19 May Rabbi Hillel Skolnik’s Torah Spark for Emor 5776
This Shabbat we read from Parashat Emor, part of which will sound familiar as it was the Torah reading on the second day of Passover. What won’t sound so familiar from Passover, but will still be recognizable, is the section toward the end of the parasha where we find the famous Biblical idea of “fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth. The injury he inflicted on another shall be inflicted on him” (Leviticus 24:20 NJPS). It is, no doubt, good for society that our justice system no longer works as simply as it did in ancient times and that we no longer simply take out the eye of one who caused another to lose theirs. Truth be told, it didn’t take Jewish law very long to move away from this idea, though it is clearly part of the Torah. Even so, it should give us good reason to think about our actions and the effects they can have on another person’s life. We might not lose a tooth if we cause another to lose theirs, but the fear of losing one of our own should inform how we live our lives.
Rabbi Hillel Skolnik