Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Its not easy being green...

The Talmud itself says:
Whoever breaks vessels, or tears garments, or destroys a building, or clogs a well, or does away with food in a destructive manner violates the negative mitzvah of bal tashchit. (Kiddushin 32a).

Hundreds of years later, Maimonides applied the law to both trees and other objects, though he concedes that trees may be cut down as part of a thoughtful agricultural decision:

It is forbidden to cut down fruit-bearing trees outside a besieged city, nor may a water channel be deflected from them so that they wither. Whoever cuts down a fruit-bearing tree is flogged. This penalty is imposed not only for cutting it down during a siege; whenever a fruit-yielding tree is cut down with destructive intent, flogging is incurred. It may be cut down, however, if it causes damage to other trees or to a field belonging to another man or if its value for other purposes is greater. The law forbids only wanton destruction.... Not only one who cuts down trees, but also one who smashes household goods, tears clothes, demolishes a building, stops up a spring, or destroys articles of food with destructive intent transgresses the command "you must not destroy." (Mishna Torah, Laws of Kings and Wars 6:8,10)

Because the principle of bal taschit demands that we refrain from engaging in destructive or wasteful actions, many contemporary Jews have understood it to be part of an emerging Jewish environmental consciousness. For example, some contemporary writers have suggested that a commitment to bal taschit in its original context might lead Jews to greater activism to prevent the wasteful exploitation or destruction of wilderness areas. On a more everyday level, bal taschit might serve as a religious language for greater conservation and recycling efforts on the part of Jewish homes and institutions.
Read more of this drash here.

I have featured Shagra Landesman in the past. Here we see her olive branch mezuzah... this, like many of her other pieces is obviously inspired by nature.

No comments: