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Parshas Emor - An Eye For An Eye

By BJLife/Reb Dovid Fink

Posted on 05/16/19

Parshas HaShavua Divrei Torah sponsored by
Dr. Shapsy Tajerstein, DPM - Podiatry Care.
(410) 788-6633

At the end of Parshas Emor, the Torah conveys the tragic story of the “Ben Ish Mitzri”, the son of a Jewish woman, Shulamis Bas Divri from Shevet Dan and an unnamed Mitzri father.  The Mepharshim fill in many of the blanks related to the history involved here. (who was his father, why he harbored such anger, etc.) Irrespective of those issues, the narrative in the Psukim leaves us a little perplexed.  Rashi tells us that this individual attempted to set up his tent and claim a Chelek within the camp of Shevet Dan – the Shevet of his mother.  When he was made to feel unwelcome there he brought his complaint to Moshe Rabeinu – “I’m a Jew by virtue of my mother, yet Chalakim are being given out only by paternal lineage.  I have no Chelek.”  His complaint left him enraged and he ultimately cursed Hashem.  The Torah then tells us that Moshe asked Hashem what the punishment was for someone who curses Hashem.  Hashem informed Moshe that the punishment was Skila


Immediately thereafter, the Torah launches into a seven Pasuk interruption with various laws that seemingly have nothing to do with our story.  A Pasuk reaffirming the death penalty for one that commits murder, another telling us that a person must pay monetary damages for killing his friend’s animal, a Pasuk enunciating the principal of an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, etc.  Finally, after these laws are given the Torah returns to the Ben Ish Mitzri and tells us that Moshe related Hashem’s Tziva and they took him outside the camp and stoned him.  Why does the Torah interrupt this story with these laws?  Why do we have the Tziva given to Moshe Rabeinu first and only after these other laws does Moshe communicate them to Bnei Yisroel at which time they carry out the sentence?


It appears that Hashem and Moshe went to great efforts to insure that this punishment did not appear to simply be a matter of totalitarianism. Indeed, some of the Mepharshim explain that Moshe was keenly sensitive to this issue since the father of this person was the very Mitzri that Moshe had killed in Mitzrayim.  Hence, Moshe sought the decree from Hashem even though he already knew the penalty.  So to Hashem did not want the punishment to appear as a simple divine decree designed to punish someone who dared to curse Hashem.  Accordingly, the Torah breaks from the story to explain in painstaking detail that all punishments in the Torah are Midah K’neged Midah.  Only after explaining that monetary damages are charged for causing one a monetary loss, killing incurs death and an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth are spelled out does the Torah return to our narrative and tell us that Bnei Yisroel took the Ben Ish Mitzri out and stoned him.  With the understanding that all Torah punishments are designed to fit the crime, it was easy to comprehend how cursing Hashem, who gives you life, could incur no other punishment.


By intersplicing these laws into the story of the Ben Ish Mitzri, the Torah provided the perfect framework for stating the principal of Mishpat Echad Yehiye Lachem.