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May 17, 1991 - Image 53

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1991-05-17

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

LEGS UP
ON THE
COMPETITION

Men's

as unworthy of man. Yet the
New Testament records
Jesus saying, "But the one
who disowns me in the pres-
ence of men, I will disown in
the presence of my Father in
heaven" (Matthew 10:33). In
other words, Jesus seems to
advocate treating others as
they have treated him; a
standard of justice that is
perfectly commensurate
with the demand of "an eye
for an eye."
In the time of the Talmud,
"an eye for an eye" was not
carried out literally, and Or-
thodox Jewish scholars
teach that it was never prac-
ticed. The Talmud's rabbis
feared that the very process
of removing the perpetra-
tor's eye might kill him as
well, and that, of course,
would be forbidden (Bava
Kamma 84a). "An eye for an
eye" was therefore under-
stood as requiring monetary
compensation equivalent to
the value of an eye. The
same understanding was
applied to almost all the
other punishments enu-
merated in the same biblical
verse, "a tooth for a tooth, a
wound for a wound."
The only punishment in
this set that was not con-
verted to a monetary fine
was capital punishment for
murderers, "a life for a life."
Because the Torah believed
that premeditated murder

deserved the death penalty,
there was obviously no fear
of punishing the killer ex-
cessively. Jewish law did
dictate, however, that mur-
derers be executed in the
quickest manner possible.
Hence, later Jewish law for-
bade the Roman punishment
of crucifixion.
Torah law also forbade
remitting a murderer's sen-
tence with a monetary fine.
Life and money, according
to the biblical ethic, are in-
commensurate; one can nev-
er atone for murder by pay-
ing money. In this regard,
too, Torah law differed from
the laws of the ancient Jews'
neighbors, which would
sometimes fine those who
had murdered people belong-
ing to a lower social class
and which made certain
property crimes (for exam-
ple, looting at a fire) capital
offenses.

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In Jewish law, property
crimes could never be pun-
ished with death, and mur-
derers could never be let off
with payment of money,
even if the family of the vic-
tim was willing to accept it
Both in its insistence that
evil must be punished and in
its equal insistence on set-
ting limits to that punish-
ment, "an eye for an eye" is
a basic principle of biblical
justice. ❑

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The rabbi, whose previous
books include Jewish
philosophy and several
mysteries, said his passions
came through in this book,
though he tried to be fair.
He cites as examples his
chapter on Reconstruc-
tionist Judaism, which he is
critical of, and the Bar
Kochba revolution, which he

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An Antidote For
Jewish Ignorance

Most Jews can tell you the
three components of the
Trinity but have a much
more difficult time explain-
ing mitzvot, according to
Joseph Telushkin
Rabbi Telushkin writes in
the introduction of his new
book, Jewish Literacy, that
"at a time when Jewish life
in the United States is flour-
ishing, Jewish ignorance is,
too."
He said he spent the last
several years compiling the
346 short chapters of his
book, ranging from the Bible
and Jewish history to Zio-
nism and Jewish beliefs, to
"provide a source of basic
information about Judaism
and Jewish life."

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Jewish life.
The rabbi said there is
more than enough material
for a sequel to his en-
cyclopedic tome but he is
now working on a new,
lighter book on the 100 best
Jewish jokes and what they
tell us about Jews. ❑
Gary Rosenblatt

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Congress, believes world
Jewry must focus all of its
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Soviet Union and Ethiopia.
The main task of Jewish
communities around the
world is helping the immi-
grants, Mr. Kahn said.

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THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

53

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