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July 9, 2012 / conservadox

letter vs. spirit

Rabbi Sacks writes in this week’s Dvar Torah:

In general we are commanded to “walk in God’s ways” and imitate His attributes. “Just as He is merciful and compassionate, so you be merciful and compassionate.” That is not, however, the case when it comes to executing punishment or vengeance. God who knows all may execute sentence without a trial, but we, being human, may not. There are forms of justice that are God’s domain, not ours.

In other words, for being nice we imitate God, for killing people we don’t.  But why?  It seems to me that Rabbi Sacks is relying on the idea that there is a spirit of the law (i.e. playing nice)’ this spirit does not necessarily override the letter of the law, but does govern how we interpret it.   And its a good thing, too!


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