CCAR Newsletter January/February 2018 - 4
Voices of Torah
...Take for Me offerings from every person whose heart is so moved. (Exodus 25:2)
Torah is light on law until we come to
Parashat Mishpatim, which deluges
us with mitzvot chukim u'mishpatim,
including the ever-confounding lex
talionis: Eye for eye, tooth for tooth,
hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for
burn, wound for wound, bruise for
bruise (Exodus 21:24-25). While we
are accustomed to explaining that
since ancient times Jewish courts have
rejected a literal interpretation in favor
of monetary restitution, a question
remains: Whose eye, tooth, hand, or
Talmud calculates payment through
valuation of the victim as if a slave: the
difference of the victim's value prior to
the injury and after determines what
the offender owes the victim.
There is, however, an interesting
dissenting opinion expressed in a
baraita on Bava Kama 84a: "R.
Eliezer said: 'Eye for eye' should be
interpreted literally. Could it enter your
mind [that Torah intends] an actual
eye? Doesn't R. Eliezer [agree with] the
Tannaim?" Yes, Rav Ashi assures us,
R. Eliezer concurs regarding monetary
compensation, but holds that the
offender does not pay the value of the
victim's eye; rather he pays a ransom
based on the value of his own eye.
What is at stake in the difference?
As the two stories that follow in the
Gemara illustrate, valuation based on
slavery is demeaning. We might add,
as well, that the offender will likely
value his own limbs more highly than
those of others-whether or not a slave
trader or buyer would-and therefore
more readily appreciate the need for
Does intention matter in the performance of rituals? Is it sufficient to do as prescribed, or must our hearts
and minds be aligned with the rite observed? The Rabbis vacillate on this issue, sometimes inclining toward
validation through proper performance and other times emphasizing intention.
Midrash Tanchuma comments: "They fashioned with [the surplus offerings] the hammered gold overlay for
the Holy of Holies. You find that the Holy One of Blessing chose two offerings [t'rumot]: the offering for the
building of the Mishkan and the priestly offering. The priestly offering [was given to them] so they would
become students of Torah. R. Yannai said, 'Any priest who is not a student of Torah, it is permitted to eat it on
R. Yannai's disdain for an unlearned priest is palpable: Without Torah learning, he likely did not collect it
properly and does not know it must be eaten in a state of taharah; hence it is not truly t'rumah and therefore
others may eat it in a cemetery-on his very grave! Without Torah learning, the priest cannot be trusted to
take the offering for God ("for Me"). Knowledge is needed for intentionality, and intentionality is needed for
t'rumah to be consumed properly.
The Isbitza Rebbe, in Mei HaShiloach, goes further, commenting that "the t'rumah never had any k'dushah as
far as [the unlearned kohein] was concerned...that is, the entire greatness of the k'dushah of t'rumah is if it is
separated for the sake of heaven." Holiness requires intentionality.
The Torah says: This is the daily offering, forever, at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting, before God (Exodus
29:42). It is told that a Chasid was pouring out his troubles before Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel of Apt.
At the end of their conversation the rebbe said to the Chasid, "You should know that an even greater tragedy
than all that has befallen you occurred today; the daily sacrifice was not offered because our Temple lies in
Superficially this meise may indicate a lack of compassion on the part of the rebbe. However, if we listen to
the response from the standpoint of the two characters in the story, we discover that the rebbe spoke words of
comfort. In Kabbalah, the suffering of the individual Jew is a reflection of the suffering of the Jewish people,
which in turn is a reflection of the suffering of God, who is exiled from the Shechinah. The cosmic dimension
of individual suffering lends it meaning.
How good can we expect things to be when Israel is in exile from our land and the Shechinah is in exile from
the godhead? Our sufferings, when we respond rightly, help to bring closer the messianic age of redemption.
Kabbalah helps us see the connecting threads that bind the individual, the social, and the cosmic levels of
being. Our responses to suffering today often focus on the individual. The Apter Rebbe teaches us a path
to consolation by reaching beyond ourselves, one readily recognizable in organ donations from victims of
tragedy. In our pastoral work, as we show personal concern, we may also help to lift up the disconsolate by
reconnecting them to the wider world.
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of CCAR Newsletter January/February 2018
CCAR Newsletter January/February 2018 - 1
CCAR Newsletter January/February 2018 - 2
CCAR Newsletter January/February 2018 - 3
CCAR Newsletter January/February 2018 - 4
CCAR Newsletter January/February 2018 - 5
CCAR Newsletter January/February 2018 - 6
CCAR Newsletter January/February 2018 - 7
CCAR Newsletter January/February 2018 - 8
CCAR Newsletter January/February 2018 - 9
CCAR Newsletter January/February 2018 - 10
CCAR Newsletter January/February 2018 - 11
CCAR Newsletter January/February 2018 - 12