I am very disturbed by the wasteful behavior at my synagogue. Every Kiddush after shul uses tons and tons of disposable goods, throws out a lot of half eaten food and half consumed plastic bottles of soda. Isn’t there a massive level of communal sin in this type of disposable behavior, particularly as our landfills overflow and our economy is so bad. How is this Jewish behavior?
Man's responsibility is for all that which has been created including animal and plant, for the earth and its fulness have been entrusted in his care to use or abuse. If he uses it in the proper manner our Sages give him the title of God's partner in creation. The Creator prepared all the materials and ingredients necessary to continue the job where He left off. It is man's duty to cooperate with him and bring the world to ultimate perfection. The entrusting to man to continue where God left off is found in Genesis 2:3 "God ceased from all the work that He had done." The implication that now it is man's responsibility to continue to work and utilize the earth. In the Book of Psalms 8:7 "Thou has made man to have dominion over the works of Thy hands. Thou put all things under his feet."
Thus you have a right to be disturbed by the waste. Therefore, it is incumbent upon you to seek ways to minimize waste at home, in the synagogue and the comminity. In that way you will continue to follow what God has asked of you and us.
Judaism regards all of G-d’s creation as holy and precious.Therefore, natural resources are to be guarded and used as they are meant to be employed, not thoughtlessly half-consumed and disrespectfully discarded.In some cases, when it comes to mitzvah food commanded in Biblical times, we even see that the entire Passover roasted lamb was to be eaten.Sh’mot (Exodus) 12:10.That commandment undergirds the tradition, still common in our own times 3,300 years after our ancestors’ Exodus from Egypt, of inviting many people to a Seder -- to assure that enough people are present so that none of the roasted lamb need be wasted.
Judaism also frowns deeply on excess in celebrations. Material ostentation at bar mitzvahs is particularly disgraceful, as it sends the wrong message to the young boy or girl being welcomed into a more mature understanding of what Judaism stands for.It is not productive to have a child, who has not been educated much in Judaism before age 12 (a girl) or 13 (a boy), being shown that Judaism apparently is about excesses of food, ice sculptures of children, movie paeans to youngsters who typically have not lived extraordinarily so far, and matching color patterns.There is so much depth to be taught. See, e.g., the chapter on "Bar Mitzvahs: Wrong Rites" in Rabbi Dov Aharoni Fisch, Jews for Nothing (NY: Feldheim, 1983).
On the other hand, most cities and states have health code restrictions that prohibit food providers from re-using certain foods that have been set out for a meal.Although we inspect carefully after meals at home and therefore can discern whether anyone has eaten or touched the four pieces of gefilte fish still left over on the serving platter, a public event does not similarly lend itself to such careful consideration.For example, we know from George Costanza’s uncouth ways in “Seinfeld” that some people wrongly “second-dip” their crackers or chips into spreads. Most celebrants at a publicly catered meal would be very uncomfortable knowing that the deli slices on the lunch platters previously had been laid out at a meal two days before.
The ideal approach that many Jewish caterers and other food providers employ is to donate their salvageable left-overs to food pantries and the like.One such agency is “Mazon: A Jewish Response to Hunger.”http://mazon.org/about/You may wish to discuss such an option with the people who lay out the foods at your temple or synagogue, perhaps even volunteer to head a Chesed (Kindness) committee gathering donations of foodstuffs for such an organization.
This is a question that has troubled the Jewish community for some time,and now we have the added concern for our environment. Before I answer the question, did you really mean “tons and tons” . I have to assume it is a case of hyperbole. Nevertheless, the intention is to call attention to the waste that it represents. The Jewish principle is :bal tascheet”, which means , do not waste. In that regard, after a shiva,I recommend that the leftover materials, food and supplies, be given to a worthy organization, Obviously, one should be clear that the food , etc. Is not needed in the home after the seven days.
As far as the kiddush is concerned, one might wonder why the half consumed soda has to be discarded. If they used the big bottles, and poured them as needed, it might not be as wasteful.
What is needed is a social action committee in the synagogue who would review all the practices of the congregation to see where waste might be reduced and eliminated. It can also examine all practices that have an impact on the environment. Are plastic utensils used that are then discarded? Are lights left on that could be turned off?
Judaism has many laws that pertain to how we live in our world. It should be the concern of all of us.
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