Rosh HaShanah is over, and it’s time to start acting on your new year’s resolutions. Although you might have decided to stop smoking under the heady influence of too much honey and/or red wine, the time has come to put down your final cigarette, throw out the pack, and start afresh.
Of course, as we all know, this is easier said than done. How will you survive the next few weeks? My suggestion: Since every second you are not smoking will feel like a thousand years anyhow, why not look back through the ages for some Jewish motivation?
Below are some reasons to quit smoking that draw on our Jewish heritage.
1. Feel close to the suffering of your forefathers.
Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur are all about feeling the sting of sacrifice; as you sit in a semi-catatonic state and contemplate which of your fingers would be most painful to gnaw off (and therefore most distracting from the nicotine cravings), imagine what our forefather Isaac must have felt, about to be sacrificed like a goat. Then imagine you are the goat. See? Life could be worse!
2. Finally be able to sit through a holiday meal.
At long last, you will be able to sit from gefilte fish to rugelach, without taking a suspiciously long “bathroom break” in the middle of an interminable holiday meal. However, even quitting smoking does not guarantee that you will be able to sit through another one of your Uncle Morris’ tirades on politics without feeling restless and irritable.
3. Save money.
Yes, this plays into a lot of Jewish stereotypes, but our wandering people have certainly required fiscal responsibility to ensure that they would get through the tough times (and there have been a lot of tough times). Protect your wallet like a true member of the Chosen People. Plus, the money you save on cigarettes can buy a lot of kosher pizza and prayer books and things!
4. One less thing to make Yom Kippur torturous.
5. You will no longer smell.
Throughout Jewish history, anti-Semites have claimed that Jews smell; one Medieval writer even cautioned that you can “identify the Jew by his reek of garlic,” according to the Wikipedia page on anti-Semitism. While stopping smoking will have no effect on your garlic consumption (and in fact might increase it due to the compensatory munchies), you will no longer make strangers’ noses wrinkle up on the subway, or announce your entrance with an overwhelming stench of smoke.
6. Things will become slightly less awkward with your relatives.
At family shivas, for example, your aunts and uncles will no longer glare at you and mutter, “You’ll be next if you keep smoking!” Your mother will stop worrying about your habit, although she will probably find other things to worry about (have you considered announcing your intent to stop smoking at your wedding? Oh, you’re not getting married this year? Why not?)
7. You will suddenly have new reasons to pray.
Informal, meditative prayers are a great way to get through the ordeal of quitting smoking; plus, your interior monologue will already sound pretty close to the Book of Job at this point anyhow (“Dear God, help me get through this day without murdering anyone in cold blood.”) (“Dear God, was nicotine another one of your cruel jokes, like this pounding headache?”).
When your prayers become indistinguishable from kvetching, rest assured that this is also a Jewish art, one that it definitely serves your interests to perfect. If you are considering joining a minyan to help break up your suddenly smoke-free days, remember to brush up on your pronunciation; it is “shema,” not “shemarlboro,” Yisrael; likewise, “camelluyah” is not the opening to any of the psukei d’zimra.
8. Food will taste and smell better.
The Jewish culinary tradition is as vast and wide-ranging as our peripatetic history. Blast your newly sensitive taste buds with some Teimani jachnun or kibbeh, or stick close to Eastern European comfort food like cholent, and the ubiquitous chicken soup. Bonuses of cholent: If you eat enough of it, you will still be emitting clouds of gas like you did when you smoked!
9. Increase your lung capacity.
While this is a general health benefit, it will also increase your ability to do all kinds of Jewish things, like blowing shofar (it’s well known that heavy smokers can produce only like three seconds of a tekiah gedola, which hardly counts) and, later on in the year, saying the names of all the sons of Haman in one breath.
10. Better your odds of living to 120.
According to the Bible, 120 is the age Moses lived to, and “may you live to 120” has been a traditional Jewish blessing ever since. While it’s a long shot for any of us, stopping smoking will certainly increase your chances of arriving at this august milestone; plus, you will live longer in general, and don’t you want to live long enough to spoil/guilt/annoy/smother/dandle/embarrass/tell stories to your many bouncing Jewish grandchildren?