Aside from the national legality of destroying currency, does the Torah consider the intention of lowering inflation a valid reason for destroying money, or will it fall under Bal Tashchit?

  • Are you asking if the Department of the Treasury (or people working on its behalf) are halachically allowed to destroy bills?
    – Fred
    Feb 20, 2020 at 19:05
  • I am asking if Jews working for the Dept of the Treasury, or on their on volition, are Halachically able to destroy currency.
    – Moshe
    Feb 20, 2020 at 19:07
  • There could possibly be a distinction between destroying gold coins (which have significant intrinsic value) and destroying paper bills (that only have value by the government's fiat). I can't imagine how destroying paper bills on behalf of the Treasury could possibly be forbidden.
    – Fred
    Feb 20, 2020 at 19:13

1 Answer 1


Rambam Melachim 6.10 says wasting other items not just fruit trees:

וְלֹא הָאִילָנוֹת בִּלְבַד. אֶלָּא כָּל הַמְשַׁבֵּר כֵּלִים. וְקוֹרֵעַ בְּגָדִים. וְהוֹרֵס בִּנְיָן. וְסוֹתֵם מַעְיָן. וּמְאַבֵּד מַאֲכָלוֹת דֶּרֶךְ הַשְׁחָתָה. עוֹבֵר בְּלֹא תַשְׁחִית. וְאֵינוֹ לוֹקֶה אֶלָּא מַכַּת מַרְדּוּת מִדִּבְרֵיהֶם

Not only trees but breaking tools, ripping clothes, destroying buildings blocking springs destroying food one transgresses "Bal Tashchis" but one gets rabbinical lashes (only destroying fruit bearing trees gets lashes for Torah Transgression.

Kesf Mishna provides source for Rambam which is primarily talking about wasting money:

שבת פרק רבי אליעזר דאורג (דף ק''ה:) המקרע בגדיו בחמתו והמשבר כליו בחמתו והמפזר מעותיו בחמתו יהא בעיניך כעובד עבודה זרה שכך אומנותו של יצר הרע היום אומר לו עשה כך וכו' עד שאומר לו עבוד עבודה זרה ועובד ..... one who disperses his money to lose them is like someone who worships idols......

Banknotes are just a a Representation of currency and are only worth the assets which the country owns, so if the government destroy notes they are just making their currency stronger there is no destruction of actual assets. But anyone burning his own banknotes without government knowing is wasting his rights to the govenment assets for no reason when he could have spent it on something useful (the affromentioned items in the Rambam). So it's Grama of Bal Tashchis

  • 2
    I'm not sure this is correct. The Rambam wrote that it's only forbidden to destroy 'Derech Hashchosa'. Here, the guy has a 'constructive' purpose of fighting inflation. Maybe that is enough of a reason to validate the destruction and make the action no longer a forbidden one of 'Bal Tashchis'. Feb 20, 2020 at 21:59
  • @Salmononius2 without the Federal reserves instruction he has achieved nothing destroying the notes, despite his "lofty" intentions they just think the notes are still circulating and the value of currency will not rise. So he is achieving Bal Tashchis (but then again shote patur min hamitzvos so if that applies he might not be chayav))
    – user15464
    Feb 20, 2020 at 23:51
  • 2
    Also, do you know how much money one would need to destroy to have any effect on the economy of the United States? Feb 21, 2020 at 0:03
  • @Salmononius2 also read David Kenner's point as to why your suggestion is farfetched
    – user15464
    Feb 22, 2020 at 23:20
  • It might be far-fetched, but that's the question being asked. It's a Kasheh Fun A Maaseh. :) On a serious note, the OP did write in a comment that we might be talking about a Treasury employee, so that is one practical case. Besides, I'm not convinced that the effectiveness of an action matters here, only the person's intent. If one intends to do something productive, I wouldn't be shocked if you told me that was enough to stop it from being 'Derech Hashchosa', regardless of how outlandish the action might be (but as you mentioned above, at a certain point the person is probably a Shote...) Feb 23, 2020 at 1:16

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