[Avodah] "An eye for and eye," etc.

Zvi Lampel zvilampel at gmail.com
Tue Feb 20 11:17:46 PST 2024

Avodah readers are of course aware that the Talmud (Bava Kamma 8:1, 28a, )
states that the actual consequence for physically damaging someone is a
monetary fine, and the Rambam writes that historically Bes Din never ruled

Rav Yitzchak Isaac Halevy in Doros HaRishonim (II:16, p. 426ff.) strongly
maintains that it is not that the translation of the phrase is monetary
compensation. The phrase actually means that Bes Din should afflict the
same wound upon the perpetrator with which he afflicted the victim.
However, he explains, the Torah considers it understood that monetary
payment is always an alternative, except when it's not, and that is why the
Torah specifies in some cases (e.g. murder) that "kofer" is not an
alternative. He notes that the Targum translates the phrase literally. Rav
Saadia Gaon's Tafsir does so as well.

This is indeed one of the explanations offered in the Gemara. Oddly,
though, Rav Halevy energetically labels the other approach as a mistake. I
say oddly, because the Gemara offers several explanations that to my mind
follow the other approach of reconsidering the meaning of the words as well.

I'm aware that the issue of how to relate the halacha of monetary
compensation to the words of the posuk "ayin tachas ayin" has been
discussed in the past, such as here:


--but I think this Doros HaRishonim is an interesting new data point.

Zvi Lampel
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