 40 years ago, he still quit as a 75 year-old man

    #2, please post locations. From the biur halocha where he discusses the heter for smoking on Yom Tov he dosnt quote this. I believe you made this up.

  9. #11 “I believe you made this up.”

    wow- seems like a pretty meanspirited thing to say. Where’s the love, bro. Because YOU never saw it in the Chofetz Chaim’s over two dozen seforim he must have made it up?

    Well, he didn’t make it up.

    I happily cited two sources above, from Zachor L’Miriam and Likkutei Amarim where the Chofetz Chaim writes smoking is harmful to one’s health.

  10. I think the litvish worlds concern about smoking, is more connected to image than health. Lets be honest.
    If it were a concern about health, the push would be to have people smoke pure tabaco, instead of cigarettes
    To #6, you are just another crying head, which turns our youth away. While boys arent being taught trades or married at the ages CHAZAL require us to, and tsniut is an issue we arent alloweed to adress because the feminism in our kehillah will squash us, we have breathe to condemn others for doing something like smoking. How much kugel do people eat! Lukchin bellies abound. And how much soda do yidden drink! Not a peep about those ‘health’ issues. What is goyishe, is the puritanical christian attitude to smoking. Jews have smoked for as long as smoking has been done. Pashut.

  11. “To #6, you are just another crying head, which turns our youth away. While boys arent being taught trades or married at the ages CHAZAL require us to…”
    Why is that? If we listen to everything else they say, why not in matters of limud haTorah and the respective ages per each subject matter (5 for mikra, 10 for Mishna, etc.)

    “…and tsniut is an issue we arent alloweed to adress because the feminism in our kehillah will squash us…”
    Where do you daven? All charedim do talk about is tzniyus, because it’s safe and because they already have it down pat. It’s comforting to flog a dead horse and blame everything on it.

    “…we have breathe to condemn others for doing something like smoking.”
    And we rightly should.

    “How much kugel do people eat! Lukchin bellies abound.”
    You’re very right on that one.

    “And how much soda do yidden drink! Not a peep about those ‘health’ issues.”
    True. Carbonated sweetened soda is a poison and it should be addressed. So, if obesity and poison soft drinks are problems you want addressed, why can’t we also address the single greatest cause of premature death in America, smoking?

    Your answer? Here it is: “What is goyishe, is the puritanical christian attitude to smoking. Jews have smoked for as long as smoking has been done. Pashut.”
    Oy vey. Some Talmudical logic this is. Jews have smoked for as long as smoking has been around, and therefore it’s ok? It’s “pashut”? Are you kidding?
    ARE YOU KIDDING???

  12. My Dodi was just diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer last week. He was too tough to go to the Doctor earlier in the year. Now he has days to weeks to live. He smoked two packs a day. I have been crying for days now. Smoking is ASSUR. No Yidden should smoke PERIOD. ASSUR.

  13. His name is Reb Yisrael ben Tovah. May HKBH have rachmanus on his mishpuchah. We are all learning for him and all the sick of Bnai Yisrael in need of a rafuah and hatzhalah.

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