In Lev 24 we read the phrase "an eye for an eye." The talmud teaches (in Bava Kamma and Ketubot) that this refers to monetary value. Is there any source which criticizes a literal reading?

More than just asserting that money is the point, is there any commentator who outright attacks the opinion that the restitution is literal?

  • 3
    For reference, this phrase appears in Shemos 21:24, Vayikra 24:20, and Devarim 19:21. The main Gemara is in Bava Kama 84a, where it expounds all three of these pesukim in several different lines of thought that all lead to the same conclusion; Kesuvos 32b and 38a both quote either the conclusion or an exposition from the Gemara in Bava Kama. – DonielF May 15 '18 at 11:39
  • I think the Rambam speaks very strongly about this – Double AA May 15 '18 at 14:28
  • +1 but is the title of your question really aligned with the question itself? – mbloch May 16 '18 at 7:00

As alluded to by DoubleAA, the Rambam writes (Hovel uMazik 1:3)

The Torah's statement Leviticus 24:20: "[eye for eye ...] Just as he caused an injury to his fellowman, so too, an injury should be caused to him," should not be interpreted in a literal sense. It does not mean that the person who caused the injury should actually be subjected to a similar physical punishment. Instead, the intent is that he deserves to lose a limb or to be injured in the same manner as his colleague was, and therefore he should make financial restitution to him.

then goes to explain it from different verses. He continues in 1:6

Although these interpretations are obvious from the study of the Written Law, and they are explicitly mentioned in the Oral Tradition transmitted by Moses from Mount Sinai, they are all regarded as halachot from Moses. This is what our ancestors saw in the court of Joshua and in the court of Samuel of Ramah, and in every single Jewish court that has functioned from the days of Moses our teacher until the present age.

The Rambam then goes and describes the five payments made by someone who injures his fellow: pain, unemployment, medical expenses, unemployment and damages.

  • Notably, in Moreh Nevuchim when he explains the reasons for mitzvos, he explains "an eye for an eye" in accordance with the literal meaning. – Alex May 16 '18 at 13:25

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .