Jewschool reports in this post:
The Rabbinical Council of America announces its official prohibition of smoking. See: RCA Press Release | Halachic Prohibition (11 pg PDF)
The Vaâ€™ad Halachah (or Halacha Committee) of The Rabbinical Council of America has issued a unanimous opinion affirming that, in spite of its widespread practice even within many rabbinic and yeshiva circles, the smoking of tobacco products is prohibited by Jewish law. For some observers of Jewish life, this decision might be casually dismissed as a statement of the obvious, or in any case, as long overdue. But from a different perspective, this ruling illustrates the highly significant fact that accepted practice and illustrious precedent notwithstanding, Jewish law is fully able to incorporate new realities, recognize new and reliable scientific findings, and embrace the need to change heretofore acceptable behavior.
[Emphasis mine] I suspect that line in the statement might come back to haunt them someday.
First of all, it’s bloody well time that somebody got around to banning smoking. R. Feinstein’s infamously irresponsible heter (permissive ruling) wasn’t exactly one of the great moments of Jewish legal thought, and has given more people justification for not quitting (or for starting) than is remotely a good idea. Pikuach nefesh, anybody? Or the Rambam’s statement that it’s a religious obligation to care for one’s health (Deot 4:1)? (To be fair, Feinstein’s psok was in ’81, and we know more now about how evil cigarettes are now). In case anybody still had a question: they are assur, assur, assur.
The other piece of this is, as The Town Crier noted in his Jewschool post, a very iiiinteresting statement about the importance of halakhic adaptation that sounded almost…. Conservative. Halakha needs to “incorporate new realities”? Really? Perhaps we should send the RCA a list of other “new realities” that the Orthodox world could stand to address….
I don’t want to repost my whole thought on the matter, so instead check out my blog post. I’m mostly in agreement with you. Though I suppose I stress things a bit differently.
Also, if you read through the ruling completely and carefully then you saw that they take great effort in defending R’ Moshe and his toughts, coming to much the same conclusion that you did, stating that had he had the knowledge that we have today he would have ruled differently. They also point out that he generally felt it to be bad, just that he was hesitant to prohibit it. Taken in the context they provide, it doesn’t seem R’Moshe’s ruling was that irresponsible.
Direct Link to Post: http://purimhero.blogspot.com/2006/07/bow-wow-wow-yippie-yo-yippie-yay.html
Oh, I read the psok, I know how R. Feinstien ruled and why. I just don’t think it was a responsible ruling, even at the time. And, the fact that it’s taken 25 years and a lot of medical evidence later to get a prominent ruling on it… well, let’s just say that it’s about dang time.
It just sounded too familiar…
Purim Hero– if they want this psak to be respected, they CAN’T bash RMF, b/c then there will be a backlash against it.
Well, I agree with you on smoking!
Rav Moshe Feinstein, who died in 1986, based his heter on the argument that the prohibition of V’nishmartem applies only to short-term endangering of oneself. His son-in-law, Rav Moshe Tendler, later argued that Rav Moshe would have been forced to change his mind had he been alive in 1989 when they discovered that smoking causes immediate, short-term damage to the lungs (IIRC).
BTW, of course we Modern Orthodox will agree that Halakhah needs to “incorporate new realities,” as long as it’s a Halakhah that we can agree was originally based on an understanding of science or health. That potentially includes lots of medical halakhot, but not a lot more. Nice try, though! 🙂