22 Av 5781 / Saturday, July 31, 2021 | Torah Reading: Eikev
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Craving the Right Thing    

Craving the Right Thing

Hashem gives us lust for a purpose. Lust is like a fire – if you channel it into a spiritually productive mode, it’s fantastic. Craving for Hashem is the hallmark of a tzaddik…


Translated by Rabbi Lazer Brody

A person can be a nuclear physicist or the Prime Minister with a 150 IQ, but if his bodily urges override his brain, then he’s still an animal, no better than a bull in a feed lot. A professor of biochemistry who lacks spiritual awareness is light years behind a cab driver who does have spiritual awareness. One’s university degrees and one’s IQ have nothing to do with one’s true prestige in the spiritual realm of the upper worlds unless they’re used for the purpose of serving Hashem.
I don’t want to say a detrimental thing about anyone, but there are plenty of Yeshiva students that are learning Torah who have no spiritual awareness at all. The proof that they have no spiritual awareness is when you see them prancing down the street with lighted cigarettes in their hands. The Yetzer – the Evil Inclination – has done a great job in making them feel that a cigarette in their hands makes them look cool, when it’s really a Gemara in their hands that gives them class.
Rebbe Nachman further teaches us that with spiritual awareness, the soul and life are one. The soul never dies. On the other hand, ignorance, the body and death are also one. Ignorance is a spiritual death; also, there’s no such thing as a body that doesn’t die. So by choosing to pamper your soul, you choose eternal life and by choosing to indulge the body, one chooses death, G-d forbid.
King Solomon, the wisest man that ever walked the face of the earth calls the Torah, “The Tree of Life” and “the source of life.” Therefore, Torah has nothing to do with bodily urges that are spiritually comparable to death, and certainly the Torah has nothing to do with bodily lusts that are harmful and death-causing, such as cigarettes. That’s why the Yeshiva guy or even the rabbi with the cigarette in his hand is far away from Torah. Sorry – it sounds harsh – but’s that’s the way it is according to the Zohar and to Rebbe Nachman. There’s not a single physician alive that will tell you that cigarettes are beneficial to the brain or body. On the contrary – entire books are written on the damages of cigarettes.
Therefore, in order to receive Torah, to internalize Torah and to become real Torah students, we must overcome and ultimately discard bodily lust. Let’s stop and think – we are born with strong bodily lusts and appetites. Hashem gives us lust for a purpose. Lust is like a fire – if you channel it into a spiritually productive mode, it’s fantastic. Craving Torah and craving Hashem is the hallmark of a tzaddik. King David chants, “My soul thirsts for You, Hashem.” Nothing could be loftier. But when that lust is directed at bodily appetites, nothing could be more repulsive.
No one is born with nicotine addiction. It’s acquired. Rebbe Nachman once scolded his followers who smoked tobacco and said, “Isn’t it bad enough that you’re born with so many bodily lusts as it is – why do you look for additional ones?”
Now, we’re talking about cigarettes, but this the principles we’re learning here apply to all bodily lusts; that’s why even non-smokers should pay attention to the things we’re talking about.
The fact that cigarette smoking is life-threatening and life-shortening is today an unequivocally established medical fact that no one can argue with. Even some of this generation’s leading rabbinical authorities, including Rabbi Ephraim Greenwald in the USA and Rabbi Moshe Sternbuch in Israel, equate smoking cigarettes to suicide, for in both cases, a person kills himself with his own actions. Today, according to both our rabbinical leaders and medical authorities, anyone that smokes is doing deliberate damage to himself which in itself is a terrible violation of Torah. What’s worse, secondary smoke is very detrimental to other people. Rabbinical authorities say that smokers will be held liable in the Heavenly Court for all the damage they caused to other people; and you’re talking about serious damage.
Imagine that a person who ate kosher, observed the Sabbath, and gave charity all his life arrives in the Heavenly Court, and they throw the book at him for murder. The poor guy claims that he never stepped on an ant! Why murder? The Heavenly Court responds, “It was the secondary smoke that you willfully exposed others to. Didn’t you know that your Secondary smoke was a lethal carcinogen? Murderers like you caused the death of 43,000 people a year in the USA alone from heart disease and lung cancer, and they weren’t even smokers! And what about all the phlegm, cough, chest discomfort and lung function problems you caused to the people who didn’t die, but who breathed your smoke? And what about the 15,000 children whose asthma and respiratory problems get worse when they breathe your smoke?!”
That’s really frightening, because there’s no teshuva for the damages a person does to others with secondary smoke. Can you give them back their health?
Just imagine that your boss gave you a company car and you willfully pour sugar down the gas tank and smash the body and the windows with a sledgehammer. Then you torch the upholstery. Dear friend, not only will you lose your job but you’ll pay every cent of the damages with a fat fine too. You’ll be lucky to stay out of jail.
Now suppose you do the same thing to your lungs and heart. The average cost for a single-lung transplant is nearly $400,000. The average cost for a double-lung transplant, in which both of the patient's original lungs are replaced with donor lungs, is about $550,000. For a heart-lung transplant, involving the transplant of both a donor heart and a single lung, the average cost iss about $875,000.
You’re not talking about a flesh-and-blood boss: on Judgment Day, you have to stand before Hashem and explain why you did willful premeditated damage to the million-dollar equipment that Hashem put in your safekeeping so that you could perform the job He gives you to do. Your lungs and heart don’t belong to you any more than the company car does. No one has the right to destroy them or any other part of the body. Let’s make the coming year a smoke-free year and pray that everyone enjoys good health, amen!

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  2 Talkbacks for this article    See all talkbacks  
  I'm also interested in Rav Arush on Caffeine
Akiva1/24/2018 5:54:19 PM
  what about caffeine?
YY9/4/2011 6:17:26 AM

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