Shabbat Service: Is an Eye for an Eye The Right Way to Go?by Leah Koenig | May 11, 2012 | 0 comments
Shabbat Service is a weekly bit of Torah-inspired do-gooding, brought to you by Repair the World and our grantee-partner American Jewish World Service (AJWS). Read on to see how these ancient stories can apply today. Seem far fetched? Check it out:
The story: In this week’s parsha (Torah portion), Emor, ends with what guest writer, Sarah Mulhern, calls “one of the most famous and controversial pronouncements in the Torah.” She’s right – after all, doesn’t the following passage – even written in old fashioned-sounding language – sound pretty familiar?
“If anyone maims his fellow, as he has done so shall it be done to him; fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth. Just as he inflicted an injury upon a person, so shall it be inflicted upon him.”
The takeaway: The “eye for an eye” concept brings up all sorts of questions about justice, revenge, and the correct action to take when you feel you’ve been wronged. On the one hand, as Sarah writes, “the idea of punishing assault by physically harming the perpetrator makes a certain kind of sense.” On the other hand, it’s totally disturbing – “many of us reject its suggestion of violence as an ethical tool for meting out justice,” she writes. It’s also risky – threatening to turn an isolated incident into a cycle of retaliation.
The “to-do”: Sarah suggests that, done correctly, we have the opportunity to fight violence with education and healing. In our own lives, that may mean speaking with someone who has hurt you instead of hurting them back. In the larger world, it may mean supporting an organization that works to build meaningful dialogue in conflicted areas helping to curb the cycle of violence.
Read the full Torah commentary, on which this excerpt is based, over at AJWS’ website. And for more great texts, commentary and Jewish learning resources on social justice, check out the On 1 Foot database.