A few thoughts related to a special mitzvah we read about this week:
“Do Not Destroy” This mitzvah means that we are not to destroy or waste any part of G‑d’s creation.
G‑d gave us this world to use productively and bring us closer to G‑d, not too waste. Every creature has a purpose and no part of it can go to waste. For example, we can – and most definitely should – eat food. And when we do so using kosher ingredients and make the appropriate blessing we have elevated that food and productively used it to make us better and holier. But to cut down a fruit tree, hunt, or fish for no reason at all, that would be wasteful.
Our Chassidic masters take this a step further, applying this principle to all our resources – not just trees, buildings and food. Everything that we have been given – time, energy, intelligence, – has been given us for a purpose. Nothing is meaningless or superfluous in G‑d’s world, and neither is any aspect or detail thereof.
In fact, everything we witness or hear, can – and should – also serve to bring us closer to G‑d. If we’re walking down the street and see something happen, that too – like everything in G‑d’s world -serves a useful purpose. Often, the purpose and utility may be obvious, but sometimes we are left wondering what to make of it. Either way, the fact that we saw cannot be “wasted”.
A common Jewish practice is to memorialize the dead by naming things, projects and institutions after them. On a synagogue bench, on an ambulance or in a book in a Torah library, you’ll most probably find an inscription attesting that it exists “In memory of…”
The Rebbe once explains this practice as deriving from the mitzvah “Do Not Waste” — from the Jewish idea of usefulness.
For the soul of the departed, death is not a loss or a waste. On the contrary: it is an advance to a purer state of existence, an ascent to a loftier and more spiritual rung in its journey towards fulfilment.
But what about us, those left behind in the physical world? What about our experience of the event? To us, the death of a loved one is a loss, a void, an awful, terrible waste.
That is why it is so important to translate our feelings of loss and futility into the impetus to create something, to do something useful. This assures that not only is the soul of the departed elevated in the cosmic sense but that no detail of the event of death — including the responses it provokes in the lives of those who remain within a physical world and perspective — should ever, G‑d forbid, be a waste.
As we journey towards Rosh Hashana, we can take a moment and think about how we can utilize more of what G‑d has given us; maximize our potential, and be mindful not to waste our G‑d-given gifts. Moshiach NOW!!!