Thursday, October 1, 2009

An eye for an eye: Commentaries on today's application

On my trip to Canada, a Jew was seated beside me on the airplane to Montreal. I was delighted to see him take out a book with Hebrew writings on the cover. Later he took out his skull cap. It felt good to have a man of the book beside me.

I later asked him if what he was reading was the Torah. He told me that it was part of the Talmud. This lead to us having a conversation about the Talmud and how it differs from the Torah.

My Jewish friend then told me that the Torah is the Bible, at least the Old Testament part thereof. He stated that the Talmud came after and was the explanation of the words of Torah.

The Torah according to the Jew was very general. The Talmud on the other hand, is very specific and speaks to the application of Torah to life.

In explaining or illustrating this point, the Jew referred to the command eye for eye (Exodus 21:24) saying that that is not to be taken literally.
I said "really? I thought it was literally."

Then he explained that the principles there spoke to determining or evaluating the damage that a person causes to another, and attempting to attach a price to or on that damage that someone did to another. Thus he argues that what the Bible advocates here is principles for the valuation of justice. Based on this view, the Jew made it seem s if this law applied to Judges in a court of law.

Regarding my discussion with the Jew, what came home to me from his talk was that we who are imitators of Christ, must always take responsibility where we have wronged someone and seek to make a judgement about how much we must compensate the person for the wrongs that we have done them.

Also, Jesus in his commentary on the passage, declares that we must not go to court to get justice, nor look to man or judges to give us justice. Even if the person has wronged us and has an obligation to compensate us, we must not look to them for that compensation, but rather be willing to forgive the person and be as God the Father, who is ever willing to have mercy on those who have wronged him, even when they have not given him what he is due.

(See: Matthew 5:38-48)

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