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Sunday, 8 March 2015

An Eye for an Eye

Daf Yomi Kesubos 32

For over a thousand years, the Karaites would ridicule the Orthodox Jewish community and our understanding of the Torah dictum ‘an eye for an eye’.   We always maintained that the Torah demanded monetary compensation for damages inflicted upon another person’s body, whereas the Karaites interpreted the verse literally.

Until the eighteenth century when the Gaon of Vilna came along and explained the verse.  It doesn’t say ayin l’ayin, which would mean ‘an eye for an eye,’ explained the Gaon.  It says “ayin tachas ayin.”  Tachas means ‘beneath.’  Take the three letters beneath the letters in ayin and the riddle of the Torah’s meaning is solved.  The letters beneath ayin, yud, and nun, are pey, kaf, and samech, which spell kesef meaning money!  In other words, the Torah always intended monetary compensation for physical damages. 

If so, why did the Torah not just state that clearly?  Why hide the law in code and confuse everyone?

The Torah declares, “If a man wounds his neighbour; as he has done, so shall it be done to him. A breach for a breach, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth; as he has wounded a man, so shall it be given unto him.”
The Gemara asks: The verse states, “as he has done, so shall it be done to him.” Why then does it restate, “so shall it be given unto him”?
The Gemara answers: It refers to something that involves giving.  What is that?  Money. 

Our Sages explain that although one ends up paying financial compensation for inflicting bodily damage, the reason the Torah uses the harsh language ‘an eye for an eye’ is that one should understand what he truly deserves.  Really, you should have had your eye poked out.  But the Almighty, in His great mercy, offers a special dispensation by allowing as to make retribution monetarily. 

And this is how G-d treats us throughout our lives.  He loves us like a Father and despite all our shortcomings and failures, He never exacts the retribution we truly deserve.  Instead of getting angry with Him when things don’t go your way, you should be thanking Him for providing you with a wake-up call to strengthen your relationship with Him!  


Your Father in Heaven loves you dearly.  Even when things don’t go the way you wanted.  Sometimes, it’s His way of reminding you that He is there watching.  May you merit the awareness to tune in to His messages and utilize every opportunity to strengthen and deepen your relationship with Him!