This year, our Tu B’Shevat exploration includes work on the concept of Bal Tashchit, “Do not waste.”
Here’s the Torah source for Bal Tashchit.
“When, in your war against a city, you have to besiege it a long time in order to capture it, you must not destroy its trees, wielding the ax against them. You may eat of them, but you must not cut them down. Are the trees of the field human to withdraw before you into the besieged city? Only trees that you know do not yield food may be destroyed. (Deuteronomy 20:19-20)”
And here’s what Maimonides (12th c., Spain) had to say about Bal Tashchit.
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 (Rambam, Hilkhot Melakhim 6:10)
Another anonymous rabbinic view (13th c., Spain):
The purpose of this mitzvah [bal tashchit] is to teach us to love that which is good and worthwhile and to cling to it, so that good becomes a part of us and we will avoid all that is evil and destructive. This is the way of the righteous and those who improve society, who love peace and rejoice in the good in people and bring them close to Torah: that nothing, not even a grain of mustard, should be lost to the world, that they should regret any loss or destruction that they see, and if possible they will prevent any destruction that they can. (Sefer Ha-Hinukh, #529)
What do your children say? What do you say?