Repair, Reuse, Recycle
Lesson Plan Sections
0 Ratings
Add to Favorite  

Repair, Reuse, Recycle

Jewish Value:

     Do Not Destroy

Lesson Summary:

This lesson comes from, a resource that offers philanthropy education resources that teach giving and civic engagement. This lesson is part of a unit called "This Land is Our Land." The unit s purpose is:  "This unit teaches young students a sense of responsibility to take care of the environment that G-d created. It also demonstrates that even young students have the power to contribute to the community. One main piece of this is the importance of recycling. Students not only learn about the environment and creation, but also perform acts that preserve the environment.

Focus Questions:

  • What is the connection between creation and taking care of the environment?
  • Why is it important to take care of the environment?
  • What is my role in caring for the environment? "
The purpose stated on the site for this lesson is:
"This lesson guides students to recognize the importance of taking care of the world by reducing trash. Students will recognize the benefits of recycling and reusing."


"In this lesson, the learner will:

  • explain how Joseph, in Joseph Had a Little Overcoat, didn’t let his clothing go to waste.
  • recognize the benefits to the environment by repairing, reusing, and recycling rather than throwing things away.
  • demonstrate creativity in reusing old objects by turning them into new objects."

Be Inspired:The ideas included are offered as starting points as you and your students explore, discover and live the lessons. Be sure to elicit and encourage student and parent participation, consistently reinforcing the value being addressed. Allow lessons to authentically develop and change based on engagement and interests.

Lesson Plan Components

For the educatorJewish Thought, Text, and Traditionsmore

Background information on this value:

The mitzvah of ba’al tashchit–the commandment not to destroy or waste items from the natural world--is one of the most commonly mentioned mitzvot in contemporary Jewish social action circles.  The source text for this mitzvah comes from the Book of Deuteronomy 20:19:  “When you besiege a city for a long time in order to capture it, you must not destroy its trees by wielding an axe against them.  You may eat from them, but you must not cut them down.  Are trees of the field human, to withdraw before you into the besieged city?  Only trees that you know do not yield food may be destroyed; you may cut them down for constructing siegeworks against the city that is waging war on you, until it has been reduced.”

The rabbis assert that we are not allowed to needlessly destroy the natural environment in a time of war, when resources are scarce and the primary focus is on ending the battle as quickly as possible.  Therefore, we should be even more aware of ba’al tashchit when we are not at war and can make informed choices.  For example, if we have to build a home (or, more realistic for most people, redecorating a home), we have the time to make an informed choice about which materials we choose to use, how we can reuse and recycle what trash we produce, etc.  

Hence, we have the mitzvah of ba’al tashchit developed from a war-time prohibition against needless waste to a prohibition that covers every aspect of our lives.  In almost everything we do, we can have an effect on the natural world.  This mitzvah asks us to consider ways in which we can refrain from being wasteful. Today, Jews involve themselves with ecology by recycling, conserving energy, and helping to preserve the environment.

From Our Texts:

“The purpose of the mitzvah of ba’al tashchit is to teach us to love that which is good and worthwhile and to cling to it, so that good becomes a part of us and so that we will avoid all that is evil and destructive.  This is the way of the righteous and those who improve society, who love peace and rejoice in the good in people and bring them close to the Torah, that nothing, not even a grain of mustard, should be lost to the world, that they should regret any loss or destruction that they see, and if possible they will prevent any destruction that they can.”  -Sefer Ha-chinuch, Mitzvah 529

“When G-d created Adam, He took him around the trees of the Garden of Eden, and He said to him, ‘Look at My works! How beautiful and praiseworthy they are.  Everything that I have created, I created for you.  Take care not to damage and destroy My world, for if you damage it, there is no one to repair it after you.’”  -Ecclesiastes Rabbah 7:13

“One generation goes and another generation comes; but the Earth remains forever.”  -Ecclesiastes 1:4

Questions for Reflection:

1. Is enjoying something that requires resources necessarily wasting?

2. Do you think we should only partake in the simplest things, or should we be allowed to indulge in things that require more resources? Explain.

3. What are some non-wasteful ways to meet our needs and wants?  

4.  How can you implement the value of ba’al tashchit in your classroom?

Jewish every dayIncorporate Jewish Valuesmore

Materials and resourcesmore


Videos that highlight the value Do Not Destroy that can support this lesson:



Explore, Discover, and More Extension and Reinforcement Activitiesmore

Music Connectionsmore

List of All Songs

Songs about Do Not Destroy:


literature connectionsmore

TitleAuthorIllustratorBook Summary
Our Class Is Going Green Kindergarten Students of the Oak Park Elementary School Children write and illustrate their ideas for “going green.”
Something from Nothing* Phoebe Gilman A modern adaptation of this favorite Jewish folktale describes how the blanket grandfather had made for young Joseph is transformed over the years into a jacket, a button, and, ultimately, a story. The grandfather demonstrates creative and meaningful recycling.
Joseph Had a Little Overcoat Simms TabackSimms TabackJoseph had a little overcoat, but it was full of holes—just like this book! When Joseph's coat got too old and shabby, he made it into a jacket. But what did he make it into after that? And after that?
As children turn the pages of this book, they can use the die-cut holes to guess what Joseph will be making next from his amazing overcoat, while they laugh at the bold, cheerful artwork and learn that you can always make something, even out of nothing.
* PJ library Books
Lesson Contributors republished with permission