Exodus 21:14 – From My Alter
Exodus 21:24 – Tooth for Tooth
Exodus 21:19 – Doctors’ Bills
Exodus 23:19 – Milk and Meat
Deuteronomy 12:21 – How To....
Everyone has favorite Torah passages and teachings. Feel free to submit yours, for publication. Here, in no particular order, are five particularly good ones:
From My Altar
REGARDING the suspected murderers of Exodus 21:14:
“You! You shall take him from My altar. . . .”
Even if the suspected murderer is the High Priest of Israel; even if he’s officiating at solemn Temple services, take him anyway!
His status, job and title don’t shield him from the law – from criminal prosecution and legal due process.
Tooth for Tooth
REGARDING "Eye for eye, tooth for tooth,” of Exodus 21:24:
This is the famous – or infamous, when people ferplutz it and get it ridiculously wrong – lex talionis, as the Romans called it: the “law of retaliation.”
1) Whether a beggar or slave or a rich and royal personage, one is no better than another when it comes to justice. Everyone must be treated equally.
2) Not two eyes for an eye and not no eyes for an eye, but one for one.
In fact, nobody's thinking about plucking out real teeth or eyes. This is just a vivid evocation of the principle of exactingly proportional justice; it's shorthand, in this case, for full payment and fair treatment, in this case, in damages – the body parts’ equivalents in terms of monetary damages.
The Oral Torah makes this requirement absolutely crystal clear but so does the Written Torah in Leviticus 24:18,21.
God wants us - He repeatedly and emphatically commands us -to do justice. This is the law of just, proportional, fair compensation, with due process and equal treatment for everyone.
Once you get into a chapter of Torah, like now, it gets hard to leave it. As in this case, Exodus 21:19:
“And if men contend . . .” and one is injured, he that hurt him “shall pay for the loss of his time and shall cause him to be thoroughly healed.”
This passage, the heart and soul of modern personal injury law, is, incidentally, the oldest, fairest and most impactful law known to history that requires the payment of doctors’ bills.
Milk and Meat
Some people think it’s odd that the God of Eternity should care at all about what people put into their stomachs. Nevertheless, it’s absolutely certain that He does. That is vividly clear in the Seven Noahide Commandments – don’t eat a limb torn from a living animal – and many statutes in the Torah itself. This Divine command, below, comes up no less than three times, in Exodus 23:19, 34:26, and in Deuteronomy 14:21):
“You! You shall not cook a kid [a young sheep or goat or calf] in its mother’s milk.”
So, for sure, this is something very important to God. Yet it’s a law that binds only Israel – the Jewish People. Jews are legally obligated to keep this Commandment and Noahides are not. But Noahides who consciously serve the Lord, the God of Israel - God - can learn from it, if they choose, to study what God likes from those who serve Him. Noahides might find that they want to take it up, even thought they're not under any legal obligation. They may follow it if they choose.
Probably, judging from the Torah's general drift and tenor, they’re supposed to.
Milk is the symbol of a mother’s love. Does God’s gift to homo sapiens of dominion – stewardship – over Earth extend so far that we should feel comfortable taking for our own use a subject species’ mothers’ milk, her love, away from her species and her calf? And then, if that weren't enough, eating it somehow intermixed with some animal mother's child's butcher-slaughtered flesh?
Bottom line? We don’t know the entire or exact reason for this law. It’s one of the mysterious statutes – chukim, “engraved laws” – we spoke of in the last issue. We accept them as commands - recognizing that they have something to do with making us more God-conscious, and the world a better place. But this one seems designed to teach us empathy and respect for the animals that are subject to us, our non-human fellow creatures, who serve us.
How to. . .
Beyond how we eat them, the Creator of all things cares about the welfare of animals. That is, not just how we human beings treat them but for the animals themselves.
All of us, His creatures, fit into a continuum of life. In the Book of Jonah, God directly expresses His concern not just for Nineveh's people but for the animals, too (Jonah 4:11).
When the Christian apostle Paul (Saul) addresses the Torah commandment, “Do not muzzle the ox when it treads out the grain” (Deuteronomy 25:4), he asks sarcastically, “Is it for oxen that God cares?” (1 Corinthians 9:9). “Yes!” you want to scream. “Read your Bible!”
Another teaching for Noahides, if they choose (evidently they’re supposed to): the Jews are commanded to give their animals a break, a day off, on the Sabbath. God repeats this twice in the Torah, both times within the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:4, Deuteronomy 5:14)!
“A righteous person regards the soul of his beast” (Proverbs 12:10) Along these lines, the (Oral) Torah teaches the Jews to feed their animals before they themselves eat (Talmud, Berachot 40).
Finally, here's our favorite thing here: Moses teaches Israel a method of slaughter: “You may eat meat. . . as I have commanded you” - Deuteronomy 12:21. That is, ‘as I, Moses, have instructed you, by means of show and tell.’
This is a "How To law" even as it communicates the nature and importance of the Oral Torah. Yes, it's true that the black-letter Torah directs what to do about the blood, after the cutting, but it doesn't address in any way at all how to make the cut.
Without the Oral Torah, including precise technical knowledge that had to be communicated person-to-person, orally and visually, Israel wouldn’t be able to eat meat!
Finally, in the news these days - in current affairs - people have been defaming kosher slaughter. A few words must be said:
It's a plain fact that kosher slaughter causes an immediate loss of blood pressure, and instantaneous unconsciousness in the animal. Experts believe it causes no more pain than a mosquito bite.
You might think national legislatures and governmental bodies would choose problems to address with legislative policy. You'd be wrong. Belgium was the latest country - joining the Scandinavian countries - banning kosher slaughter, making it a crime, like the Nazis did, in the name of kindness to animals!
From this we might reasonably deduce
that the world is still a pretty dark place, with some ways to go till Redemption.
And God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them.
- Genesis 1:27