If your Jewish soul it feeds, keep it in green!

Disoriented, I awaken from a disjointed dream about diapers. There were diapers to dispose of, and I was deeply distressed by a disturbing dilemma: which bin to place the diapers in? Earlier that day, I had printed all the pertinent information related to my city’s garbage disposal system, and taped the comprehensive lists to my kitchen wall. I briefly entertained framing the information, but dismissed the notion as foolish and plebeian.

I have no choice but to cast aside my beloved philosophical endeavors and dig deep into the garbage whys and wherefores. No, I would not become a bin victim. Garbage was just that. No need to glorify garbage or subscribe to its petty fine print—perhaps as inane as the apple and potato peels cozily curled in my green bin. At the same time, it is required of all dutiful citizens of Toronto, Ontario, to dispose of waste in an eco-abiding manner. I have no choice but to cast aside my beloved philosophical endeavors and dig deep into the garbage whys and wherefores.

I struggle to comprehend why one plastic food container qualifies for the blue (recycle) bin while the other, somehow, does not. I study the colorful pictures displayed on the poster included in the calendar I have recently received in the mail—trying to unlock the DNA code of every garbage item so that I may be set free from the drudgery of determining-which-bin-garbage-goes-in.

I dial 311 (not to be confused with 911) to consult with a garbage secret agent. I learn that clear bags and shopping bags may be used for the green bin, black bags can be used for the black bin, and light blue bags are acceptable in the recycle bin. I use the words “may” and “be” because the fine print now has even finer print; bags are not always required in bins. It is then that I take a deep breath and excuse myself. “Sir, it’s bin nice bintering with you, but I must run, it’s bin a long day.”

Returning the phone to its receiver, I am careful to not place it in any of my bins. Once the phone is no longer, it may depart via my curbside, but only if it is placed 0.5 metres away from my garbage bin. Then there are more ominous items (I grimly note to myself); they are picked up by the city’s Toxics Taxi. Candidates for the TT would only be, well, toxic.

Slowly I turn. A ziplock bag flutters at my side. An omen? I search the corners of my imagination to determine where the ziplock bag would be placed, but fall woefully short. On the one hand, it is a bag; on the other hand, it is a clear bag, and also possessing a plastic ziplock thingy. I recall the secret garbage agent passing along a tip. Consult the Waste Wizard online. Over 1500 items are listed! My mind reels with the possibilities. What about the sort-of wooden crate holding the clementines? And the plastic outer, but foil inner, cookie bag waiting in limbo on my kitchen counter. I would not want to be found guilty of any bin sins. The clock ticks urgently; my heart beats to din of the bins. Bins being hoisted into the air by the mechanical arms affixed to the garbage trucks rumbling at my front door.

I scream and run for cover. Being as I don’t want to be assigned to the loony bin, my shout is carefully manufactured—existing in dimensions no greater than two feet long and two feet wide. The Carefully Manufactured Shout is tied with twine—and, by most metaphysical classifications, would qualify for the blue bin.

And then, it occurs to me—not just because of the sleep deprivation associated with the diaper-disposal dilemma – that my mind contains bins as well. Every info-byte that we take in can be placed, so to speak, in cerebral bins. The redeeming part of my newly acknowledged brain-bin ownership is that I get to select what I take in, and, to some degree, can also choose the bin in which will place all that I have learned and experienced.

Let us imagine the function of the mind’s green bin. Which thoughts and teachings are assigned to the green bin? Following the protocol of Toronto’s curbside collection sorting guide, I propose we place “food for thought” in the green bin. Which foods do we choose to nourish our minds? Will we thrive on a diet of hydrogenated vegetable oil, or would we do well to seek out the foods closest to their original state? Will we settle for the diluted, waxed or artificially flavored version of the truth, or can we seek out the purest and most wholesome truth?

Repeat as needed: If your Jewish soul it feeds, keep it in green!

Now let us determine the function of the mind’s blue bin. Once again, in keeping with Toronto’s sorting protocol, I propose the mind’s blue bin contain all the meaningful lessons which we would do well to recycle on an ongoing basis: Lessons learned from those wiser and more experienced than us. Lessons gleaned from Torah and Chasidic teachings. Lessons rewarded to those actively seeking to bring goodness and G dliness to their surroundings.

Sing along: If it’s pure and true, place it in blue!

Last, but by no means of lesser importance, exists the black bin. All that is negative, disparaging and has no constructive purpose in thought, speech or action should be permanently banished to the black bin.
Garbage items such as: It’s no use. I’m no good. There’s no point in trying. It’s not fair. I can’t, I’m not . . . all belong in the black bin.

Hear yourself say it: If it holds you back, dump it in the black!

It is taught in Hayom Yom, an anthology of Chabad aphorisms and customs arranged according to the days of the year (entry for 27 Elul):
The following are the holy words of the Alter Rebbe (commenting on the phrase) “Israel, one nation in the world:” “The nation of Israel, even as it exists in this earthly world, is connected with the one G-d. G-d creates materiality out of spirituality, and the people of Israel make spirituality out of materiality.”

To explain: G-d created the world because He desired his presence to be manifest in the physical world. To accomplish this, two steps are necessary: the material world must be created, and then its corporeality must be transformed into spirituality. The first step was accomplished by G-d; the second He entrusts to His partner, the Jewish people.

Unlike the disposal do’s and don’ts on my kitchen wall—this particular teaching I will frame and prominently display in my home. Of course, I will also store it in my “food for thought” bin. You know, the green one. It’s a bin that I hope will overflow. Mirroring my city’s disposal mandate, I aspire to make the world a more beautiful place.

Originally published on

About the Author
Chana holds an M.S. in Special Education. Her innovative poems, essays and lectures reflect two and a half decades of experience working with students of all ages and abilities. Chana's writing has been published on, as well as in The Canadian Jewish News, The Jewish Press, and AMI. As a longtime volunteer with the Friendship Circle, Chana was recognised by the Ontario Legislature for “bringing a smile to the faces of children with special needs.” Although Chana 's "heart is in the east" she currently lives with her with her family in Toronto.
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