- Question: [Wednesday, 22nd Adar, 5783]
I was shopping in a supermarket the other day and was approached by two Bochrim who asked me if I can buy for them a bottle of vodka and cigarettes, as they don’t have ID on them. On the one hand, I felt bad telling them no, although I strongly suspected that they were underage even though they said to me that they are of age and simply don’t have ID. In the end, I said I can’t do it. But I would like to know what are my Halachic responsibilities in such a case. May I agree to do so or not? And if I do agree is it consider that I’m doing a mitzvah of Gemilus Chassadim, doing a favor for a fellow Jew.
You did the correct thing both according to Halacha, and civil law, by refusing to purchase cigarettes and alcohol on their behalf, and so should be encouraged by others to follow. Regarding cigarettes, you may be stringent to avoid purchasing it even on behalf of a person who you know to be of age, due to it being generally detrimental to his health, [although nonetheless if you choose to do so you may, so long as you are not aware of it being uniquley against doctors orders for this individual]. Likewise, if you suspect an individual is abusing alcohol, you should avoid purchasing alcohol on his behalf even if you know him to be of age. However, there is no problem with buying alcohol on behalf of a person who is above the age of drinking, so long as there is no suspicion that it will be abused.
Explanation: According to civil law, it is forbidden to sell or buy cigarettes or alcohol for one who is under age, or appears to be underage unless they provide ID. Thus, simply due to this reason alone it would be problematic to agree to such a purchase being that according to many Poskim secular civil law is Halachically binding when it does not contradict a ruling of Torah. This would apply even if the items that they desire to purchase are not damaging to their health. All the more so would this prohibition apply here, where the items that they desire to purchase are damaging to their health, and hence possibly carry an independent prohibition of Vinishmartem and Lifnei Iver. While the earlier Poskim do not deal with this exact case of providing alcohol or cigarettes, they do mention a general prohibition against providing an unhealthy food for an ill person. The Poskim rule that if one’s father asks him to feed him a food or beverage that is against the doctor’s orders due to a health condition, the child is not obligated to listen to his father, being that this instruction goes against Torah. Accordingly, if we were to determine that the consumption of alcohol and the smoking of cigarettes is detrimental to one’s health, then it would likewise fall under this directive. The only issue is that the smoking of cigarettes is debated amongst Poskim if it is forbidden according to Jewish law, and although majority of Poskim prohibit it, some rule it is allowed. Furthermore, some rule that even for those who are stringent there is no prohibition to provide a cigarette to one who is lenient. Even more so regarding alcohol which when drunk on occasion and in moderation is not prohibited according to any opinion, would there not be any independent prohibition in providing it to another, unless one knows that the person will abuse it. Nonetheless, the civil law against providing alcohol to a minor would still apply, and as stated, Halacha requires one to abide by such laws. [One should not ask based on this as to how then it is permitted for one to give a minor a measured amount of wine during Kiddush, as aside for its Halachic value, many states permit for minors to drink alcohol during religious ceremonies, and in the presence of family members or their legal guardian.]
Sources: See regarding the obligation follow the civil laws of one’s country if they don’t contradict with Torah law: Rama C.M. 2:1 “So is the custom in all places that the Tuvei Hair of the city is like the Beis Din Hagadol”; See Michaber O.C. 153:7; Choshen Mishpat 2:1; Smeh 2:9 that the elected officials are elected to be like a Beis Din for the city; Rashba Meyuchasos 279-280 “Every congregation has permission to make decrees and institutions for their city, just as the Sanhedrin can do for the entire Jewish people”; 2:356 regarding Dina Demlachusa Dina and that government civil laws are binding ; Encyclopedia Talmudit Vol. 7 Erech Dina Demalchusa Dina p. 301; See regarding the possible prohibition involved in smoking cigarettes: Encyclopedia Hilchatit Refuit “Ishun” Vil. 6p. 264; Assur: Amudei Or 29; Mishneh Berurah in Likkutei Imrim 13 and Zechor Lemiryam 10:28; Toras Habayis 4; Hashabit 3:134; Tzitz Eliezer 15:39; 17:21-22; Beir Moshe 6:160-9; Shevet Hakehasi 1:332; Shevet Halevi 10:295; Teshuvos Vehanhagos 3:354; Dibros Eliyahu 6:105; Halichos Olam 1:266; Minchas Shlomo 2:58; Nishmas Avraham 240:1; Yechaveh Daas 5:181 and Halichos Olam 1 Vayikra; Rav Bentzion Aba Shaul Chochma Umussar p. 221; Asei Lecha Rav 1:42; 2:1; 3:18; 7:67; 9:28; Rivivos Efraim 8:586; Rav SZ”A in Minchas Shlomo 2:58-6; Poskim in Encyclopedia ibid footnote 94; Mutar Min Hadin: Devar Shmuel 156; Igros Moshe Y.D. 2:49; [see also C.M. 2:18, 76]; Rav Elyashiv in Kovetz Am Torah 2:3 and Koveitz Teshuvos 219; Az Nidbaru 9:65; Mishneh Halachos 9:161; Beis Avi 4:9-3; Rav SZ”A in Nishmas Avraham O.C. 511; See Yalkut Yosef Kibud Av 2:55; 3:216-12; Poskim in Encyclopedia ibid footnote 99; See Shevet Halevi 10:295 See regarding the prohibition to provide an unhealthy food to an individual and what to do in a case that one’s parent requests it from him: Sefer Chassidim 234; Beis Lechem Yehuda 240:8; Birkeiy Yosef 240:8-10; Mahariy Molko 113; Beir Moshe 6:160-9; Yalkut Yosef Kibud Av Vaeim p. 385 See regarding that according to civil law it is forbidden to buy or sell cigarettes or alcohol on behalf of a person who appears under age and does not have ID: https://www.legalmatch.com/law-library/article/selling-cigarettes-to-minors.html#:; https://alcohol.org/laws/supplying-alcohol-to-a-minor/; https://drinkingage.procon.org/states-that-allow-underage-under-21-alcohol-consumption/
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