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Bal tashkhit ("do not destroy") is a basic ethical principle in Jewish law.

The principle is rooted in the Biblical law of Deuteronomy 20:19–20. Originally, the Biblical command was limited to wartime, and it forbade only the cutting down of fruit trees.

In early rabbinic law, the bal tashkhit principle was expanded to include other types of damage. 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.[1] In all cases, bal tashkhit is invoked only for destruction that is deemed unnecessary. Destruction is explicitly condoned when the cause or need is adequate.

In contemporary Jewish ethics on Judaism and ecology, advocates often point to bal tashkhit as an environmental principle. A few scholars have questioned or qualified the application of bal tashkhit to environmental problems, though its relevance to waste reduction remains well-accepted.


  • Eilon Schwartz. "Bal Tashchit: A Jewish Environmental Precept," in Judaism And Environmental Ethics: A Reader Martin D. Yaffe ed., 2001
  • Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Laws of Kings and Wars 6:8,10
  • Nir, David. "A Critical Examination of the Jewish Environmental Law of Bal Tashchit 'Do Not Destroy'" Georgetown International Environmental Law Review, Winter, 2006
  • David E. S. Stein, "Halakhah: The Law of Bal Tashchit (Do Not Destroy)," in Torah of the Earth.


  1. ^ Talmud Shabbath 67b, Tractate Hullin 7b, Kiddushin 32a


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