Hospitality is wonderful. So is the teaching of 'bal tashchit.' Have you considered where those paper plates come from, or what happens to them after they are used? Here, where I live, the magnificent ancient forests are being clear cut to make consumer products, and the dumps are filled with disposable garbage. In our generation, one of the weaknesses we have to contend with is being a 'disposable society.' We dispose of tradition, we dispose of people, and we dispose of the materials of the Earth. That isn't being as responsible as we can be. - A. M. -0/3-/2001
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Interesting that you should mention this! I've always felt the tension of the beauty of Shabbat mixed with the sometimes unbearably hard work of cleaning dishes. For some people, using real china every week is just too much to bear. In my shul, we are holding a drive for Pesach in which we are selling "environmentally-friendly" disposable products for Pesach and Shabbat: paper plates and napkins that are made with sustainable plant fibers, etc. While these products are not ideal, they are far better than real paper (killing trees) or plastic (emitting carcinogens) and buying them supports the environmental-product market and makes even more products available. They are also available coated with clay, to prevent that tricky salad dressing problem. If you want some more information on how to organize this, please let me know.
We should never feel that Torah observance and protecting our world are at odds and cannot be reconciled. As with everything else that matters, we have to find a way to do both. - E. S. -0/3-/2001
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A response to A.M.'s comments:
1. After you use "real" dishes, you have to wash them, which uses up precious resources and creates pollution too.
2. The paper plates I use are made from trees. I have never seen paper plates made from "magnificent ancient forests." Those kind must be quite expensive!
3. Baal taschis is the prohibition against wasting resources. Thus, making use of any item is by definition not baal taschis. -0/3-/2001
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