07 May Rabbi Hillel Skolnik’s Torah Spark for Parashat Emor
This Shabbat we read from Parashat Emor, a large part of which was read only a few weeks ago as the Torah reading for the second day of Passover. And while the verses used on Passover are quite certainly well known, perhaps the most famous verse in this week’s parasha comes from the end of the portion, chapter 24 verse 20 which reads, “…fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth. The injury he inflicted on another shall be inflicted on him.” (NJPS) The extent to which this principle continues to govern our justice system is one that is a hot topic in our society today. While we don’t simply remove a person’s eye for an eye that they destroyed, or a tooth for a tooth, it is the law in many states within the US and countries around the world that a murderer’s life can to be taken as punishment for a murder committed. Without question our laws – both Jewish and secular – are more intricate, involved and detailed than the instruction we receive from the Torah. But let us always recognize that the origins of that justice system come from ancient documents like the Torah and the values of those times, while executed differently, may well be in line with how we feel and practice today.
Rabbi Hillel Skolnik