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Certifying Cigarettes Kosher for Pesach

March 31, 2013 – 8:51 am27 Comments

Cigarettes advertised as kosher for Pesach

By Ilan Bloch
While shopping in a local Jerusalem supermarket during Hol Hamoed I asked a worker (who happened to be Arab) where I might find quinoa. This gentleman looked at me aghast and, with a tone filled with rebuke, informed me that quinoa was not kosher for Passover. Without wanting to get into the intricacies of the kosher l’Pesach status of the product I simply told him that I was Mizrahi (which I am not) and he sent a worker to help me locate this prized superfood. Once I found my way back to the checkout aisle I was bemused by the sign advertising the Badatz Beit Yosef hashgacha (kosher certification) on all Dubek cigarettes, together with the greeting of Pesach kasher ve’sameach, wishing consumers a kosher and happy Passover. I hope, of course, that it is very kosher and very happy, as it may be consumers’ last; the bottom of the advertisement includes the Ministry of Health warning that “smoking causes disease and premature death.”

A Badatz spokesperson issued the following statement: “Although smoking is certainly a mistake, it is better that this error not be compounded by also breaking the laws of Passover which are extremely stringent.” Maybe this statement should have been included on the cigarette packets themselves lest consumers come to think – Heaven forbid! – that smoking has been officially sanctioned by the Rabbinic establishment, which I am sure many have!

I also took the opportunity of taking some time off to start exercising again on Park Ha’Mesila, Jerusalem’s equivalent of New York’s High Line. As I pounded the track towards Malcha, my simple jog became a reminder of how everything in the Holy City is infused with religious and political meaning. Running through the Arab neighborhoods of Sharafat and Beit Safafa (including past one of the latter’s mosques), which were conquered and annexed by Israel in 1967*, my mp3 player randomly selected Yerushalayim shel Zahav, including its final, additional stanza celebrating renewed Israeli control over previously Jordanian-held pre-1967 Jerusalem, including these very neighborhoods I was running through, Shir La’Shalom, a once controversial anti-war anthem from just two years later, and then Vehi She’Amda, suitable for Passover, but filled with another, more political meaning. This song tells us that “For not only one enemy has risen to destroy us, rather in each and every generation they try to destroy us, and God saves us from their hands.” I was reminded of those (Jews) who include the (Arab) people amongst whom I was jogging in the religious message of this text from the Haggadah. On my way home, I walked past the Yad Be’Yad (Hand in Hand) Center for Jewish-Arab Education in Israel bilingual school, which offers a very different model for Jewish-Palestinian relations in the city.

I just wanted to go shopping and jogging on a day off. But nothing is that simple in Jerusalem; here one lives with the weight of three thousand years of history on one’s shoulders – for good and for bad.

*Part of Beit Safafa was within Israeli-held pre-1967 Jerusalem.

Ilan Bloch is the Director of Teaching Israel.  This piece was orignally published on the Teaching Israel website.

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  • frosh says:

    Would it be fair to say that the Rabbinic establishment goes with a meshuganeh chumra on quinoa, but goes with a rather liberal kula on cigarettes?

  • They have too much time on their hands. What’s next – cocaine with a hechsher?

  • Shirlee. says:

    Every time I think I’ve heard it all, up pops something even more ridiculous.

    As far as kosher l’Pesuch products goes, it gets more ridiculous every year. My grandparents who were from the Ukraine, and who were very observant, must be turning in their graves. As I viewed the shelves in my kosher shop and then Coles I couldn’t help laugh. The next thing we know we’ll have kosher toilet paper.!!

    The only good thing this year was that finally I was able to buy gluten free ‘matzo’ at a reasonable price. Up until now the only one I could buy was a shmura matzo from the KA at $39 a box. Which I might add I refused to buy.

  • Jonny Schauder says:

    We’ve lost the plot. Great article Ilan.

    I’m afraid this Pesach has been filled with strangeness. Including encountering kids that can say the ma nistana but seem to have forgotten please, thank you and basic respect…

    Certainly complex…

    Kosher lepesach cigarettes is surely a joke on all of us.., if not then we are the joke.

  • Shirlee. says:

    Manners you say??

    What are they?

    I notice on public transport the only youngsters to offer seats to the aged and infirm are the Chinese.

    Jonny did you get my comment on the Glen Eira topic?

    Repeated here for you, from a friend who is a ganzer macher in the JCA

    “I have inquired and the answer is that we are not running anything like your programme in Sydney

    However the JCA has spoken with “THEM”, whoever them is, and is looking closely at “their” model.”

    Sorry to be so far off topic.

  • Jonny Schauder says:

    Yes before pesach I spoke to your JCA Chair. Was a good discussion about replicating the model in the Sydney context.
    It is a good new model to put into your education portfolio mix.

  • Jonny Schauder says:

    Sorry for the typos and double post… Small iPhone keyboard.

    Thanks Shirli…

  • Shirlee. says:

    You are forgiven. After all you are a mere male!

    Just kidding.

    Did you speak with Peter Philippsohn the President. He’s a really nice person?

    Eds: Shirlee, probably best to have this conversation via email or some other mechanism other than on this thread. Thanks in advance.

  • Andrea says:

    You think a Hechsah on cigarettes is weird? What about on salt water? Seen in England- Kosher for pesach Hoffmans salt water only 99p!
    I’m not quite sure which is crazier- buying pre-mixed salt water or the need for a hechsah!

  • Shirlee. says:

    Sorry Eds. It was the easy way out.

  • Shirlee. says:

    Andrea on American websites, not necessarily Jewish, they tell you to use kosher salt. ?
    I wonder if that’s kosher l’Pesuch or kosher all year round.?

  • frosh says:

    “Kosher Salt” does not only mean “salt that is kosher”. Rather, it’s a term used for very coarse salt. I think that the origin of this name is that this coarse salt was used in the process of draining meat which is necessary for kosher meat (As a vegetarian, I could have this process slightly wrong), hence “kosher salt.”

  • Jake says:

    Shirlee – the salt that you refer to is/was salt used for “koshering meat” – once done in the home , today done by the butcher.
    It is a very coarse salt .
    Therefore to answer your question – it could be either kosher for Pesach or not kosher for Pesach .

  • Shirlee. says:

    Thanks guys.
    Gee you’ve brought back memories. Not that we had a kosher home. I think my family must have been the only heathens in the shtetl of the East End of London. I remember by booba doing it.

    I don’t know why I haven’t looked this up before now or asked one of my American friends.

  • yosele says:

    David – you are correct. They have too much time on their hands. After all, they don’t have Facebook or Blogs , so they need to spend their time supervising Kashrut.

  • Didn’t know “supervising kashrut” included searching for new things to sucker and price-gouge customers under the guise of being “frummer than thou”.

  • Simon Holloway says:

    Nice article. Can I just point out, for the benefit of anybody who is confused, that the hechsher on this product is not an Ashkenazi hechsher: Badatz Beit Yosef is Rav Ovadiah Yosef’s hechsher, and one that certifies other tobacco products as well. According to the Ashkenazi poskim (who are the ones who forbid quinoa), smoking is absolutely forbidden. Whether or not individual haredim adhere to that is beside the point, but you won’t find their hechsher on anything of this nature.

  • Ari says:

    Just another couple of points:
    Unlike in chutz laaretz most regular items that are certified for pesach are not more expensive, or at least not in a noticeable way to me and so this isn’t a money issue.
    More importantly discussions about the kashrut of tobacco (prior to studies proving their health repurcussions) are found in the halachic literature mainly. From memory these were to do with the fact that they were soaked in liquids (I think in some cases wines, etc) which may have posed an issue and other halachic discussions regarding whether smoke etc is considered a halachically relevant entity.
    One final point … In my local milk bar cigarettes are not sold for this reason and in the supermarket down the road from me they are sold but with large signs stating that the local rabbis rule that it is a Torah prohibition to smoke.

  • Shirlee. says:

    “local rabbis rule that it is a Torah prohibition to smoke.”

    That can’t be. What were people smoking back in the days when the Torah was written?

    Christopher Columbus brought tobacco back from The New World in 1492. Same year as the Spanish Inquisition. American Indians had been smoking and chewing it for a couple of thousand years. The Torah is about 3,000 years old.

  • Shirlee. says:


    ‘American Indians had been smoking and chewing it for a couple of thousand years’

    Not from 1492 from today.

  • harry says:

    Shirlee – it is a Torah prohibition to endanger one’s life and health needlessly, hence the application of this prohibition to the modern phenomenon of smoking in the light of scientific research.

    See http://www.oztorah.com/2008/05/rabbinic-warnings-against-smoking-ask-the-rabbi/

    More generally on illicit drugs: http://www.oztorah.com/2007/08/drugs-judaism/

  • Shirlee. says:

    Thanks for the clarification Harry.
    Yet my teenage grandsons tell me that drug taking is rampant in the Sydney Yeshiva.

  • harry says:

    Hmmm. Unfortunately this doesn’t surprise me…

  • Shirlee. says:

    My grandsons are at Moriah College where they have an excellent anti drug programme in place. I’ve never seen two kids so anti drugs and anti smoking

  • R B says:

    In Israel the Hechsherim – and I mean the ultra-Machmirim ones, not the ones of the state-run Rabbinate – are a big industry. They give Hechsherim to anything of domestic usage, from baking paper and plastic cutlery to laundry detergents and toilet paper. The Haredi population is growing fast, so the manufacturers found out that paying for these Hechsherim pays off.

  • Marky says:

    Apparently salt water was being sold in Melbourne for Pesach before anywhere else. E & S Deli were selling it years ago.

  • Simon Holloway says:

    It has long been felt by many that the kashrut industry was a business like any other. This post demonstrates a very funny example of such an attitude from 1890.

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