Sunday, March 11, 2007

Reckless endangerment, part two

See part one here.

About a month ago, I left the office at the end of the day and found an Orthodox co-worker standing outside the building smoking. So I started my standard lecture about “cancer sticks.” (I’m sure I’ve mentioned before that our son was brainwashed against smoking by constant reminders that his father’s father had died of lung cancer from cigarettes.) Much to my surprise, my co-worker wasn’t the least bit phased by my lecture. So I tried the Jewish angle: “u-shmartem et nafshoteichem, guard your souls” (I don’t know what I’m quoting—please enlighten me), “u-vachartem bachaim, choose life” (Devarim/Deuteronomy somewhere, I think—again, kindly enlighten me). At this, she went on the attack, pointing out that a relative of hers who’d smoked had lived to a ripe old age, and that it was up to G-d to decide how long a person was going to live.

This conversation has been bothering me ever since, and reading about all the drinking and smoking going on on Purim only upset me more.

Since when is it mutar/permissible for a Jew to abdicate responsibility for her/his own health?


Blogger Ezzie said...

That's an idiotic argument. We don't cross highways, even though it's "up to God". We don't ride our cars at 100mph in traffic. How could the person argue this? Whatever happened to hishtadlus?!

Of course it's up to God. And if God sees you're not all that interested in taking care of yourself, He might just say "byebye!"

Sun Mar 11, 02:25:00 PM 2007  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Ezzie, agreed. Isn't accepting personal responsibility one of the primary signs of adulthood?

Do me a favor, though: I've seen the word "histadlut" before, but I've never seen a translation. Would you be so kind?

Sun Mar 11, 08:02:00 PM 2007  
Blogger Ezzie said...

Sorry! Hmm... loosely, "doing your part" or "trying". If a person is mishtadel, they're trying to do something. It's usually used in this context to mean that a person must put in their own effort, and based on that effort, God provides assistance (so to speak) to complete it. If a person does not, then God is less likely to intervene on the person's behalf.

I think that was close, anyway.

Mon Mar 12, 01:48:00 AM 2007  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Thanks for the explanation.

(I have to watch my spelling--I missed a "hey/h": hishtadlut, mishtadel, infinitive presumably l'hishtadel.)

My mother has always said, "G-d helps him who helps himself." Is that from a Jewish source, or something borrowed from the neighbors?

Mon Mar 12, 06:57:00 AM 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Go to and listen to the shiur on tomorrow's Daf Yomi (Moed Katan 5). At about 12:50, you will hear the Rabbi reference an anti-smoking teshuva.

I heard it and thought of your post.


Wed Mar 14, 03:29:00 PM 2007  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Thanks for the tip, Adam.

I'd just like to see teshuvot against smoking more widely respected and accepted.

Wed Mar 14, 11:47:00 PM 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The rca has banned tobacco products here:

R. Gil at Hirhurim I am pretty sure posted on the smoking issue. The defenders of smoking say things like:

1. one cigarette is not a problem, the problem is many cigarettes, so halachically you can't outlaw just the one.

2. Shomer Pitaim Hashem. Hashem protects fools. I forgot exactly how this works halachically, but R. Gil covers it.

I am in total agreement with you, that smoking is halachically wrong. Of course, not taking care of your body in other ways is also wrong.

Noam S.

Thu Mar 15, 10:08:00 AM 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

R. Gil is here(also click on his links for more)

Thu Mar 15, 10:11:00 AM 2007  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Thanks for the link. Good reading (though I had to laugh when they translated the word mitzvot, printed in Hebrew letters, as "mitzvoth"--that's a translation?).

May I assume that this is Noam S. from the Noshing Espress?

Fri Mar 16, 12:28:00 AM 2007  

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