Snuff Tobacco and the Chofetz Chaim


    by Rabbi Yair Hoffman for

    Snuff tobacco came to Europe in what is now known as the Columbian Exchange. In 1492 and 1493, there was the widespread transfer of plants, animals, culture, human populations, technology, diseases, and ideas between the Americas and the Old World in Europe.

    One such item that came from Brazil was pulverized tobacco.  The Indians living there harvested the tobacco, then pulverized it and flavored it.  They then had the practice of sniffing it, giving them a near-instant nicotine high.

    The item comes in tins and yields anywhere from 15 to 25 sniffs per can. A can of snuff tobacco costs about $4.19. On average, a hit of tobacco snuff costs about 19 cents.

    Rav Nosson Wachtfogel (1910-1998) zt”l, the Mashgiach of BMG in Lakewood, once related the following story that transpired between Rav Elchonon Wasserman hy”d (1874-1941) and the Chofetz Chaim (1838-1933):

    In conversation with the Chofetz Chaim, Rav Elchonon Wasserman was praising the establishment of a new European Yeshiva. The Chofetz Chaim inquired of him, “Do they have a Mussar Seder?”
    Rav Elchonon responded, “They do not, but –“
    The Chofetz Chaim responded, “A Yeshiva without a Mussar Seder is not worth a shmek Tabbak!”
    Leket Reshimos Elul and Yomim Noraim p. 38.

    The Chofetz Chaim, in his Mishna Brurah 1:12 writes of the obligation to study mussar daily. He writes that it is more of an obligation than studying Mishnayos.

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    1. Building a mountain out of a molehill. … “Lo duvim v’lo ya’ar” All it means that a yeshiva without mussar has no value. He was NOT endorsing “shmek tabak”. Given today’s medical knowledge, he surely would have opposed it. Don’t bring ra’ayos from early Chasidic Masters either.

    2. The Point of this is that The Chofetz Chaim understood concept of ” value ” just like the time his shoe fell off his foot onto to the train tracks one time that exited a train ride . When he got on the platform he took off his other shoe and threw it on to the train tracks next to other shoe that fell off . This way both shoes together will have value to someone who finds them and is able to retrieve them from the train tracks . But one shoe would have very little value to anyone , and his one shoe that remained on his foot had little value to him without the partner shoe .


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