Weekly Chasidic Story #847 (s5774-25 / 17 Adar Rishon 5774)

Smoking on Shabbat in Meah Shearim

Only on Shabbat she couldn’t stop smoking her cigarettes; she had no trouble the rest of the week!

Connection: Weekly Reading–Ex. 35:3

An Israeli couple lived many years on a secular kibbutz in Israel. As years went by they felt a certain emptiness in their lives. Eventually they came to realize that the lack of Judaism was the cause of this feeling.

Slowly they returned to the Torah true way of life. They also decided to move to the ultra “ultra Orthodox” Meah Shearim neighborhood in Jerusalem. This amazing couple continued to grow until the husband became a completely committed Jew. The wife also became very religious. There was only one thing that held her back from complete observance.

She had a strong smoking habit. She actually smoked on Shabbat, right there in the midst of the crowded neighborhood of pious residents.

The most unusual part of this habit was that it was only on Shabbat that she couldn’t stop; she had no trouble the rest of the week. Everyone tried to get her to quit, but to no avail. When Shabbat began she had an uncontrollable need to smoke.

Eventually the people that were trying to help her went to [the now deceased] leading rabbinical decisor, Rabbi Y. S. Elyashiv, to ask his advice. He told them to investigate her mother, her mother’s mother and even further back, to clarify if they were all Jewish.

After a short time it was revealed that her grandmother was not Jewish! This translates to mean that our smoker was not Jewish. They immediately went to the Rabbi to tell him the news. His reaction was amazing.

He said, “Look and see how much mercy G-d has! We are talking about a woman who wants to do G-d’s will. However, HE knows that she isn’t Jewish (apparently the woman herself didn’t know). A non-Jew is forbidden to observe the Shabbat complete in all its details, and is punishable with death for doing so.

“But, since she desired so sincerely to come close to the Jewish people, in Heaven they decided to help prevent her from committing the sin of fully observing the Shabbat as a non-Jew. So G-d gave her an uncontrollable urge to smoke, which prevented her from observing Shabbat.

“This, in turn, led to us finding out that she isn’t Jewish and needs to be converted! So I recommend you arrange with her to do the conversion and you will see that the urge will cease.”

And so it was!

Source: Adapted by Yerachmiel Tilles from an email from Daniel Keren, based on an article in the Jersey Shore Torah Bulletin (Vayakhel-Pekudei 5772) as translated by Rabbi Reuven Semah from Alenu Leshabeah, an Israeli book.

Connection: Weekly Reading–Ex. 35:3 (“You shall not kindle fire in any of your dwellings on Shabbat day”).

Biographical note:
Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv (1910-July 18 2012) was considered by hundreds of thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel and worldwide to be the leading living expert on Jewish law. He resided in a small apartment on the edge of the Meah She’arim section of Jerusalem, where he was famed for his assiduous 16-20 hours a day of Torah study, up until age 102!. His grandfather, Shlomo Elyashiv, was a renowned Kabbalist, author of Leshem Shevo V’Achlam, popularly known as “The Leshem.”


Yerachmiel Tilles is co-founder and associate director of Ascent-of-Safed, and chief editor of this website (and of He has hundreds of published stories to his credit, and many have been translated into other languages. He tells them live at Ascent nearly every Saturday night.

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