The God of the Jews is a cruel and vindictive God they say. The “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth” lex talionus phrase appears in this week’s Torah portion. Cut off the hand of the thief. A life for a life. There are no exceptions. Some think this phrase is a mere adoption of Hammurabi’s Code. Others think it is a barbaric form of strict retribution. Detractors of the Jews look at the phrase to prove that the God of the Jews and the “old law” asked for strict and merciless justice, not the love of the “new” way. The reality of the Torah is far from that. Strict retribution in kind is not and has never been the way of the Jews. An “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth” has always and only meant that money damages shall be fully compensatory. In reality, it is a proof of the great sense of justice that God brought through the Jewish people to the world. It is also proof that the Torah alone, the written Torah, works hand in glove with the Oral Torah, the Mishnah, to provide full clarity of purpose. We are a people and faith of mercy . Let no person argue to the contrary. Our God stands for love, not just for the Jews, but for all mankind, and it is our purpose as Jews to be emissaries of God’s love.
This Shabbat, we learn with Ruth Bergman, an outstanding scholar and excellent teacher. It is part of Adat Shalom’s SYNergy weekend. 10:00 a.m. Come as you are. Stay as long as you like.
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