Sunday, January 22, 2012

P J O'Rourke: They Hate Poor People

They Hate Poor People | The Weekly Standard

On January 1, 2012, Maine became the first state to ban smoking in all low-income public housing. Twelve thousand poor people faced their New Year’s Day hangover without the solace of a Marlboro to accompany their aspirin and coffee.

An old Socialist Party comrade of mine left SDS and began a journey that lead him to a very Orthodox brand of Judiasm. We'd sit in the basement break-room of the Newberry Library, where he worked, smoking Camel straights, drinking coffee, talking about books, writers, and history; while he should have been working.

He was leading the pro-smoking wing of Hasidism and had become an expert on poems about famous Rebbes smoking pipes and the smoke curling skywards to God.

Few things as pleasurable as talk, coffee and a camel straight. I quit. My friend should have. But still, forbidden in your home? That's too much.

Via a Cigarette and a Cup of Coffee.
The Hasidic fondness for cigarettes was well-known, and became the target of criticism from their opponents, the "misnagdim". The Hasidim justified their habit on theological grounds. Smoking was after all a way of elevating the holy sparks.

Some Hasidic masters were conscious that a special privilege that had been granted to their own generations: Tobacco had been unknown to the great "Ari" himself, "because the time had not yet come for the very subtle sparks in tobacco to be released by smoking." But now that almost all the coarser sparks had received their restoration, God sent us tobacco so that the Hasidic masters should elevate these "new" and subtle sparks!

It was told of Rabbi Israel Baal Shem-Tov, the founder of the Hasidic movement, that he once waxed enthusiastic about a student who interrupted his prayers by stooping to retrieve his fallen pipe. The Baal Shem-Tov justified this apparent breach of decorum by explaining that there are subtle souls who can only achieve their perfection through this most ethereal of substances.
The Ba'al Shem-Tov went on to compare cigarette smoke to the "sweet savour unto the Lord" exuded by the sacrifices, and to the incense that was burned in the Temple.

As Rabbi Jacobs understands this story, it alludes to the Kabbalistic belief in reincarnation. Some righteous souls cannot bear to return to earth unless they are allowed to reside in tobacco.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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