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Snuff Tobacco and the Chofetz Chaim

by Rabbi Yair Hoffman for 5tjt.com

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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