Regarding the issur of bal tashchis:
1)Is there anything wrong with using a potato in a game where the potato is thrown back and forth and made unedible by the end of the game?
2) Is there anything wrong with making fruit carvings for decorations where the melon will not be consumed?
3) If one is makpid for pas yisrael and someone gives them a loaf of bread of pas akum and can’t find anyone around that would eat the bread, can they throw the bread in the garbage?
4) If there is extra food after Shabbos or a chasuna or an event, is one over bal tashchis if it is thrown out? Is there an chiyuv to go around trying to save the food from being thrown out?
thank you for your help!
Answer (and sources):
1) If the potato is not damaged in the course of the game, it is permitted to use the potato. Although it is wrong to show disrespect to foods (as we find in Taanis 20b — see Rashi there concerning feeding human food to animals), using a potato as part of a game in which the potato is not damaged would not be “disrespectful” to the food.
2) It is permitted to decorate melon in this way. As the Mishnah Berurah (171:4) writes, whenever the normal way of the world is to treat foods in a particular way, the prohibition of bal tashchis does not apply.
3) Under the circumstances, it would be permitted to throw the bread in the garbage. However, one should not treat the bread with “disrespect,” and rather than throwing it directly into the garbage, one should place it in a separate bad or container, and only then place it in the garbage (see Mishnah Berurah 171:9 — though many poskim argue that there is no difference in principle between bread and other foods). As Rambam writes (Berachos 7:9), it is prohibited to dispose of food in a disrespectful manner.
4) One should certainly try to distribute the food, yet there is no obligation to go to great lengths to avoid it being thrown away. As Poskim write (Iggros Moshe, vol. 2, Yoreh De’ah 174:3, and Minchas Yitzchak, vol. 3, no. 45; see also Chazon Ish on Rambam, Melachim 6:8), the prohibition of bal tashchis applies only to an active deed, and not to a passive (lack of) action, and the situation whereby food is left over after a wedding is “passive.” Usually, the caterer (if there is one) has an arrangement with a tzedakah organization to give away the leftover food, and this is certainly the best possible arrangement.