Just as a person must be careful with his body not to lose [ie kill] it or destroy it or damage it, as it says “”[Just] guard for yourself and guard your life-soul a lot…” (Devarim 4:9; as discussed in the previous se’if) similarly he must be careful with his money not to lose it, ruin it, or damage it. Anyone who breaks a utensil or tears a garment or destroys food or drink or makes them disgusting [inedible] or throws money out to waste, and similarly anyone who ruins any other thing that is fitting for people to enjoy violates a prohibition. As it says, “[When you besiege a city for a long time, in making war against it to take it] do not destroy its trees by wielding an axe against them, because you could eat from them — so do not cut them down” etc… (Devarim 20:19)
The final law in our series is that of bal tashchis, needless waste. I wrote a longer piece on why the Torah places such value on money and why Yaaqov bothered to risk facing Esav to go back across the river for a few small jugs. To quote the conclusion, which is a fitting conclusion to our entire survey:
Why did Yaakov go back for a small jug? Didn’t he just gratefully leave Eisav behind in that area, happy that there was no fighting? Doesn’t that mean it was dangerous?
Rashi on Vayishlach quotes Chazal that Yaaqov went back because the righteous consider their money precious, because they earn their money honestly. Proper business ethics isn’t “just” the permissable way to conduct business, it actually sanctifies the activity. And therefore, the pachim qetanim were sacred to Yaaqov, not to be simply left behind.
Eisav’s role in the ideal universe was mastered by Yaaqov — he internalized the notion of the role of the physical and how to sanctify the physical. Of course at that point Yaaqov is challenged by Eisav’s guardian and succeeds. …
Sha’ul’s mission for his kingship [after he is annointed using the same jug] is to vanquish Amaleiq. Amaleiq is a nation whose namesake forefather was Eisav’s grandson. …
The Shunamit was supported in her time of need by the rewards of Yaaqov’s sacred toiling in this world [through oil Elisha poured from that jug into all the vessels she could find or borrow]. The money which was earned through honest and forthright business dealings will always suffice.
Which brings us to Chanukah. … And then they find the jug of oil. The jug of holy wordliness, of sanctifying the universe through halakhah. Not disdain for the physical or the beautiful, but knowing its value — as a tool. And with that concept the Chashmonaim revived Jewish loyalty, disbanded Hellenist oppression, and restored the concept of Jewish autonomy for the next two centuries. And when we couldn’t maintain that, we still had the notion that there was a role for Yefetic culture but not a clear idea of what that role was, in stepped Edom. Through that struggle with Edom, we can restore the world to “two great lights” — Yisrael and Eisav working in harmony.