Bal Tashchit

Judaism and environmentalism

Bal tashchit [bahl tosh-keet] (‘do not destroy’) is a basic ethical principle in Jewish law. Deuteronomy 20:19–20 forbids cutting down fruit trees to assist in a siege.

In early rabbinic law however, the principle is understood to include other forms of senseless damage or waste. For instance, the Babylonian Talmud applies the principle to prevent the wasting of lamp oil, the tearing of clothing, the chopping up of furniture for firewood, or the killing of animals. In contemporary Jewish ethics, advocates often point to bal tashchit as an environmental principle.

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