Do not kill.
וְאַ֨ךְ אֶת־דִּמְכֶ֤ם לְנַפְשֹֽׁתֵיכֶם֙ אֶדְרֹ֔שׁ מִיַּ֥ד כָּל־חַיָּ֖ה אֶדְרְשֶׁ֑נּוּ וּמִיַּ֣ד הָֽאָדָ֗ם מִיַּד֙ אִ֣ישׁ אָחִ֔יו אֶדְרֹ֖שׁ אֶת־נֶ֥פֶשׁ הָֽאָדָֽם׃
But for your own life-blood I will require a reckoning: I will require it of every beast; of man, too, will I require a reckoning for human life, of every man for that of his fellow man!
שֹׁפֵךְ֙ דַּ֣ם הָֽאָדָ֔ם בָּֽאָדָ֖ם דָּמ֣וֹ יִשָּׁפֵ֑ךְ כִּ֚י בְּצֶ֣לֶם אֱלֹהִ֔ים עָשָׂ֖ה אֶת־הָאָדָֽם׃
Whoever sheds the blood of man, By man shall his blood be shed; For in His image Did God make man.
Be fertile, then, and increase; abound on the earth and increase on it.”
Both Onkelos and Rashi explain these verses as a statement from Hashem that He will impose justice on a person who killed another person in a situation where a Bays Din is unable (due to insufficient witnesses or other halachic restrictions) to sentence the killer to death. In the second verse there is a commandment to bring the killer to justice and sentence him to death. Only a Bais Din, a Chalachic court with an unbroken chain of Smicha – can sentence a person or persons to death. This is the interpretation of Onkelos and Rashi.
Rabeinu Bahya writes: “The Torah continues ומיד האדם, “and from the human being, etc.” This refers to instances where there are witnesses to the murder. In other words: man must judge murder when there are witnesses, whereas G-d will judge the murderer when there is no evidence which is admissible in a human tribunal.” “שופך דם האדם באדם דמו ישפך” when someone spills the blood of a human being his own blood is to be spilled by a human being.” The word באדם, means: “before a human tribunal.” There have to be witnesses who can testify. If so, the guilty person is subject to execution. This is also the thrust of the Targum’s translation: דישוד דמא דאינשא בסהדין על מימר דיינא דמיה יתשד, Onkelos clearly translates the word באדם as “in the presence of witnesses.”
Radak: “ ומיד האדם, if man kills man, G’d reserves the right to exact retribution from him either in this life or in the hereafter.”
Chizkiuni explains why the punishment for killing a person should be done by the court: “ עשה את האדם, He appointed man on earth to be judge so that fellow man would be deterred from committing sins and crimes.”
Rav Miller also points to the necessity of action from the human court “because failure to react to a sin causes one to became apathetic to sin.”
Even a human corpse has an aspect of Divine image but only a living person is close to G-d in his/her potential. When this potential is made impossible by the action of another man, that man also loses completely his Tzeilem Elokim – resemblance to G-d. See Sfrono: “It is this “divine attribute” of man that makes him sufficiently important for his Creator to demand an accounting from those who destroy that divine image by killing a human being.”
Ramban quotes the Sages from Buve Kamma 91b that a person who commits suicide is also accountable for murder as he ends that potential given to him/her. See also Bechor Shor.
The consequence of this act is obviously not physical death. Chizkiuni on this topic: “The passage is intended as an answer to people who deny that G-d operates vis a vis man through a system of reward and punishment, i.e. reward after the body has died and punishment after the body has died, and who therefore see in suicide a way of avoiding being held responsible for their actions on earth. Clearly a system of reward and punishment, unless it included posthumous reward and punishment, would be meaningless, and would not act as deterrent not to sin.”
Further, Ramban writes that the consequence for killing applies to Noachides and Jews in the same way “In court or by the Hand of Heaven”.
In a fascinating commentary on this pusik, Baal Haturim derives the meaning of the verse from the word וְאַ֨ךְ – “However, any form of self-harming is prohibited in this statement, including harmful speech!”
If this is a case in regard to person himself, obviously any form of violence, physical or even verbal toward other person is prohibited.
Alshich, who lived not long after Baal Haturim, comments on this pusik: “The person who embarrasses his fellow man to the extent that he blanches, causes the Tzelem Elokim (Divine Image) to be impaired, and is therefore himself guilty of death, though he has not actually killed anyone at all.”
And a final comment on the pusik שֹׁפֵךְ֙ דַּ֣ם comes from Rav Shimshon Raphael Hirsch:
“The whole value of our being human rests on our associating, not bodies with bodies, but spirits with kindred spirits and recognizing such spirit in every human being. The life, the Nefesh of every human being is entrusted to the care of every other human being. And if, through the guilt of a human being, a human soul departs from this world earlier than God, who had placed it here, had willed it, then God misses it here and is Doresh Midoi – (Exact in measure). Every tiny minute of the earthly existence of even the most miserable human being is sacred to God, and whosoever shortens his own or anybody else's life by one second is responsible to God.”
For the last of the three psukim quoted at the beginning of this essay we will share only one comment in continuation of the spirit of the above quotations from the commentaries of the Sages. Also from Rav Hirsch:
“Inasmuch as here the procreation and propagation of the human race have this designation added, the term would represent a swarm of the most manifold different kinds of men. It would accordingly be a description of a diversity and infinite variety of human races, and moreover בָאָ֖רֶץ on the earth, and by the earth, under the influences of the differences of the various lands. And not only שִׁרְצ֥וּ בָאָ֖רֶץ but also רְבוּ - the whole physical, moral and intellectual education equally בָֽהּ under the same influences. (…)Noachian mankind is given the mission to spread over the whole world, and under the most diverse conditions and influences of climate and physical nature of the countries, to become Men and develop the one common real character of Man; a diversity and a multiplicity which appeared to us in the above connection as God's new plan for the education of mankind, to avoid the necessity for any fresh total catastrophe. The diversity is to balance the deficiency and so pave the way to progress to the goal. Hence say our sages on this sentence "God has provided the most differing zones and climates with a special dispensation", (or perhaps more literally : The general covenant of God with mankind is spread over the most diverse districts) — -Blessed be God, Who has given every country an attraction to its inhabitants", and they point out how every race feels at ease in its homeland even under the most inhospitable circumstances, and the most unfriendly districts affect their sons with home-sickness when they are away from them, and in strange lands disturbs their spiritual development. Man, who thinks he is master of the land is, in many ways, in his innermost self, in his mind, feelings, understanding and speech, mastered by his native land, and this variety of countries has a purpose. Everywhere a man can conduct himself as a human being, everywhere be happy, everywhere pure human qualities can be developed in people. Only no man may judge others by his own standards. That is why, at the end of this new conditioning of the world and mankind it says: "diversify your-selves on the earth and multiply yourselves on it, by it, in it, with it etc.”
Martin Buber in his essays, “I and Thou” but especially “The face of the other,” points out that the greatest challenge for a human being is to recognize another human as such. The more different the “other” is, the more difficult it is for us to recognize Godliness in that person. Diversity among people creates a natural obstacle in making connection, and if turned to the “Other Side” it may cause animosity leading in extreme cases to murder.
It is precisely that natural factor which national leaders can exploit to cause a group of young people from one nation to kill people from different nation, religion, or so-called race. In Rav Hirsch’s words, diversity was instituted for precisely the opposite reason. Variety within the human race, in his words, is the vehicle for moral and spiritual growth. More so, it is actually the prime vehicle to connect to Hashem by recognizing the “other” as reflection (Tzeilem Elokim) of the ultimate “Other”.
Even fact that humanity was created in two forms has precisely the same reason. By recognizing the Divine in our spouse, we are ready perform the ultimate service of Hashem (“Garden of Peace” – Rav Shalom Arush).
We can clearly see that Buberian philosophy was not developed in vacuum, as a German philosopher and Biblical Scholar he was familiar with writings of Rav Hirsch.
It is not only Rav Hirsch who describes the goal of humanity, the essence of struggle through the history in those terms. In further essays B-H we will look in the writings of the Nuvim (Prophets) and even to some of our daily prayers. But already at this moment we have an obvious question: how in this context can we understand, not the existence of violence, which comes from corrupted Gevura/Din, as it was explained in the previous essay, but how it is sanctioned by the governments, historic Jewish governments in the Holy Land and even by Toira itself. We will not talk about why violence exists, but rather how it can be used in progress toward a united humanity under the spiritual guidance of the Jewish people in recognition of The Creator.