634 people have raised nearly $30,000 in 4 days to bail out Mama's tomorrow, including upwards of $2,500 from the KT community. WOW! The hesed, the flow of generosity on KTDiscuss has been a joyful pulse to my week. It has felt like a cascading affirmation of our shared humanity.
At the end of this week's Torah portion, Emor, we arrive at a list of injuries and their parallel punishments, famously known as an "eye for an eye" [Lev. 24:20]. This system is referred to as Lex Talionis, or the Law of Retaliation, and was core to biblical law. It was also fodder for the rabbinic imagination. In what I experience as one of the rabbi's boldest moves, they declare that an "eye for an eye" actually means "monetary compensation." They too were interested in questions of justice and dignity. Ultimately they shifted the model from retributive justice to restorative justice, hinging much of their reasoning on this mishnah which articulates 5 impacts of harm: damages, pain, healthcare, unemployment, and shame.
Now whether or not money feels like a good source of reparations for an injury is less interesting to me. What I am more interested in is the agency they felt to directly reinterpret the literal (and frankly obvious!) meaning of Torah because they felt it was unjust. It is a powerful lesson for me that sometimes Torah pushes us to be our best selves and sometimes we push Torah to really embody justice. This is at the heart of torat hayyim, this living wisdom. It is a resource and a reference point. It is meant to be in conversation with our lived experiences and to affirm our shared humanity. It is meant to evolve and so are we.
All are invited to services tonight. As part of our continued exploration of prayer leadership, I am grateful that three different Kol Tzedek folks will be sharing song and Torah, Amit Schwalb, Sam Shain, and Leah Staub.
Happy Mama's Day to all who celebrate. To paraphrase the prophet Malachi, may the hearts of parents and children everywhere turn towards one another.
Wishing everyone a Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Ari Lev
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Rabbi Ari Lev Fornari brings Torat Hayyim, a living tradition, to Kol Tzedek through thoughts about prayer, justice, and community.