In Defence of "Eye for an Eye"

Approaches to Morality and Law

The principle of talion, or "eye for an eye," is usually invoked to describe the brutality of biblical law (and ancient law in general). However, something astonishing happens in the Rabbinic laws of personal injury: the punishment has transformed into money instead of retaliation. How are we supposed to understand this transformation? We will look at the explanations in the Talmud Bavli on interpreting this biblical law metaphorically, and in the process reevaluate our original assumptions about the biblical texts.

Recorded live at the Global Day of Jewish Learning, November 20, 2016. Jeremy Tabick represented Kehilat Hadar.