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Bal Tashchit – DO NOT WASTE by Elaine McKee

04/03/2020 02:32:24 PM



As most of you know, the Darchei Noam Kiddush Refresh project of 2020 included a transition to reusable glass dishes and stainless cutlery. The paper plates, cups and plastic cutlery had been cheap, plentiful and very convenient. Durable tableware, while lovely, involves more work. Why switch?

With an abundance of consumer goods readily available, inevitably mountains of waste must somehow be transported and processed. Ultimately there is a downstream price to be paid. Is it okay for us to trade short-term convenience for long-term harm? The former Environmental Commissioner of Ontario, Dianne Saxe, put it this way, “For me, a place of worship that encourages people to use something once and throw it away, models and reinforces that a “take and discard” approach is morally acceptable, and that there is some “away” for it all to go to.” The need to live sustainably and clean up our wasteful ways has become an urgent imperative of our times.

What do our traditions tell us? The concept of Shomrei Adamah (guardians of the earth) in Genesis, has come to refer to a responsibility to tend, protect and sustain the earth for the benefit of ourselves and future generations. Jewish law commands us, Bal Tashchit, do not waste or needlessly destroy (Deuteronomy 20:19-20). The Mishnah explores the concept of Tikkun Olam (Repair of the Earth) as making or keeping the world habitable. Our tradition obliges us individually and collectively to work toward repairing the world.

The late Rabbi Lawrence Troster was the visiting scholar-in-residence at Darchei Noam in January 2010. He referred to himself as an eco-theologian and was one of the founders of the Jewish environmental movement.  He wrote, “humans must realize that they do not have unrestricted freedom to misuse Creation, as it does not belong to them. Everything we own, everything we use ultimately belongs to God. Even our own selves belong to God.”

Reconstructionist Rabbi Fred Scherlinder Dobb Is the chair of the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life (COEJL). He wrote, “Our actions, and their consequences, endure. Our iniquity poisons the wells from which our own great grandchildren will yet drink.” Regarding Shabbat he wrote “we not only refrain from making or doing, we focus on being and relating. We find greatest meaning when we step out of the rat race of production and consumption, say dayenu (what we have is enough for us), and declare ‘armistice in our economic struggle with [one another] and the forces of nature’ (Heschel). Then, and only then, can we begin to make the world livable, unto the third and fourth generation.”

Here at Darchei Noam, the kiddush is a much-loved component of our community activities. We come together after services to connect over a tasty and nutritious meal. As we transition to a zero waste kiddush, we may enact our communal values by scraping and stacking our dishes, proudly emulating the practise of an Israeli kibbutz hadar ohel.

Reconstructing Judaism (formerly RRC) was ahead of the curve on this issue. They adopted a broad Resolution on the Environment back in the 1980s. It includes a directive to develop processes and methods to minimize waste production. The document remains pertinent, and is indeed more urgent than ever.

Our 2020 Kiddush Refresh project is a meaningful move in that direction. Let’s take a moment to celebrate our success and to acknowledge we have contributed, in some measure, to a greener world.

Sun, 29 January 2023 7 Sh'vat 5783