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Mishpatim, Prayer Breakfasts and Moral Clarity

Mahatma Ghandi famously said: “An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.”

Ghandi’s life was of course the living embodiment of the pacifist tradition. He preached against taking up arms and called others to turn away from seeking the revenge that the Torah’s words imply. Ghandi, and the vast majority of commentators, however misunderstand the Bible’s intent.

This week’s portion states: “But if other damage ensues, the penalty shall be life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.” (Exodus 21:23)

Scholars suggest that an eye for an eye is a poetic way of expressing the idea, also enshrined in American law, that the punishment must fit the crime....