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I have developed a sensitivity towards treating clothes respectfully. An example is I try not to throw clothing all over the floor (cleanliness aside). I was wondering if there are any sources which discuss the idea of treating clothes respectfully, as either a matter of halacha or derech eretz.

I am coming from various sources that I have seen which seem to indicate that clothing is something to treat properly. For example:

  1. Dovid HaMelech was punished (see Rashi ad. loc) for cutting King Shaul's clothing. Despite the fact that one could argue this was because the clothes belonged to the King, Chazal seem to speak in broad terms.

  2. There seems to be great value given to clothing the naked. Hashem is praised for clothing the naked, a bracha was instituted regarding it, it's considered a mitzvah. I would think that this would attach some importance to the clothes themselves, as they're a tool to help others.

  3. Rabbi Yochanan would refer to his clothing as that which honors him. I would imagine it's appropriate to honor that which honors you.

I found this teshuvah online, which says that a person shouldn't throw their clothes on the floor disrespectfully, but no source was given.

(To clarify, I'm not looking for sources specifically about clothes on the floor. That's just an example.)

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    Fwiw, my father is very mapkid on keeping clothes, even dirty clothes, off of the floor. – ezra Apr 9 '18 at 21:15
  • I'm surmising that the importance of clothes emanates from how G-d clothed Adam & Chava because they were embarrassed being naked. Perhaps, in a sense, treating clothes respectfully is our way of constantly recognizing G-d's gift. – DanF Apr 9 '18 at 22:03
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    This a model question! You clearly states what you are looking for, it shows lots of previous research, and is well written. Kudos to you, I wish I could upvote twice. (Btw, this is not to say that there aren't many other great questions, but with a lot of weak questions lately (myself included) it seems worth highlighting.) – רבות מחשבות Apr 9 '18 at 22:15
  • I wonder if keeping clothes nice is related to tzni'ut. There are numerous sources for that. Maybe wearing wrinkled, messy, dirty clothes (throwing clothes on the ground, etc. will do this) is related to not being bitzni'ut. – DanF Apr 9 '18 at 22:29
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    @robev Well, there is a practice of deliberately throwing clean clothes on the floor to make them dirty enough to wear during the Nine Days – SAH Apr 10 '18 at 6:50
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Indeed the prohibition of baal tashschit (not destroying/treating objects respectfully) does apply to clothing as well.

The gemara in Shabbat 105b cites a baraita

One who rends his garments in his anger, or who breaks his vessels in his anger, or who scatters his money in his anger, should be like an idol worshipper in your eyes, as that is the craft of the evil inclination.

The Rambam in Hilchot Melachim 6:10 writes

This prohibition does not apply to trees alone. Rather, anyone who breaks utensils, tears garments, destroys buildings, stops up a spring, or ruins food with a destructive intent transgresses the command 'Do not destroy.' However, he is not lashed. Instead, he receives stripes for rebellious conducts instituted by the Sages.

Regarding tearing kria (tearing a vestment in mourning), chabad.org notes

There are limitations to what is considered “needless” destruction. Observance of a mitzvah, like tearing clothes in mourning, or preservation of human life or health, overrules bal tashchit when the two come into conflict.

  • I think there also may be something similar to your 1st citation mentioned in Avot DeRav Natan. I'll see if I can locate it. – DanF Apr 10 '18 at 13:58
  • What about non destructive but non respectful usage? I understand Dovid tore the shirt but I'm still wondering about other cases as well – robev Apr 10 '18 at 14:20
  • @robev I asked a shailo about tearing kriyah for a non-Jew and it was explained to me (although quickly) that baal taschit was the main, if not only, potential reason not to. I think all the other answers here are in concurrence that disrespecting clothing is not a problem of its own (although I have heard the thing DoubleAA brought about not going out with a stain). – SAH Apr 15 '18 at 4:06
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The rabbis of din.org.il were asked where one can find the halachic source prohibiting treating clothes disrespectfully.

They answered:

לא מצאנו בהלכה דין זל "ביזוי" במה שמתבטא בשימוש לא יפה וכד’, אלא רק שאין לזרוק לאשפה דבר שאפשר להשתמש בו, וכן לא לשבור דבר שראוי לשימוש, והוא גם בכלל איסור בל תשחית

אבל מותר להשתמש בבגדים בתשמישים מגונים, כגון לשטוף בהם רצפה וכיוצא בזה

We have not found in halacha a law regarding "disrespect" [of clothing] in terms of usage in a not nice manner etc. Rather, only that one may not throw in the trash something which can still be used, and also not to destroy something usable, which also falls under the prohibition of bal taschchit.

But it is permited to use clothing for degrading purposes, for example to clean the floor with them, and other similar uses.

(my translation)

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