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Showing posts from May, 2018

Working Towards Socio-Economic Harmony - Parashat Behar - Bechukosai 5778 - May 11, 2018

The first of this week’s double parasha is Parashat BeHar which introduces the institution of shemita – the seventh year of a seven year cycle. The laws of shemita touch two areas of life: karka (agriculture) and kesafim (money).   From an agricultural perspective, shemita demands that we allow our land to remain fallow. Planting, commercial harvesting and tilling the soil are all prohibited. People are permitted to harvest from other’s fields for personal use. These laws apply only to the land of Israel and are in force even today. From a monetary perspective, shemita demands that we cancel loans. These laws apply today even outside of the land of Israel.
What messages should one take away from experiencing a shemita? What enduring understandings does the Torah teach through the laws of shemita?
The most obvious understanding that shemita conveys derives from its comparison to Shabbat. The Torah calls shemita a Shabbat for the land. Shabbat occurs every seventh day – shemita occurs ever…

Monetary Compensation for an Eye - Parashat Emor 5778 - May 5, 2018

This week’s parasha, Emor, presents the well-known and oft-quoted dictum, ayin tachat ayin, an eye in place of an eye. Taken in isolation, the literal meaning of this phrase is clear – the punishment for poking out another’s eye is the loss of the perpetrator’s eye. We all know, however, that our mesorah teaches that the punishment for poking out another’s eye is monetary payment for the loss. The Rambam writes that in the history of the Jewish People there has never been an authorized Jewish court that has poked out a perpetrator’s eye for damaging another’s eye.

While this interpretation of ayin tachat ayin is uniformly accepted, our chachamim struggle with the question of why the Torah writes “an eye in place of an eye”, if, in fact, the Torah intends monetary payment. One suggestion offered in the gemara in Masechet Bava Kamma is that, when interpreted literally, an “eye for an eye” would lead to inequity in punishments – perpetrators with two healthy eyes will lose an eye but bli…