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Bal Tashchit: The Three Rs

Friday, January 1st, 2016 11:15 am by admin

To till and to tend: one of the first mitzvot given to us by God in the Torah. Truly, we are the caretakers of this earth and of all the living things. (Including each other! but that’s for another day…) Bal Tashchit is the mitzvah that says, Do Not Destroy/Waste. It comes up in the Torah, Deuteronomy 20:19, having to do with warfare. Even in the heat of battle, we are not permitted to cut down trees and destroy fields for the sake of our advancement and/or the downfall of our enemies. Our Rabbis taught us that “when a tree is cut down, it is as if it’s pain resounds throughout the world.”

There is a wonderful midrash that tells of God explaining this all to Adam on a lovely walk through the Garden of Eden. God says, “I created all My beautiful and glorious works for your sake. Take heed not to corrupt and destroy My world. For if you destroy it, there is no one to make it right after you.” (Ecclesiastes Rabbah 7:13) Sound familiar?

Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. These are three different ways of saying bal tashchit. Every day we’re learning more and more about the environment and our role in it. Jewish teachers and texts have been talking about it since the very beginning. We are taught that righteousness includes the steps we take to actively care for our world, not to mention our appreciation for the extraordinary beauty offered to us in every direction. I like the way Rabbi Abraham ben Moses (1186-1237) puts it:

“In order to serve God, one needs access to the enjoyment of the the beauties of nature, such as the contemplation of flower-decorated meadows, majestic mountains, flowing rivers… For all these are essential to the spiritual development of even the holiest people.”

So this year on Tu B’Shvat, not only do I want you to go out and hug a tree, but I want you to take a serious look at the ways you can reduce your waste on a daily basis.

Ideas for Bal Tashchit? Here are a few of mine:

  • Bring your own shopping bags to the grocery store with you. Enough with the plastic grocery bags!
  • Reuse, reuse, and reuse again those plastic bags you have stuffed in every corner of the kitchen.
  • Really remember to turn of the lights when you leave the room and Really remember to shut off the water while brushing your teeth, washing your face, and washing dishes.
  • Use dishtowels and cloth napkins instead of paper
  • Reuse your computer paper. Keep a stack of paper you’ve only used on one side and save it for next time. You can even use the backs of all that junk mail paper you receive every day.

I can’t wait to hear about your families’ green ways! Please send them in to green@shirlala.com or leave them as a comment. I’ll continue to update the list on a special page.

2 Responses to “Bal Tashchit: The Three Rs”

  1. Shira Kline Jewish Music for Kids says:

    [...] plenty of music and great discussion. If you haven’t participated in a Tu B’Shvat Seder, make one yourself this year! It’s a lot of fun, very tasty, and not to mention a way to rediscover what we have in common [...]

  2. Shira Kline Jewish Music for Kids says:

    [...] plenty of music and great discussion. If you haven’t participated in a Tu B’Shvat Seder, make one yourself this year! It’s a lot of fun, very tasty, and not to mention a way to rediscover what we have in common [...]

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