Torah.org Home Subscribe Services Support Us
 

Beholder of the Eyes

by Mordechai Kamenetzky

Hammurabi just didn't get it. The author of the code that took the Biblical command "an eye for an eye" to mean the literal extraction of an eyeball as compensation for the same damages inflicted, clearly missed the point.

The Talmud discusses various proofs that the command cannot be taken in a literal sense. Firstly, there are specific verses that discuss monetary compensation for inflicting bodily injuries. Second, if the Torah would want us to remove the said organ from the defendant, why would it use the expression, "just as he gave (inflicted a wound on) a person, so shall be given to him," it should rather say, "thus shall be taken from him" (Leviticus 24:20). The expression "shall be given" applies to monetary compensation.

Therefore, Jewish law dictates that the injured person is compensated according to the value of the eye, as it is applicable to the injured party. Thus, a diamond cutter who needs his eye to perform his job receives more than a singer. The value of one's voice on the other hand is quite different for an opera singer than it is for a jeweler. Thus, compensation would once again vary according to the loss incurred.

Maimonides explains that monetary compensation in instances of bodily harm is a law passed directly from Moses, from Sinai.

The question is raised: If the Torah meant monetary compensation, why not just say so? "Money for an eye." Why complicate the matter with the words "an eye for an eye," and then interpret it as the value of an eye, the value of a break, etc. There does not seem to be any mystical meaning behind the use of the words "eye, foot, and break," so why not explicitly say money?

[A story:]

Famed Spanish artist Pablo Picasso, toward the end of his career, began to lose some of the artistic appreciation of his works. He replaced it with the appreciation of the enormous prices that his pieces were fetching.

On one occasion, an American millionaire visited the studio, clearly unappreciative of the artist's style. "And what does this one represent?" he asked.

"Two hundred thousand dollars," answered Picasso.

The Bais HaLevi explains that if the Torah explicitly had warranted money for an eye, then the true value of the eye could very easily have been transformed into a commonplace compensation. A person could damage an eye and merely shrug it off by saying: "I can pay money and be absolved."

Thus, the Torah commands, 'An eye for an eye." The Torah's goal is to define an eye as irreplaceable -- one who inflicts the loss of an eye truly deserves that his eye be taken as well. But the Torah is merciful. With the defendant bearing in mind the true gravity of his misdeed, the Torah instructs him that in this circumstance, all that one can do is pay for the lost value of the eye.

But never shall it be thought that a limb truly can be evaluated with a dollar value. Because the organs that God has given us are not valued merely in the eyes of the beholder, rather they are valued in the Beholder of our eyes.

Reprinted with permission from InnerNet.org

 






ARTICLES ON NETZAVIM AND VAYEILECH:

View Complete List

Why Bring the Children?
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5762

A Standing Ovation
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5765

So It Is Written
Rabbi Label Lam - 5765

ArtScroll

Sputterless
Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky - 5758

Rav Chaim Saw In The Pasuk What We See With Our Eyes
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5764

A Timeless Moment
Rabbi Aron Tendler - 5759

> The 'New' of the New Year
Rabbi Dovid Green - 5758

Knock, Knock, Knocking on Prayer's Gate
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5766

"The Man Who Blesses Himself In His Heart Saying..." Wasn't Totally Wrong
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5771

Looking for a Chavrusah?

Just One More!
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5756

Framed Symbols Part II
Rabbi Aron Tendler - 5765

Judging the Day of Judgement
Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann - 5764

Frumster - Orthodox Jewish Dating

Repentance or Excuse?
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5761

Inspiration - On the Spur of the Moment
Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann - 5763

This Time, Let's Do It Right
Rabbi Yaakov Menken - 5764

Heard but not Seen
Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky - 5762



Project Genesis

Torah.org Home


Torah Portion

Jewish Law

Ethics

Texts

Learn the Basics

Seasons

Features

TORAHAUDIO

Ask The Rabbi

Knowledge Base




Help

About Us

Contact Us



Free Book on Geulah!




Torah.org Home
Torah.org HomeCapalon.com Copyright Information