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    Shedding man’s blood – No’ach

    blood splatterThere is a verse that says, “He who sheds man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed” (Gen. 9:6).

    The Chafetz Chayyim said that this links up with the saying of the sages, “He who puts his fellow to shame in public (literally, ‘makes his face pale’) is as if he has shed his blood” (Talmud BM 58b).

    Our verse literally says, “He who pours out the blood of a person within the person”, which shows that when someone is publicly humiliated and embarrassed, their normal face colour drains and they look white.

    Looking at the words of the verse, the Targum Onkelos wonders why the Torah merely says, “By man shall his blood be shed”, and it adds a few words in order to render the passage, “Whoever sheds man’s blood in the presence of witnesses, his blood will be shed by sentence of the judges”.

    This expansion of the verse shows the unacceptability of lynch law or taking the law into one’s own hands: in human society there must be due legal process, with impartial judges, set rules of procedure and properly qualified witnesses.

    The verse itself goes on, “For in the image of God He made man”. This indicates that if a person commits murder, God Himself is injured.

    Where does the Targum derive the idea that “by man” denotes “the judges”?

    Because human judges are God’s representatives, and if they do not carry out their task properly God Himself holds them to account, as we see from Psalm 82, which is the Psalm of the Day for Tuesday.

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