Sharing Torah Insights

Mishpatim- An Eye for an Eye

Posted on כ״ד בשבט ה׳תשע״ב (February 17, 2012) | in Mishpatim, Uncategorized | by

“An Eye for an eye…”

Rashi explains that if one impales another person’s eye, one must pay that person the worth of his eye. [The worth one must pay depends on the worth of the injured person (with his eye) if he were sold in the marketplace.]

So why does the Torah employ the literal phraseology of “an eye for an eye” when it could have said “And you shall pay him (the worth of the eye)” -?

The Chazon Ish explains that the point of the Torah’s punishments lie not always in their actual form but rather in its message. The Gemara says that a “murderous court” is one that puts someone to death every 7 years, or alternatively, every 70 years. With all the laws discussed in the Gemara about the 4 types of capital punishment, one would think that a court would employ them regularly. However, in actuality there are several stipulations for putting someone to death making it highly unlikely that it should happen often. The message of the Torah though still remains- the severity of killing someone else and the subsequent possible punishments for doing so should dissuade the would be murderer from carrying forth his crime.

So too here, the Torah wants to show that really this person that impaled another should have to give up his own eye. That is how serious his crime was.

The Rav explained similarly but added a point. He said that if the Torah said “money for the eye” or the “worth of an eye” it would have diminished the true worth of an eye. An eye is not something that can be monetarily replaced- it is not truly worth $500 or $2000, etc- a notion that one might have took from the phrasing of “money for an eye”.. Therefore it writes that one person’s eye can really only be valued at the worth of his fellow man’s eye.

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