This week’s Torah portion, Emor, includes a section that is disturbing to me. So often, our text paints our ancestors/Biblical characters – and God – in ways we can’t imagine, and in ways we would never behave. So, we dissect the text, interpret, and find some lesson moving forward. I believe there is truth to be found in our Bible: it is holy.
Briefly, the story is about a fight between two men, one who ends up cursing God. The punishment for his crime is death by the hands of his neighbors, and the story leads into the famous passage “an eye for an eye.”
Just today, I read a blog that finds meaning from this text, an interpretation that is so relevant for us and the world in which we find ourselves. He gave me permission to share it.
Beruriah and Restorative Justice by Duncan McCullough, from his blog eish zarah
I think quite a bit lately about Beruriah and how she gently chided her husband, the renowned Rabbi Meir. When he angrily prayed g-d get rid of some wicked people, she reminded that the line from Psalm 104:36 should be translated “May sins disappear from the earth.” Not sinners, but sins.
It’s become an infuriating phrase “Hate the sin not the sinner,” because those that say it clearly hate so many people. But the true root of that translation stands firm. When the sin, the inequality, the iniquity, is gone … The ‘sinner’ is gone too. Now they’re just another human, not a construct of “bad.”
When I think of restorative justice, I dwell on Beruriah’s words. Retribution won’t stop the system because the system is built on retribution. To truly create a better world, to create the possibility of olam haba, is to try to remove those systemic blocks that cause us all injury.