Sedra of the week: Emor
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Sedra of the week: Emor

Rabbi Zvi Solomons looks ahead to this week's portion of the Torah

This week’s Torah portion of Emor is full of material suitable for sermons. On this occasion, I have chosen to focus on one very short passage, which comes towards the end of the parsha and deals with the matter of compensation. 

Unfortunately, it has also been used as a kind of stick with which to beat our religion and our traditions.

Appearing in Leviticus chapter 24:19, we read: “And if a man maim his neighbour, as he hath done, so shall it be done to him: breach for breach, eye for eye, tooth for tooth; as he hath maimed a man, so shall it be rendered unto him.” 

This is what our enemies harp on about. The antisemitic claim is that Jews are primitive, barbaric and vengeful, that retaliation is the basis of our law.

In fact, the Torah teaches us that we give monetary compensation. 

Lex talionis – the law of retaliation developed in early Babylonian law – is nonsense. In Exodus and Deuteronomy, we are given several examples of monetary compensation for torts and injury.

Indeed, ours is the first legal system to do this. Under Hamirabi’s Babylonian code however, a person could literally poke out another’s eye in satisfaction for the wrong done to him.

Judaism worships a loving God, our Father in Heaven, who expects us to obey His Law (Torah) and not to desecrate his name by our actions. 

By keeping within the rule of law and not taking vengeance, we sanctify His name.

Zvi Solomons is rabbi of JCoB, the Jewish Community of Berkshire in Reading

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