(The following article is reprinted here at the request of its author, Rabbi Dr. Abraham J. Twerski, from his book, Dear Rabbi, Dear Doctor Volume 2 published by Shaar Press.)
Passionate Plea – Make Smoking an Aveirah
Dear Rabbi Dr. Twerski:
I realize I may be out of order, but I am in such great anguish.
A year ago my husband, a fine talmid chacham, was operated on for lung cancer caused by cigarette smoking. Recently it recurred, and the doctors are not giving him much time. Only a miracle can save him, and I pray for him every day at the Kotel.
I had pleaded with him for years to stop smoking, but to no avail. Now, unless Hashem grants us a miracle, I must face the bitter reality that I will be left with nine children to care for without a source of parnassah.
What do I have to look forward to? A full page ad signed by the gedolim, “Rachmanim bnei rachmanim. Come to the rescue of the widow of a talmid chacham and his nine yesomim, whose father died an untimely death”? Am I to send out letters soliciting help? Why should we expect others to be rachmanim on nine yesomim when their father was not a rachman on them? If he didn’t have enough rachmonus on them to give up smoking, why should strangers care? I love my husband dearly, but as much as I love him, that’s how angry I am at him for what he did to us.
The gedolim who will sign the appeal for me – why didn’t they use their authority to make him stop smoking? What could they have done? They could have said, “Because you are committing the terrible sin of suicide and leaving your family destitute, you will not have an aliyah, you will not be permited to daven for the amud, you will not get a hakafah, and you will be pasul as a witness, unless you stop smoking.” I think he would have listened. They might even say that anyone who dies from a self-inflicted disease will be treated according to the halacha of suicide.
I appeal to the gedolim. You be the rachmanim. You can prevent women from becoming widows and children from becoming yesomim. Your signing an urgent appeal for me and my children will be too little and too late. I need a husband, and my children need a father.
To other wives whose husbands are smoking, don’t just sit there. You have a responsibility to protect your children. Protest to your rabbonim that they should do everything in their power to prevent such tragedies, and they should know that if they are lax in doing so, they must share the responsibility for the tragedy that befalls wives and children.
I cannot add anything to your poignant letter. We have previously published letters about the disaster of smoking. I hope that your expression of anguish will motivate people to eliminate this lethal habit but I must remind you that smoking is addictive. Addictions are extremely difficult to break. It is entirely possible that had your husband been shunned publicly, it would have had little or no effect, so strong is the grip of this killer addiction. The most we can do is hope and pray that this heartfelt plea will discourage others from ever tasting the first cigarette.
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