Jan 16, 2012

Giving A Hetter To Smoke On Shabbos

Rav Yisrael Rosen, head of the Tzomet Institute, recently wrote an article about the issues of gender-segregation, when it is, in his opinion, acceptable to segregate, and when it is not. It was an interesting read, and if you can make out the Hebrew, you should read it.

In Rabbi Rosen's article he explains that not every time there is gender-segregation is there ncessarily the exclusion of women. He explains that many of the examples discussed in the media as excluding women are simply gender-segregation. Separate hours in a fitness center in the Technion (which made the news recently) is not excluding women, but simply separating the hours of usage, and Rav Rosen says he supports that. Separate sidewalks in mea Shearim, on the other hand, he does not support even though it is not the exclusion of women but just segregation because the street is a public place meant to be used even by people who oppose the segregation.

Rav Rosen goes on to say he opposes the segregation on the bus lines with men in front and women in back, for the same reason. On the other hand, if a certain community wanted to form separate lines at the supermarket, he would be fine with that (even though he thinks it is a sick craze of hype-modesty).

Rav Rosen goes on to say he supports "mixed seating" at weddings, for social reasons (that he has spoken abut on other occasions), and also supports mixed gender classrooms for young children when there are not enough kids to justify splitting the class and forming two separate classes.

These, he says, are issues unrelated to the exclusion of women, but involve the issue of gender segregation.

This morning Rav Shmuel Eliyahu, the Chief Rabbi of Tzfat, responded to Rav Rosen's comments. He compared it to a story, a true story, in which a fellow reeking of cigarette smoke came to him once on Shabbos and asked for wine to make kiddush. He asked the fellow why he wants to make kiddush if he so obviously does not keep Shabbos as he had just been smoking. The fellow responded that he had been given a hetter to smoke on Shabbos from Rav Abuhatzeira.

Rav Eliyahu tried to understand what the hetter could possibly be, and the fellow explained. He was smoking 40 cigarettes a day, including on Shabbos, and explained that e could not just stop. Rav Abuhatzeira suggested that instead of just not smoking on Shabbos, which would be too difficult, he should cut it down slowly. First drop it to 20 cigarettes, then to 10, etc. until eventually he would stop completely.

Rav Eliyahu explained that this fellow only remembered the first half of what he had been told, but forgot the second half. it was not a hetter to smoke, but it was a method to cut it down until he would not smoke at all. but this fellow only heard, or only remembered that Rav Abuhatzeira told him he could smoke 20 cigarettes instead of 40.

Rav Eliyahu compares that story to rav Rosen's situation - the fact that we have a bdieved situation that rabbonim must conduct weddings to mixed audiences, that some weddings are arranged with mixed seating, does not turn that fact into a lechatchila that now all weddings should be mixed.

Rav Eliyahu goes on and says that saying such things publicly is a big mistake and very dangerous, as some people are out looking for these allowances and will use them to try to bring the community down a notch or two.

He asks if such a method, of turning bdieveds into lechatchilas is also applied equally in the Tzomet Institute. And because he knows that it is not, he asks why is tzniyut different than Shabbos? Why by issues of tzniyut must we set up our children to falter with bdieved allowances for no reason?

It is an interesting debate at what point is segregation needed lechatchila, what makes it bdieved, and at what point is it totally unnecessary. There are obviously two very different opinions  being displayed in this debate. I would add that Rav Eliyahu's comment comparing it to the products developed by the Tzomet Institute is out of place. Everything they develop is for a bdieved situation. nobody says healthy people should go buy their telephones and pens and other inventions to use on Shabbos. They are developed for the purpose of people who are in certain situations where Shabbos would otherwise be desecrated by necessity, and these inventions mitigate that. As well, even if such a comparison were to be made, Shabbos is far more severe - being a d'oraisa, along with being the main issue looked at in halacha that determines if someone is a fine Jew or a rasha. Tzniyus is not on a similar standing with Shabbos, no matter how important it is.


  1. Forget Tzinyut not being on the level of Shabbat.. it's not even a mitzvah!

    It's a midah, and it leads to nice things, but it's not a halacha at all!

    Woe to Israel who violate biblical commandments by adding to the Torah.

  2. Though Tzniut itself is not a D'oraita, it is a Geder to Arayot, which are not only a D'oraita, but a Yehareg v'al Ya'avor - so there is a justification to be careful. That being said, there is no need for a Chumra on a Chumra on a Chumra, which is the way Tzniut rules these days seem to be going.

    Re: Tzomet products being only for Bdieved situations - that's true for some of their products, but not all. Their "Chagaz", for one, is definitely not a bdieved. Also, R' Yosef's point, while not necessarily literally or completely accurate, is that Machon Tzomet's goal is to make things as much l'chatchila as possible, since the issues they address with their pen and phone are things that are Muttar in a case of Pikuach Nefesh - however, Machon Tzomet still tries to make it "less b'dieved".

  3. "Though Tzniut itself is not a D'oraita,"

    Tzniut is not even a D'rabanan! It's a charachter trait, a midah.

    The halachot of Erva are ones which means a man must look a way... and only when he is davening!

    The halachot of Arayot fall under the halachot of Yichud. Yichud has nothing to do with Tzniut.

    Tzinut, while a nice and wonderful and very Jewish thing, is not even close to the level of halacha.

  4. tzomet does have other products that are not necessarily life or death items as well. We looked into it before buying a water cooler- once could certainly boil all the water they need before shabbat (in an average home I mean, I am not talking about a hospital, but they tend not to have small sized coolers either).

  5. Funny how Rav Rosen brings up mixed seating at a wedding referring to the meal, but Rav Eliyahu interprets it as the chupah ceremony.

  6. does rav eliyahu really think that we should go through ever chapter of the the SA, find any heter, any kula, that entered the system and expunge it?


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