100.07 Focus: Potential and the ‘Mitzvot’ (pps.75-78)
hard cover page 78
contexts. Deuteronomy (20:19-20) directs that only non-fruit-bearing trees may be cut down for siege works. The rabbis further extended this prohibition to proscribe shifting the course of a stream for the military purpose of drying up trees,269 condemned the stopping up of wells,270 and proscribed the killing of animals unnecessarily.271
The laws of kashruth, the rabbinic injunctions against bal tashchit (unnecessary destruction), the laws of shmitah (fallow fields during the seventh year) and land redemption upon Jubilee (Leviticus 2523-24), have, aside from their more obscure metaphysical rationales, the ecological effect of first preserving, and then increasing, the world’s physical potential.
Life and death have I placed before thee, the blessing and the curse. Mayest thou choose life, that thou mayest live, thou and thy descendants.
-Deuteronomy 30:19 (cf. 30:15, 11:26)
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269 Sifrei, Shoftim, sec. 203.
270 Pesachim 56a.
271 Chullin 7b; Tosefot Baba Kamma 115b, based on Avodah Zarah 30b. See Robert Gordis, “Ecology in the Jewish Tradition,” Midstream, October 1985, p. 22.
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