This week's parsha, Parshat Shoftim, introduces the concept of Bal Tashchit, not to waste. This prohibition is derived from the following verse in our Parsha, “When you besiege a city for many days to wage war against it to capture it, you shall not destroy its trees by wielding an ax against them, for you may eat from them, but you shall not cut them down” (Deuteronomy 20:19–20). Although the verse is talking about a siege during war, the rabbis agree that it applies to life beyond war and the injunction of not wasting must be incorporated in our daily life.
Today, we live in a society full of waste, where everything is wrapped in plastic and where it's almost impossible to escape wasting, however, we need to do our part. We have all used disposable plates, no matter if for Passover or a birthday party, these are a staple for large gatherings and a few years ago the plastic ones were the only option, but now we have compostable and recyclable ones. We now have so many options as to how to be a better steward of the environment. It is simply up to us to make the better choice, as the Torah reminds us, "See that I am giving to you today a blessing and a curse" (Deuteronomy 11:26). G-d gives us the option of choosing between good and evil and it is up to us to make those good choices.
As every single action we take can either harm or help the planet, we must always be conscious of everything we do. Helping the planet is an everyday action. We cannot expect to always do the right thing, to always throw things in the correct bin, or to always recycle but there are smaller choices we can make. It takes less than 30 seconds to pick up a piece of plastic and throw it in the bin and it takes less to keep our trash for when we do have a bin.
The Mishnah in Pirkei Avot (Avot 2, 6) says, “It is not your duty to finish the work, but neither are you at liberty to neglect it.” We don't need to grab every single thing that the world leaves half done and fix them, but we still need to take an active role in educating, teaching and helping others learn how to take care of the world around us. Our planet is our home, our only hope and even if it's a small act everything counts and everything helps.
The end of the Parsha reminds us “Tzedek Tzedek Tirdof, justice, justice you shall pursue”. We must always pursue justice and choose the moral and ethical path. The path of Bal Tashchit, helping our environment, is of course the moral and just path that we must always make a priority in our daily lives.
Shabbat Shalom, Gal Rubel
Read commentary on this week's Parsha from BBYO teens around the world.
All views expressed on content written for The Shofar represent the opinions and thoughts of the individual authors. The author biography represents the author at the time in which they were in BBYO.
An important exploration of the meaning of "Justice, justice you shall pursue"
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