Halachically Speaking: Ba’al Tashchis – Wasting Possessions

halachically speaking 3By Rabbi Moishe D. Lebovits. The issue of ba’al tashchis is a common problem. May one discard the remnants of his drink? How to dispose of the leftovers of a simcha? What to do with the leftover challah after a Shabbos meal? People often spend money on nonsense and in a sense throw away their money. These and other such issues will be discussed at length in this issue.

The main halachos of ba’al tashchis applies to destroying a fruit tree. This topic was discussed in an earlier issue of Halachically Speaking and will not be covered in depth in this issue. In addition, we discussed treating food with the proper respect, which is also an aspect of ba’al tashchis.

Yaakov and the Jugs

Yaakov Ovinu went to retrieve some small jugs[1] that he had forgotten, and he was left alone with the malach of Eisav. The Gemorah[2] infers that tzaddikim cherish their money more than their own bodies, for they abstain from any form of theft. Some explain that they look at everything they have as a gift from Hashem. Therefore, any item in their possession has a purpose, and they do not want it to go to waste.[3]

Based on this, it is praiseworthy not to leave items unattended in vulnerable places.[4]


The Chinuch[5] says that the purpose of this mitzvah (of not destroying tree and other things) is to teach people to love and respect good things. This love will help ensure that they will keep away from bad, destructive things. The way of good people is to be happy with the world and not to destroy even a mustard seed. In addition, throwing food away shows that one does not want the goodness Hashem showed him by giving him food.[6] The Hemek Daver[7] says that anything which is meant to be used for our enjoyment should be used and not destroyed.

D’oraisa or D’rabbbanan

The issur of destroying a fruit tree is certainly d’oraisa. It is a dispute whether other areas of ba’al tashchis (destroying clothing, utensils) are d’oraisa or d’rabbanan.[8]

Some Heterim

By non-food items as long as it is a tzorech (a need) it is not ba’al tashchis. Food may be thrown out if it is to satisfy the need of a person (tzorech adom)[9] and it is normal (derech ha’olom) to use the food in that manner.[10]

One should not carve out the inside of a cucumber to hold chrein. This is prohibited since it is not derech ha’olom. Additionally, the cucumber is discarded afterwards.[11]


One may cut down a fruit tree or other forms of destruction in order to do a mitzvah with the property or object.[12]

Ba’al Tashchis with Hefker

There is a discussion in the poskim if ba’al tashchis applies to items which do not have an owner (hefker).[13] Practically, one should treat hefker items in the same manner that he treats his own possessions.[14]

Less than a Pruta

Ba’al tashchis issues very often apply to items worth less than a pruta. A common example would be a toothpaste tube that is nearly empty. The same is true regarding a drop of liquid in a cup, or a small amount of spread in the container. In addition, one might want to discard a small piece of chicken or strike a match for fun and throw it out afterwards.

L’maseh, one should try to avoid throwing out or wasting items which are less than a pruta.[15] Although this may not be required by the letter of the law, one should adhere to this whenever possible.[16] Some say that if one does not want to throw out the remaining food and he does not want to eat it, then he can leave it to rot outside of the refrigerator.[17]

Other Areas

Just as ba’al tashchis applies to destroying clothes or utensils, it also applies to destroying a house, throwing away money, or any other destructive action.[18]


One may remove tzitzis from one garment and place them on another. One may also replace the tzitzis strings on a garment. However, if the tzitzis are complete and it is not a bother to untie them, then one should so, as cutting them and throwing them out would be wasting the tzitzis.[19]

Placing a Drink in Mouth / Swallowing Food

One who forgot and placed a drink in his mouth before reciting a berachah should swallow the drink. No berachah rishona is recited,[20] as the mitzvah is lost once he swallowed the liquid.[21] If one drank a shiur reviis, then a berachah achrona is recited.[22] However, if one has other liquids to drink, then he should spit out the drink in order not to have enjoyment from food without a berachah and it would not be ba’al tashchis.[23]

Throwing Out Bread

May one throw stale bread in the garbage?

It is permitted to discard crumbs which are not a k’zayis in size in a respectful manner. However, doing so disrespectfully may lead to poverty.[24] Throwing crumbs into the water would be permitted.[25] One may not throw out crumbs which are a k’zayis even if they will not get stepped on.[26] Some are also careful if there are enough crumbs that would equal a k’zayis when combined.[27] Food which is unfit for human consumption may be destroyed even in a disrespectful manner.[28]

Based on these halachos, some poskim say one should not throw leftover bread which is larger than a k’zayis directly into a garbage can with other dirty things. Rather, the bread should be wrapped separately before discarding it.[29] Some apply this same rule to bread which is smaller than a k’zayis.[30] One is not required to wrap up tiny crumbs before throwing them out.[31]

Mayim Achronim

Leftover liquid in one’s cup may be used for mayim achronim[32] and there is no problem of wasting the food, since it is going to be thrown away.[33] If there is no water, one may use any liquid that cleans the hands,[34] such as milk, orange juice, snow,[35] etc. Wine may not be used to wash for mayim achronim because of the importance of wine.[36]


In earlier years when one did not pay for water it was not ba’al tashchis if one threw out water.[37] However, today that one pays for water throwing water out is ba’al tashchis.

Lag B’omer in Meron

Some have the minhag in Meron to throw garments in the fire on Lag B’omer.[38] Some explain that Rav Shimon Bar Yochai did not wear clothes when he was in the cave, and would cover his body in sand when he wanted to learn.[39] Those who permit this say that there is no ba’al tashchis by throwing the garments in the fire,[40] while others prohibit this practice.[41]

Breaking a Glass Under the Chuppah

The custom is that the chosson[42] breaks a glass[43] under the chuppah[44] as a zecher l’churban.[45] The glass is broken with the right foot.[46] The reason that the chosson breaks the glass but not the plate at the t’nayim is that his simcha is not yet complete at the t’nayim.[47] The glass is wrapped in a napkin in order to prevent the chosson from hurting his foot.[48] There is no concern of ba’al tashchis with breaking the glass because it is being done for mitzvah purposes.[49]

Throwing Flowers to a Kallah

Some people throw flowers to the kallah after the chuppah. Since this is done in order to make the kallah happy, it is permitted and is not a concern of ba’al tashchis.[50]


During some Purim songs, the participants pour liquid on each other as a sign of simcha. Some say that since there are poskim who permit certain dress on Purim (i.e. man wearing a ladies garment)[51] it is permitted to do this as well. However, one should avoid this behavior[52] (the same is true for booths at carnivals where liquid is spilled on one another).

Pas Yisroel vs. Pas Paltar

One who is careful to avoid pas paltar and is traveling where there is no pas yisroel available for seventy-two minutes of travel[53] (even by car),[54] may eat pas paltar.[55] Some say that one need only wait if he traveling in the direction where pas yisroel will be available, but does not need to take a detour to obtain pas yisroel.[56] Others say that one must detour up to eighteen minutes of travel time.[57] One who bought pas paltar in the above situation and returns home with some leftover bread may eat it if he cannot obtain pas yisroel (the bakeries are closed).[58]

Based on the above, if pas yisroel is available when one returns home, then he may allow the pas paltar to spoil. There is no concern of ba’al tashchis since he is not destroying it with his hands. In addition, he can give it to a non-Jew, someone who is not makpid on pas yisroel, or a bird.[59]

This ruling follows the opinion of the Shulchan Aruch who says that pas paltar is only permitted if there is no pas yisroel available. According to the Rama who permits pas paltar in all cases, one does not have to wait at all.[60]

Hashgacha Which is not Acceptable

Certain hashgachos are not accepted because of their low standards. If one accidentally buys a product from a company which has those lower standards or receives it as a present, he should give it away. It should not be discarded because it is ba’al tashchis.[61]

Insects in Food / Produce

If a specific food or fruit is infested with insects and it is a bother to remove them, or one is disgusted by the insects, the food may be thrown out and it is not ba’al tashchis.[62]

Ripping one’s Garment for a Relative

R’’l when certain relatives are niftar, one has to rip his garment.[63] There is no concern of ba’al tashchis, as the mitzvah of ripping overrides the halacha of ba’al tashchis.[64] Others explain that there is a need to rip one’s garments. Whenever there is a need, there is no concern of ba’al tashchis.[65]


Many times a caterer after a large function will have a lot of food left over. This food should not be discarded since it can be given to poor people. Caterers claim that would take up a lot of time to sort through the leftovers and put them away. The custom in any case is to be lenient. However, some Gedolim stress that this still falls under ba’al tashchis.[66]

In addition, some caterers have the practice of carving fruit in a unique shape and throwing out the rest of the fruit.[67] Furthermore, many times the soup is served in a bowl made out of bread and the bowl is thrown out afterwards. Before a caterer wishes to do the above he should ask the person who is giving the hashgacha on his establishment if this is permitted practice.

Ba’al Teshuva

A ba’al teshuva who used to wear garments that were not modest may discard those garments. There is no concern of ba’al tashchis since it is done for mitzvah purposes.[68]

Old Things

One may throw out objects which do not work anymore (i.e. old air conditioner) since there is no use for it and one is not wasting it.

Old Paper

Defaced paper that is not fit to be written on may be given to a child to scribble on or tear into little pieces. There is no concern of ba’al tashchis even though the paper may be fit for other purposes (i.e. wrapping paper), as the child derives pleasure by playing with it.[69]

Worn Out Clothing

Often one has an abundance of shoes or suits, and he has no one to give them to. In this situation, some say that he can leave the items in a hefker place (in the street). There is no concern of ba’al tashchis since he did not destroy them directly and it is possible that someone will take them.[70]

In the Street

Some say that the entire prohibition of ba’al tashchis is limited to destroying items with your hands. Leaving items in front of one’s home is not ba’al tashchis, since one is not destroying anything directly, and it possible that someone may take the items.[71]

Children to Listen

One may destroy an object if his goal is to shock his children into listening.[72] Others suggest that one use a broken utensil for this purpose.[73]

Glass in Wine / Food

Sometimes, a small shard of glass breaks off the neck of a wine bottle when it is opened. Similarly, if a glass breaks at the table one might be concerned about the presence of glass in his food. If there is any possibility of danger, then the wine and food may be discarded.[74]


One should not induce vomiting because it is destroying the food.[75] If one is in pain then doing so is permitted by hand (as opposed to medicine)[76] even on Shabbos.[77]


Protests often result in vandalism, such as lighting cars on fire, breaking store windows, ruining store furniture, etc.[78] Unfortunately, these acts are done by Jews in some areas. The question which must be addressed is whether such behavior falls into the category of ba’al tashschis (We will not discuss whether these demonstrations is advisable or not).

One should be careful, as destroying property, especially someone else’s, transgresses the halacha of ba’al tashchis. People who protest by destroying objects do not ask Rabbonim before doing so, and it just makes a chilul Hashem.

Destroying one’s Money

As mentioned above, money is included in the halachos of ba’al tashchis.[79]

We will proceed to discuss some of the areas where it is common for one to spend his money in a wasteful manner.


There is nothing we can do to avoid paying utility bills. We use electricity and heat and we have to pay for it, but there are things we can do to make sure we do not waste money and pay more than necessary. Simple things like extinguishing lights when we do not need them can save us money. The same is true for heat or air conditioning. There are many other things which people can do to minimize their expenses (see footnote).[80]

Candles Burning Longer

Sometimes people will add oil to the wick on Erev Shabbos or Yom Tov and the candles will burn late into the night or the next day. One should not do so since there is no need for light during the early morning or daytime. One who does this is wasting his money on the oil. Those who light long wick candles (or a lot of oil) in a shul or for a niftar may do so since it is done for the honor of the shul or the deceased.[81]


Sometimes a Rebbe will fine a boy for coming late too many times to class. This is permitted since it is done to teach the boy a lesson. There is no concern of ba’al tashchis in this situation.[82]


There is a discussion in the poskim whether hunting is an issue of ba’al tashchis (they also discuss the tzar ba’alei chaim issue which we will not be discussing). The poskim say that there is no issue of ba’al tashchis since one has use for the animal after it is hunted (caught).[83]

One should not go fishing if he does not plan on eating the fish.[84]

Halachically Speaking Volume 3 is now available at your local seforim store. Volumes 1-2 are back in print as well.

[1] Rashi Bereishis 32:25.

[2] Chullin 91a.

[3] Refer to Pachim Ketanim page 2.

[4] Pachim Ketanim page 79. Refer to Shevet Ha’Levi 5:218 on leaving objects in public places.

[5] Mitzvah 529.

[6] Refer to Rashi Mesechtas Taanis 20b “ein.”

[7] Devarim 20:19.

[8] Refer to Rambam Hilchos Malachim 6:10, Chaim Shaul 1:22, Torah L’shma 400, Lehoros Nosson 3:7:8, see Rambam in Sefer Hamitzvahs 57, Yabea Omer Y.D. 5:12. Refer to Pachim Ketanim pages 20-24 in depth.

[9] Magen Avraham beginning of O.C. 171. Refer to Torah Temimah Devarim 20:57.

[10] Pri Megadim M.Z. 1, Mishnah Berurah 171:4, Biur Halacha “lo.” Refer to Aruch Ha’shulchan 171:2.

[11] Harav Yisroel Belsky Shlita.

[12] Refer to Ikrei Hadat ibid, Milei D’chasidusa ibid, Sheilas Yaavetz ibid, Otzros Yerushalayim 158:pages 916-919, Be’er Moshe 5:133:5, Avnei Yushpe 1:140:1, Techumin 22:pages 293-300 in depth. Some say a non-Jew should do it even if it is for a mitzvah (Avnei Yushpe ibid).

[13] Refer to Mishnayos Middos 1:2, Tosfas Mesechtas Avodah Zarah 30b “v’lo,” Yehuda Yaleh 1:164, Shulchan Aruch Harav Shemiras Haguf V’hanefesh 14, Har Tzvi O.C. 2:102, Pachim Ketanim pages 25-26.

[14] Refer to Pachim Ketanim page 27.

[15] Refer to Tzohar 1:pages 67-68.

[16] Pachim Ketanim page 29, also see pages 120-121.

[17] Pachim Ketanim page 120.

[18] Shulchan Aruch Harav Shemiras Haguf V’hanefesh 14.

[19] Chayai Adom 11:32, Mishnah Berurah 15:3.

[20] Mishnah Berurah 5, Shar Ha’tzyion 5. Some say if only a little liquid was placed in the mouth and one can recite a berachah with a little hardship one should do so (Mishnah Berurah 172:1).

[21] Magen Avraham 1, Mishnah Berurah 3.

[22] Magen Avraham 172:1, Mishnah Berurah 172:5.

[23] Magen Avraham 172:1-2, Mishnah Berurah 2, Biur Halacha “v’eino.” Those who wish to be lenient do not have to be rebuked (Biur Halacha ibid).

[24] Refer to Mesechtas Shabbos 143a, Chullin 105a, Tosfas Mesechtas Berochos 52 b “perurin,” Tur 180, Shulchan Aruch 180:4, Levush 4, Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 42:11, Aruch Ha’shulchan 4. The Kaf Ha’chaim (Palagi) 24:48 speaks with harsh terms against those who treat this halacha with leniency.

[25] Magen Avraham 3, Elya Rabbah 5, Mishnah Berurah 10, Aruch Ha’shulchan 4, Kaf Ha’chaim 12.

[26] Refer to Eitz Hasadeh 19:footnote 2.

[27] Sharei Teshuva 3, Mishnah Berurah 10, Kaf Ha’chaim 12.

[28] Sharei Ha’berachah 3:50:footnote 109. Whether or not crumbs are muktzah see Shevus Yitzchok muktzah 9:10.

[29] Harav Yisroel Belsky Shlita, Birchos Hashem 3:page 267:footnote 105, Vezos Ha’berachah page 18 quoting the opinions of Harav Elyashiv Shlita, Harav Sheinberg Shlita, and Harav Fisher zt”l. If the bread is spoiled or hard one does not have to wrap it before discarding it (Harav Yisroel Belsky Shlita).

[30] Vezos Ha’berachah page 18, Eitz Hasadeh 19:2.

[31] Eitz Hasadeh 19:footnote 7.

[32] Ketzos Ha’shulchan 43:6, Ozter Hamayim page 83, Yalkut Yosef pages 253-254.

[33] See Bach 171:1, Aruch Ha’shulchan 160:18, Sharei Ha’berachah page 80 footnote 12, Avnei Yushpe 1:34:1.

[34] Shulchan Aruch 9, Shulchan Aruch Harav 8, Mishnah Berurah 21, Aruch Ha’shulchan 7, Shulchan Aruch Harav 8.

[35] Hanosen Sheleg pages 59-60.

[36] Shulchan Aruch Harav 8, Mishnah Berurah 21, see Ben Ish Chai Shelach 1:11.

[37] Refer to Shulchan Aruch O.C. 170:22, Aruch Ha’shulchan 170:19.

[38] Sdei Chemed Eretz Yisroel 6, Taamei Haminhagim pages 272-274, Torah L’shma 400, Shem M’Shmuel 8.

[39] Yehoshuas Malka 12:page 152 (Lekutei Torah), Natei Gavriel Pesach 3:pages 280-285.

[40] Urion Tlisa 52.

[41] Refer to Pischei Teshuva Y.D. 251:4, Shol U’Meishiv ibid, Orchos Rabbeinu 2:page 96:14, Doleh U’mashka page 195.

[42] Shulchan Aruch E.H. 65:3, Rama, Sdei Chemed 7:12:page 462.

[43] Tosfas Mesechtas Berochos 31a “eisay,” Rokeach 353, Sharei Teshuva 560, Shulchan Govah 560:5, Shulchan Haezer 2:page 49, Sefer Matamim page 41 (new), Lekutei Maharich page 742 (new). Refer to Maharsha Berochos page 12 why glass is used. Also see Kovetz Mivakshei Torah 33-34:page 100-101. The custom is to use a glass that a berachah was not made on (Refer to Pri Megadim M.Z. 560:4, Lekutei Maharich Nesuin, Shulchan Haezer 2:page 49, Kovetz Mivakshei Torah ibid:page 101).

[44] Kol Bo 62, Rama 560:2, Rama E.H. 65:3, Ben Ish Chai Shoftim 1:11, Aruch Ha’shulchan E.H. 65:5.

[45] Meiri Mesechtas Taanis 30b. Other reasons for this are offered by the poskim (Refer to Mesechtas Berochos 30b-31a, Maharsha, Sefer Matamim Hachodesh chosson v’kallah 34, Kovetz Mivakshei Torah 33-34:pages 94-97).

[46] Shulchan Haezer 2:page 50:24, Lev Ita page 82:2, Chazzon Yeshaya page 331. Although some say the chosson should throw the cup at the wall (Maharil Nesuin page 467), this is not the custom (Nesuin K’hilchosom 12:footnote 187).

[47] Sefer Matamim page 41 (new), Sefer Matamim Ha’chodesh chosson v’kallah 5.

[48] Shulchan Haezer 2:page 50, Minhag Yisroel Torah 4:page 187.

[49] Pri Megadim M.Z. 4, Ben Yehoyuda Mesechtas Berochos 31a, Mishnah Berurah 560:9, Aruch Ha’shulchan E.H. 65:5, Mivakshei Torah 25:pages 239-243 in depth. Some take a broken glass (Eitz Hasadeh page 149:footnote 15).

[50] Pachim Ketanim page 109:3.

[51] Rama 696:8, Maharam Mintz 17, see Pri Megadim M.Z. 4, Be’er Moshe 8:7:8. Refer to Taz Y.D. 4, Darchei Teshuva 9, Chochams Adom 89:6, Mishnah Berurah 696:30, Aruch Ha’shulchan 596:12, Yechaveh Da’as 5:50, Yalkut Yosef page 343, Minhag Yisroel Torah pages 261-262, Natei Gavriel Purim (old print) page 161, Be’er Moshe 8:8:5, Halichos Bas Yisroel 7:footnote 1, Yabea Omer 6:14:5, Avnei Yushpe 1:135, Malbushei Kavod V’siferes pages 68-69, Kerem Shlomo 16:6, Chazon Ovadia Purim pages 199-200

[52] Rivevos Ephraim 6:394:1, 7:377:8, 8:434:8.

[53] This means the time it takes one to travel round trip.

[54] Pischei Teshuva 112:6, Aruch Ha’shulchan 18, Kaf Ha’chaim 74.

[55] Shulchan Aruch Y.D. 112:16. One who is careful with pas yisroel and now he wants to start eating pas paltar (not on the way) must be matir neder (Minchas Yaakov 112:2, Darchei Teshuva 112:94).

[56] Pri Chadash 28, Darchei Teshuva 95.

[57] Chochmas Adom 65:3, Aruch Ha’shulchan Y.D. 112:18, Kaf Ha’chaim 73. See Mishnah Berurah O.C. 163:3, Shar Ha’tzyion 163:3.

[58] Betzel Hachuchma 5:83, Ohelecha B’amisecha 20:footnote 13, see Minchas Yitzchok 3:45. Refer to Chochmas Adom 65:11.

[59] Minchas Yitzchok 3:45.

[60] Aruch Ha’shulchan Y.D. 112:18.

[61] Refer to Pachim Ketanim page 60:footnote 10. See ibid:page 109:2.

[62] Pachim Ketanim page 64:17.

[63] Shulchan Aruch Y.D. 340:3, Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 195:3, see Aruch Ha’shulchan Y.D. 340:3, 403:2.

[64] Yabea Omer Y.D. 6:32:3, see Y.D. 7:29.

[65] Refer to Pachim Ketanim page 80:footnote 17.

[66] Refer to Tzohar 1:pages 50-52.

[67] Refer to Kashrus L’mehadrin pages 8-15 in depth.

[68] Torah L’shma 400.

[69] Torah L’shma 401.

[70] Shevet Ha’Levi 9:159:2.

[71] Shevet Ha’Levi 9:159:2.

[72] Hag’oes Maimonies ibid:6:10. Refer to Mesechtas Shabbos 105b, Kiddushin 32a, Maharsha Shabbos ibid “sh’chain,” Tzohar 1:pages 70-71. Refer to Meiri Shabbos 105b who says one should not do it because people will learn from their actions.

[73] Refer to Pachim Ketanim pages 78-79, Tzohar 1:page 54.

[74] Refer to Tzohar 1:pages 52-53.

[75] Shulchan Aruch O.C. 328:39.

[76] Because it is comparable to healing on Shabbos (Mishnah Berurah 328:124).

[77] Mishnah Berurah 328:124.

[78] In America 500 million dollars a year is caused by vandalism in the schools alone (Techumin 1:page 329).

[79] Mesechtas Shabbos 67b, 129a, 140b, Kiddushin 32a, Chullin 7b. Refer to Levush C.M. 378:1, Aruch Ha’shulchan Y.D. 240:28, Divrei Yatziv Y.D. 19:2.

[80] For a list of such things visit www.5tjt.com/news/read.asp?Id=1851

[81] Torah L’shma 76, Oz Nedberu 9:2.

[82] Refer to Tzohar 1:page 56.

[83] Nodeh B’Yehuda Y.D. 2:10. Refer to Shevus Yaakov 3:71, Pischei Teshuva Y.D. 28:10, Aruch Ha’shulchan O.C. 117:25.

[84] Pachim Ketanim page 97.

Rabbi Moishe D. Lebovits, a musmach of Rabbi Yisroel Belsky and Yeshiva Torah Vodaas. Currently he serves as a Rabbinical Administrator for KOF-K Kosher Supervision. Halachically Speaking is a monthly publication seen by tens of thousands around the world. For Halachically Speaking seforim see www.israelbookshoppublications.com For other articles and to subscribe for free see thehalacha.com To contact Rabbi Lebovits, please email [email protected]

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  1. the correct term is bal tashchis, without the ayin. as in dont destry. common mistake; people think its ba’al tashchis, as in man who destroys

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