"An eye for an eye..." (Exodus 21:24)

The Vilna Gaon noted that this verse doesn’t actually say “an eye for an eye,” but rather “an eye beneath an eye.” He noted a hint in the verse that it refers to monetary compensation for injuries. The letters beneath (subsequent to) the letters in the Hebrew alphabet for the word ayin (eye), are the letters of the word kesef (money).

As this pandemic drags on and intensifies, our eyes are pained and weary. Our vision blurs from endless hours staring at screens. In our exhaustion, this teaching offers a different perspective. This verse teaches that to understand what God wants from us, instead of looking ahead at the screen, we must look “beneath.” When our friend tells us on the phone that they are fine, can we hear the pain under their words?

Chris Burkard described photographing surfers in the arctic as: “Riding the storm surf with crazy undertows and huge currents and winds from some of the roughest seas in the world, but it all kind of comes together when the storms subside and there’s these glimpses in between these harsh moments when you get perfection.” May we live to see the day when the storm of this pandemic subsides. Until then, may we glimpse the glimmer of hope hidden beneath our sorrows.

As Amanda Gorman wrote in her inaugural poem: “For there is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it, If only we’re brave enough to be it.”