Few passages in the Bible have generated more controversy than the principle of lex talionis, the law of compensation (‘An eye for an eye’). Rabbi Jacobs, in this shiur (traditional lecture), even asserts that no passage has been more misunderstood.
Jacobs outlines the role the lex talionis has played in rabbinical literature and Jewish-Christian polemics. He starts by comparing the passages in Leviticus 24: 17-22 and Exodus 21: 22-25, in which the principle appears, and examines them both within their original context and following later interpretations. Drawing on Benno Jacob, Ahad Ha’am’s attack on Claude Montefiore, and medieval commentators such as Nahmanides, he unpacks the numerous misconceptions which surround the concept and offers some helpful clarifications. In doing so, Jacobs touches on a wide range of subjects, including the halakhic category of rodef; the distinction between the ger toshav and the ger tsedek; abortion in Jewish law; and more. A fascinating lecture!