> Weekly Torah Portion > Parents & Kids > Family Parsha

It's No Joy To Destroy

Shoftim (Deuteronomy 16:18-21:9 )

by Nesanel Yoel Safran

We shouldn't destroy, deface, damage or waste things for no good reason. In this week's Torah portion (Deut. 20:19) we see how even an army in the middle of a war, when there's destruction all around, should be careful not to wantonly destroy fruit trees that can bring benefit to the world. The Torah way is not to needlessly ruin property - even our own.


In our story, a kid gets a wakeup on what it is to waste.


Cindy, the assistant counselor, was doing her usual evening rounds when she was startled by some crashing sounds. She turned to see one of the campers flinging things off 'Peak's Cliff' - what the campers had nicknamed the sharp drop-off into the rocky ravine below the hillside campgrounds.

"Hey, stop that!" Cindy shouted.

The kid looked her way.

"You're destroying camp property!" Cindy went on.

The kid threw her head back and let out a loud, rolling laugh. "That's what you think," she said. "All this stuff I'm trashin' is mine."

By now Cindy had moved closer and saw that the kid had a big pile of stuff next to her, and craning her head, she could see an almost just-as-big pile on the valley floor. "Okay ... even if it is yours, why are just ruining all that stuff?"

"It's fun to watch it smash - see?" the kid giggled as she flung a couple of CD disks like Frisbees into the stony chasm below.

"But don't you need your things?" Cindy asked, alarmed.

"Nah!" the kid laughed. "Camp's over in just two more days and I don't feel like lugging all my stuff home with me - besides, I've got newer, better stuff back at home," she said, swinging her hair dryer by the cord like a cowboy's lasso and letting it fly with a whoop.

"Stop ... you can't do that!" Cindy cried out.

"Why not? Like I said ... the stuff is mine." The kid snapped her bubblegum for emphasis.

"Even so, who says you can pollute like that? Besides, there are a lot of better things to do with things you don't want."

"Like what?" the girl asked as she shot a pair of swimming goggles by their rubber head-strap like a slingshot out and over the rocks. Then she grabbed a few more CD disks and, without looking at them, began to swing them back and forth like a discus thrower winding up.

"Well ... like give the stuff away to people who could use it," Cindy said. "I know that camp down the road for underprivileged kids would gladly take most of your stuff - I'll even bring it there myself if you want me to."

"I dunno..."

"Or at least sell it or something, but just to waste and destroy perfectly good property is, like wrong, you know?"

"Mmm ... maybe," the girl said, for the first time looking like she was taking Cindy seriously. "I guess you can try to give away the rest of this stuff to those needy kids if you want. But first," she winked, "I'm just going to give these disks and a couple of other stuff a final fling."

"But why?" Cindy asked.

"Just 'cuz," the kid said. "Besides, who would even want these?" she held the disks up to her face, and blanched. "O'm'gosh! I can't believe I almost did that. These are all my original software discs - I must have taken them by mistake. If I threw these out, my dad would ... oh, boy! Y'know what? I am done trashing things - you're right, it's dumb - you need some help carting this stuff to those kids who could use it for something good?"


Ages 3-5

Q. How did the camper feel at first about destroying her things?
A. She didn't feel like there was anything wrong with it.

Q. How did she feel in the end?
A. She felt that wasting things that people could use was wrong.


Ages 6-9

Q. What life-lesson could someone learn from this story?
A. Destroying things for no good reason - especially things that others could benefit from - is wasteful and not right.

Q. If it was the kid's own property, what was wrong with her destroying it?
A. True, it was hers - and it wasn't as bad as if she was trashing somebody else's things - but destroying good, usable things, besides being bad for the environment, shows a lack of appreciation for the good that we have, as well as a callousness to others who could benefit from these things.


Ages 10 and Up

Q. Is it okay to 'lightly' vandalize public property, i.e. spraying graffiti, etc.?
A. Even though it is something many people take lightly - it's still not ethical. Public property is for the benefit of all, and no one person has the right to deface it.

Q. Do you think a person has the right to harm or destroy his or her own body? Why or why not?
A. Our bodies are our own - and they're not. Our bodies are a gift from God, who gave them to us 'on loan' to house our souls and to have the chance to spiritually grow from the experience of physical life. Like any 'property on loan' we have to take good care of our bodies and certainly have no more right to harm or destroy our own body than that of anybody else.


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