Environmental sustainability at Bat and Bar Mitzvahs

How can we more fully incorporate Jewish values in Bar/Bat mitzvah celebrations? One way is to consciously observe the precept of Bal tashchit (בל תשחית) (“do not destroy”.)

This mitzvah is from Deuteronomy 20:19–20. In the Bible, even during times of war, one may not cut down fruit trees in order to assist in a siege. In Judaism’s oral law – the Jewish people’s indigenous and organic understanding of what the mitzvot mean – we learn that bal tashchit includes all senseless damage or waste.

How can we avoid waste at simchahs (festive occasions?) My daughter and I observed that in most Bar/Bat mitzvahs families buy a hundred or more colored silk kippahs as commemorative gifts. Yet these are rarely used again, and synagogues often have many left over. Sometimes they pile up by the hundreds in storage.  So instead of ordering custom kippot for her Bat Mitzvah, my daughter decided to reuse the already existing excess. She created a beautiful rainbow display.

Yarmulke kipah

In what other ways can families observe the mitzvah of Bal tashchit (בל תשחית)? Temple Beth Abraham, in Nashua, NH, encourages observance through environmental sustainability.

“We would like to work with you to find ways to minimize waste by using our reusables, in a way that does not significantly add to the cost of your simcha.  We suggest a few ideas in an encouraging way. Some ways to reduce waste include:”

  • electronic invitations through sites such as myevent.com
  • use of glassware, glass plates, silverware, and cloth table coverings
  • paper cups, paper plates, and disposable utensils that are biodegradable or made from recycled material

Temple Beth Abraham Sisterhood has available:

  • Tea and Toast Sets
  • Glass dinnerware serving 250 (Dinner, lunch and butter plates, soup bowls, cups and saucers) — can be used for dairy or meat
  • Silverware: dairy and meat services
  • Water glasses, wine glasses
  • Champagne glasses
  • Coffee urns and carafes
  • Silver tea service, silver trays
  • Serving trays and bowls, punch bowls
  • Linen tablecloths (rectangular and round)

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