The mitzvah not to waste

By Laura Seymour

Dear Families,

The mitzvah of “bal tash’hit” literally means “do not destroy.” The mitzvah is telling us not to waste natural resources or anything else — we should only use what we really need. There are many ways that we can practice this mitzvah — so many times, people (and even each of us) walk right by a piece of trash on the ground hoping that someone else will pick it up. The first step is for us to be conscious of litter and make sure that we don’t add to the problem!

Activities to make us aware

Go into your front yard or backyard and place 15 to 20 objects hidden on the ground or in the bushes — things that don’t belong in nature such as crumpled paper, a penny, a small toy car, etc. Have the rest of the family go on a hunt with their eyes — do not pick up the items. See how many each person sees. The second time, pick up the items. Was it hard to find the hidden items?

Does your family waste water? Make sure all the members of your family turn off the water when they brush their teeth — you can save up to 9 gallons of water each time you brush!

Discuss these two quotations with your family:

Think upon this and do not spoil and destroy my world. For if you spoil or destroy it there is no one to set it right after you. —Kohelet Rabbah 7

The Land is mine, you are my tenants. —Leviticus 25:23

What does your family do to keep this “brit” or contract with G-d to care for the environment?

One of the reasons we must keep the natural world clean is because of those who live in nature — the many little (and not so little) animals and even bugs who live there. The animals hide to protect themselves. There is a Hasidic idea that G-d is hidden in the works of creation. Let us walk through our world, pay attention to all of creation and help to remove that which does not belong to make it safer for all that lives in nature!

Laura Seymour is Jewish experiential learning director and camp director emeritus at the Aaron Family JCC.

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