Imagine if, every time you hurt someone, that same injury would be inflicted upon you as punishment. It may make mathematical, symmetrical sense but doesn’t it seem cruel? You knock out someone’s tooth in a fight, and your tooth gets automatically pulled out in retribution. It sounds barbaric – like something out of the Middle Ages (or the Middle East).
But isn’t it exactly what the Torah proscribes when it says, An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth?
Is this to be taken literally? If yes, how is that humane? If not, how come it’s written that way?
To find an answer, let us explore a fascinating Talmudic decision, anchored by Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, the author of the Zohar, whose passing we will commemorate this coming Thursday on Lag B’Omer.
Let us also examine an ingenious teaching of the Vilna Gaon, the Genius of Vilna. As well, let us take a look at the mystical explanation of the monumental 13th century Italian rabbi, known as the Recanti.
This is how our eyes shall be opened. For we must read an eye for an eye as “an I for an I.”