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Thursday, May 23, 2024 - 15 Iyyar 5784
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The Throw-Away Generation
We live in a throw-away generation. Per capita, each person in the US produces 760 kilograms, or almost one ton of garbage per year. Efforts to decrease waste production and increase recycling have had only modest effects.

In 1999, Yuval Tamir was told he had only a few weeks to live. He had served in the Israeli Navy for 20 years when he was diagnosed with advanced colon cancer. His research into the cause of his cancer led him to conclude that it was due to his experiences as a navy diver in polluted waters. Tamir tried a number of alternative healing methods, and thank G-d, his cancer went into remission. But he was determined to tackle the conditions that had caused his cancer in the first place.

“My goal is to offer a solution, and I saw that the problem stems from the domestic waste we all produce,” says Tamir. “Sorting it is very expensive and sometimes impossible, so the majority goes to landfills or incineration or ocean-dumping.” About half of municipal waste is made up of plastics.

Infimer Technologies, which Tamir founded in 2013, developed a patented process to remove the minerals from household waste and turn the remaining polymers and cellulose material into a new thermoplastic material. This material can be used to manufacture anything from toolboxes to lawn furniture to plumbing pipes.


When our forefather Jacob left the home of his father-in-law, Laban, he and his household crossed the river Yabok, but Jacob turned back because he had left behind a few small vessels. There he encountered an angel and they got into a tussle, which left Jacob with a permanent limp. However, the main takeaway from the story is that Jacob made the risky trip back across the river just to retrieve a few small vessels. Every item he possessed was important to him.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe explains that we are all on earth on a mission to bring holiness and sanctity to the physical world. Every object that we own plays a role in fulfilling this mission. We own nothing without the grace and blessing of G-d. If G-d put it in our hands, that’s a sign that the elevation of this item can come only through our efforts.

When Moshiach comes, the “stones of the walls will cry out” (Habakuk 2:11). They will bear witness if we acted appropriately, and showed the proper respect to our physical possessions. Did we use them for the purpose they were intended? Did we help them fulfill their purpose—to bring more light and G-dliness to our world? We will have to give an accounting for how we used every object—including the ones we threw into the trash. Giving new life to old garbage is the definition of the Messianic era, when the “spirit of impurity will be removed from this earth.


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